Nepean HS students face a mountain of a challenge

By Kyra Wex – 

Nepean High School students took on the biggest climbing endeavour yet by successfully hiking to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. This dormant volcano is a popular trekking destination with an elevation of 5,895m above sea level.

The climbing group included five Nepean students, ten Lisgar students, four teachers, and many porters.

The group was out of the country for a total of fifteen days. The trip included four days of travel time, a safari at the Terrain Geri National Park, and a two-day stop at a resort after their eight-day hike up Kilimanjaro.

Pete Dickey, a grade 12 student at Nepean High School, took part in this life-changing journey. He explains one of the most important parts of the trip: packing. His bag contained plenty of granola bars and snacks, several types of hats to protect from vast changes in temperature. He also packed fleece jackets, two sleeping bags, and enough clothing to span a huge temperature range.

Photo by Bailey Aaron
Photo by Bailey Aaron

“The weather ranged from 8°C fall-like temperature to a –15°C cold and wintery temperature,” explains Pete. “The temperature radically varied from the bottom to the top of the mountain. Once we reached the summit, it felt like -30°C.”

Every day was a new adventure.

“It is tough to explain the average day, as every day was different,” says Pete. “Wake up with coffee and tea would normally be at 6:30 a.m., followed by breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Then, the adventure began.”

Each day’s hike lasted anywhere from two to six hours, depending on the destination. After lunch, there was an acclimatization walk, which involved an hour-long climb up the mountain and back down to a new resting place to introduce their bodies to the new climate, air pressure, and oxygen levels. By 5 p.m., the students settled at the campsite, relaxed, and enjoyed games with others. This was an opportunity to get the group together and bond. Dinner was at 6 p.m.

Two “amazing” chefs prepared the group’s meals which included a traditional banana stew, beef stew, filling soups, and spaghetti dishes, all designed to satisfy the hunger that comes from a hard day’s hike. Dinner was followed by an early bedtime in order to be fully rested for the next day’s climb.

“Summit day was very different from the rest. It was special, magical, gratifying, accomplishing and mesmerizing,” recalls Pete.

The group hiked to a campsite called Barafu and was briefed on safety and rescue procedures in preparation for the last leg of the climb. This gave rise to Pete’s concerns about potential risks, although he felt exhilarated and excited at the same time.

The group began their hike to the summit at 12 a.m. in order to reach it in time for the sunrise.

“I felt a shortness in breath, very wobbly, and some of my friends were quite sick with nausea,” describes Pete. “However, we all supported each other along the way and made it to the summit as a group.”

Pete describes the moment of reaching the summit as his “strongest feeling of accomplishment yet.” He says this trip has been life changing and he recommends it to others.

“Everything feels so different now. Despite the various mental and physical hardships, I proved to myself that I have the endurance and mental strength to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. This is one of my proudest moments.”

Kyra Wex is a grade 12 student at Nepean High School.

Header photo courtesy of Eva Moons.

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