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A group of Dream Challenges participants and local support crew celebrating at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on a charity trek in Tanzania

Trekking Mount Kilimanjaro - Laura's story

In September 2022, sixteen amazing trekkers took on one of our toughest Dream Challenges for charity: The Mount Kilimanjaro Trek. They tackled eight long days of trekking, camped and hiked at high altitude, and reached the Roof of Africa at 5,895m above sea level.

In this case study, one of our inspiring Kilimanjaro conquerors, Laura, tells us about her experience and shares her top tips for anyone thinking of taking on a charity challenge.

What inspired you to sign up for the Mount Kilimanjaro Trek?
I was beginning to feel like my life had become a lot like the film “Groundhog Day”. I was feeling really unsettled and lonely at times. I felt like I really needed to challenge myself and do something pretty out of the box for a self-confessed introvert like myself. Then up pops a Dream Challenges advert on Instagram.

I’ve never taken on a Dream Challenge or travelled solo, I’m awful at meeting new people, and I’ve never hiked at a high altitude… Challenge accepted!

I also took the Kilimanjaro trek as an opportunity to fundraise for Mind, as they do a lot of great work for mental health.

How did you prepare for the challenge?
I set out with the intention of doing lots of training and trekking in the hills of the Lake District. However, I booked the trip in 2019 for the following year, so Covid put a stop to that and slowly ate away at any motivation I had.

Come the challenge departure date in 2022, I hadn’t managed to do much. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about it. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to affect me too much in the end.

What were the top highlights of the Mount Kilimanjaro Trek for you?
I have so many highlights from this challenge. To name a few:

  • The impromptu TukTuk ride we took through Moshi.
  • The huge plate of chips and chicken that came at the perfect time for all of the group and boosted our moral when we were getting tired…. you can’t beat chicken and chips halfway up Kilimanjaro!
  • Scree-running down the side of the world's highest free-standing mountain – that’s an experience I’ll never forget!
  • Dancing with all our porters at the finish line!

This list goes on and on, but when it comes down to it, successfully summiting Kilimanjaro will always be my number one highlight!

And what would you say were the hardest elements of the challenge?
Personally, one of the hardest elements of the challenge was going alone. If it hadn’t been for the Dream Challenges' amazing staff member Helena talking my head off and getting me checked in, I honestly think I'd have been on a train heading back up North!

I was scared I wouldn't fit in, that I'd slow the group up with my total lack of training and I was really scared I wouldn't get on with my roommate. I was wrong on all counts. I loved my group, my roommate was amazing, and our guide Passang was incredibly supportive. 

In general, I think that trekking at altitude was the hardest element. If you're not already used to being at high altitude, you can expect to feel some effects of it. I had a few days of feeling rough, but I was well looked after and managed to keep going and successfully summit.

How did you find life climbing and camping on the mountain?
I found it to be pretty well organised. The days were as expected: long and warm, with lots of dust (take a buff!). It was noticeably colder at night. I was amazed at the camp setup. Every lunchtime and evening, our camp was set up ready for us. We were fed in a big communal tent and the sleeping mats were pretty comfy.

What struck you most about the culture of the locals?
Our team of local porters always seemed so happy! They were lugging huge amounts of gear up this mountain and you're there feeling like it's a workout with just a small day pack on! They never seemed fazed by it and they had such a great appreciation for the hundreds of tourists that visit each year, as at the end of the day, it's us that help them earn a living.

I don’t think in this country, we have nearly the same appreciation for being able to work and being able to take a wage home. If anything, it's a great inconvenience to us.

Do you have any tips for people who are thinking of taking on the Mount Kilimanjaro Trek?

  • Firstly, BOOK THE CHALLENGE! Don’t worry about what might happen, because I can confirm that it won’t.
  • Take plenty of snacks, the sort you can eat if you're feeling a little under the weather, just in case the altitude affects you.
  • If the altitude does affect you, make sure you still eat and drink. It might be hard but it makes all the difference.
  • Use a buff! The dust gets everywhere, including in your mouth and up your nose.
  • Summit night is cold; take your best down jacket and a good hard shell.
  • Don’t underestimate walking poles. I didn’t use mine all the way through, so I assumed I wouldn’t need them on summit night and left them in my tent. It turns out I could have definitely done with them!
  • Take more photos than I did. I didn't take nearly enough. I regret this the most.
  • Last but not least, try not to cry in your summit photo!

I highly recommend booking a challenge like this especially if you're like me and a little unconfident and quiet. It really does wonders for you. It also made me realise that maybe a job outdoors is what I should really be doing. Since the trek, I have begun the process of completing my mountain leader training!

How did you celebrate your achievement when you got home?
Stupidly, I went for a run with my boyfriend and the dog. Don’t do that. Go for a long hot bath and order your favourite takeaway!

Are you planning to join another Dream Challenge in the future?
I would definitely consider using Dream Challenge again and have recommended them to many people since returning home. If you would like a challenge in faraway places without all the faff of planning, Dream Challenges are certainly up there. The guides they use are second to none and the staff are very helpful and supportive.

Feeling inspired? Join our next Mount Kilimanjaro Trek!
If Laura has inspired you, why not trek in her footsteps and challenge yourself to climb Kilimanjaro with us? Self fund or fundraise a minimum sponsorship target for the charity, animal shelter, or hospice closest to your heart as you get fit, make lots of new friends, and achieve the charity challenge of a lifetime. Whether you are already a socialite or a little unconfident like Laura, your Kilimanjaro trek will be one of the best experiences of your life. Our friendly Dream Challenges team, challenge doctors, and local crew will support you all the way from sign-up to summit.

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