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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Actuary-and-wife team conquer Kilimanjaro

Earlier this year, my wife Stephanie and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, raising funds for Ronald McDonald House (‘MacHouse’) at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. We funded the trip ourselves, as it had been a lifelong ambition, but decided to use the opportunity to raise funds for charity.

We chose to support MacHouse as the facilities proved invaluable for our friends towards the end of last year. The charity is totally independent and depends upon voluntary donations to stay in operation. MacHouse provides accommodation for parents and family members of critically ill children completely free of charge. Since it opened in 1993, the house has been full to bursting. In total, they have accommodated over 13,000 families for as long as it takes. Some stay just a few days, some several weeks and some for up to a couple of years. Our friend’s little boy was there for a couple of months and was well enough to be home for his first Christmas.

Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and fourth highest of the Seven Summits (the highest summits on each of the seven continents). It is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, with Uhuru Peak rising to an altitude of 5,895 metres (19,341ft) above sea level. We chose the Machame Route up the mountain (about 50 miles) as this provides spectacular views and a variety of habitats. The route is also known as the ‘whiskey’ route, given its reputation for being a tough climb, relative to the Marangu Route, or the ‘Coca-Cola’ route as it’s also known.

Unlike the gradual incline and huts found on the Marangu Route, the climbers on Machame hike steeper trails for longer distances, while sleeping in tents. We spent seven days and six nights on the mountain to help with altitude acclimatisation. I suffered as a result of the altitude and felt its effects from 3,000 metres upwards. I had prolonged headaches, was physically sick and even lost my appetite. For anyone who knows me, the latter was the greatest cause for concern! The seven-hour hike to the summit in the early hours was punishing but my training and the sponsorship helped me battle through.

I can honestly say it has to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I would recommend it to anyone. I’ve run marathons, half-marathons, completed the Three Peaks Challenge and cycled coast to coast, but this was by far my toughest challenge yet, both physically and mentally. In total we raised £2,243 for Ronald McDonald House, which included a JLT matching contribution of £1,089.
By Paul Sweeney