If you think that Climbing Kilimanjaro is easy, think again! Africa’s highest mountain may not be as challenging as Aconcagua or the mighty Mount Everest, but it is no walk in the park either, and so there is nothing we admire more than people such as Aaron Phipps, a former GB wheelchair rugby player, who recently climbed Kilimanjaro on his hands and knees.
An ambassador for the Meningitis Research Foundation, Mr Phipps, who lost his own legs to the disease as a teenager, was first approached by the charity to climb the mountain some 3 years ago. He said, “They send thousands of students to the top of Kilimanjaro every year and someone from the charity approached me asking if I fancied it.” He continued, “At the time, I didn’t think: ‘I’m in a wheelchair, this is going to be a problem.’ Like most things in life, I just agree to things and end up in these crazy situations.” And so his adventure began.
With the help of the biomechanics laboratory at Southampton Solent University, Aaron developed and specially-adapted mountain trike for this expedition, and spent hours at the gym with the university’s strength and conditioning teams to get in peak condition for his journey to the Roof of Africa.
To ensure he was fully prepared for what was to come, he climbed to the top of Mont Blanc in the week prior to his trip to Tanzania, and while his European training camp went well, his first day on Kilimanjaro didn’t quite go as planned. Aaron said, “The first 20 metres were really tough. As I started, my chair wasn’t gripping, nothing was happening.” He went on, “I had this moment where I looked at my dad and he looked at me and I’d only moved about five metres. We thought: ‘Oh no, we’ve got a problem here. But I got over the first stage and the chair held out not too bad.”
Unfortunately, Phipps mountain trike didn’t quite work out as planned, but that didn’t stop him from completing his mission. After 5 days on Africa’s iconic mountain, and a 10-hour summit, he reached Uhuru Peak on his hands and knees, proving that there really are no boundaries when it comes to determination and self-belief.
After his climb, Aaron Phipps said, “There were definitely times when I thought ‘I can’t achieve this, the last few steps were incredible. I was sobbing.” He continued, “I was crying anyway because I was so exhausted, but over the last few bits, I couldn’t believe I’d actually made it. I was in pieces.” Finally, he said, “For me it was all about the challenge. To be the first disabled, unassisted climb ever was a really great feeling. I felt so proud.”
And proud you should be Aaron – what an amazing achievement! Read the full story.