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Climbing Kilimanjaro for older people in Ethiopia

10 Feb 2012

Irene and I (right) on top of Kilimanjaro!I did it!! Thanks to those who have already donated so much and please keep on giving for older people in Ethiopia!

It was an amazing experience. The first six days were incredibly beautiful, with changing landscapes and vegitation.

Then, on the seventh day, I experienced eight hours of sheer hell - walking straight up hill, steeply, at midnight, after one hour's sleep and a few biscuits for breakfast.

It is below zero degrees and getting colder with every step uphill, trying to force yourself to eat and drink all the way up, although you don't want to. Several hundred other people are all doing the same thing - all with head torches, trudging up this endless mountain.

Feeling of elation

Then, finally, when you think it's just not worth it you get to the top. It's probably minus ten degrees with a wind chill factor of another ten or more, taking gloves off to take photos is a killer, you are exhausted and just want to go back down...

Irene (my other climbing partner who made it to the top) and I burst into tears on reaching both the crater rim and then the actual peak. It's an absolutely incredible feeling...the worst thing I've experienced other than giving birth, but similar in that the feeling of elation when it's done is incredible.

A few hours later, when you get back to "base camp" where we started from, you swear that you are all crazy, that you'd never do it again, just like child birth. A day later, we are all thinking how fantastic it was and, who knows, perhaps one day we'll do it again...

Picture perfect

Sunrise happened between getting to the crater rim and the peak. It's picture perfect, but impossible to photograph with backlighting and hands freezing in the bitter wind. Finally, you start back down again, past glaciers, people still walking up, others being led down in a delirious state. You slide down, scramble, run, jump, try not to fall down or fall asleep.

After two hours you get back to camp and then you get an hour's rest, some lunch and have to walk another excruciating four hours downhill. That's more than twenty hours' walking (including the previous day) with one hour's sleep, not much food, bitter cold and huge altitude changes, which begs the questions: what for and why? 

The exhilaration of it, the feeling of having beaten the mountain and of course the knowledge that something good will come of it for older people in Ethiopia...

Many thanks for all the donations and support.

You can still give through my Virgin Money fundraising page.

Find out more about our work to support older people in Ethiopia.

Your comments


Well done Alison! Indeed it is a worthy cause- Older people in Africa need as much help as they can get.

Adamu Beyane

The idea is good, and we hope a good future for the older people in Ethiopia. However, the restriction of UN and NGOs humanitarian operations in the Ogaden region (Somali) has affected the local people. Food aid operations and delivery in the zones affected by military operations have been seriously delayed and misused by government forces. Government continues to severely restrict humanitarian assistance to the needy people in the region while using little food aid that gets through as a political weapon aimed at collectively pastoral community. Women, children and older people are the most vulnerable groups. Can you tell us the HelpAge plan and what you doing for the needy people in the Ogaden region and also the Somali refugees in Dollo-Ado of Ethiopia? Adamu Beyane


Dear Adamu, The blogger my provide answer your specific question on the plan of HelpAge. My question to you is as follows: Do you have evidence on where and how the government is blocking donations and the actions of humanitarian organization? Garetaw. MAY I TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO APPRECIATE ALISON. KEEP UP YOUR GOOD WORK.

Alison Rusinow

Dear Adamu, thanks for your question. HelpAge is currently working in the Dolo Ado camps, through a local partner, to provide food and also items such as shelters, cooking pots, mattresses etc to the older refugees there. We are also giving support through welfare advisers who are themselves older people from the refugee community and who visit very vulnerable older refugees in their shelters and identify if they have special needs that other organisations are not identifying such as special health or food needs. Our partner also works in the local host community to support older people there, but we are not in the Ogaden, as you rightly point out this is not possible for organisations like ourselves at the moment.

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Author profile

Alison Rusinow
Country: UK/USA
Job title: Country Programme Director, Ethiopia

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.