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“Stories. We all spend our lives telling ‘em. About this, about that. About people. But some, some stories are so good we wish they’d never end. They’re so gripping that we’ll go without sleep just to see a little bit more.

Some stories bring us laughter and sometimes they bring us tears. But isn’t that what a great story does? Makes you feel? Stories that are so powerful, they really are with us forever.” - Dustin Hoffman Photography © Kilimanjaro NZ Expedition Team –– Design © Chris Flack 2012

“Raise the height of Kilimanjaro for the NZ Earthquake appeal.”


Kilimanjaro NZ - Mission

Chris Flack, From Christchurch, New Zealand

Matt Orton, From Liverpool, United Kingdom

Alexi O’Brien, From New Zealand

Why: ‘I felt helpless living in London and want to do something to raise money for my friends and family back in Christchurch, New Zealand. For a city that gave me so much over the years.’

Why: ‘I wanted to do something big this summer, then I thought there’s not much bigger than climbing Mt Kilimanjaro - I knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to support an awesome cause.’

Why: ‘I know so many people who’ve been affected by the quakes. This is a great way to show my friends that I love them and that I’ve been thinking of them, even though I’ve been so far away.’

Dave ‘Taxi’ Osborn, Absolute Africa Founder

Paul Dance, From Auckland, New Zealand

Janak Patel, From London, United Kingdom

Why: ‘Ever since the earthquake I have been looking to do something to help. Then on a rainy Sunday I read Chris’ article in the paper, realised my dream and how to help out – fate really!’

Why: ‘I’ve always wanted to help raise money for charities through physical challenges. I have had a personal goal of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for quite some time.’

Argène Montgomery-Hönger, From Christchurch, New Zealand

Caroline Denee, From Auckland, New Zealand

Vanessa Macdonald, From Christchurch, New Zealand

Why: ‘Climbing Kilimanjaro to me provides an opportunity to acknowledge the courage and strength the people of Christchurch have displayed.’

Why: ‘It’s a chance to do something positive to help the people of Christchurch and this is the perfect combination of adventure and fundraising.’

Joel Rickard, From Christchurch, New Zealand

Bert Denee, From Auckland, New Zealand

Why: ‘When I heard the news I was disappointed that I couldn’t lend a hand to friends and family who lost so much. It’s a great way to raise awareness and show support for the people of Christchurch.’

Why: ‘It should be heaps of fun and a good way to help the Cantabs after the big shake. I draw the line at supporting the Crusaders though.’

Rhys Williams, From New Zealand


A Christchurch man has shown how a Kiwi spirit of generosity can still reach great heights from afar. London-based Chris Flack is planning to hike Mt Kilimanjaro on his thirtieth birthday this August to raise funds for the Red Cross Canterbury earthquake appeal. Speaking from London, the self described “adventurer”, plans to raise £5,895 ($NZ12,500) – the height of Kilimanjaro in metres – for the earthquake’s victims, saying: “the higher the better”. It’s hard to tell if he’s referring to the amount or the mountain. While Flack says his idea was born of a desire to help, a little cajoling reveals this latest stunt is not out of character. Flack tells how his exploits first garnered media attention in 2006, when his new year’s resolution to conquer two dares every week for a year was followed by TV1’s Closeup and the Sunday Star Times. He compares his “comfort zone challenge” with ticking off goals on a “life bucket-list”. Twice weekly he faced challenges from milking a cow to skydiving, to streaking across Christchurch’s Cathedral Square. In 2006 Flack won the Cleo ‘Agency’ Bachelor of the Year title and probably a few female hearts too while “wrecking the family name” according to his Dad. But that was a long time ago, he says: “I don’t want to be perceived as an idiot!” He relates his bid for Kilimanjaro, saying he felt “helpless” in London and unsatisfied with simply donating money to charity. “There are lots of ways of giving. To me, part of it is to get a group of likeminded people together who want to do something for the same reason: whether that’s that they’re from Christchurch or they’ve always wanted to go… its something that people do once in a lifetime”. Flack laughs as I query his climbing experience. He’s no mountaineer. The graphic designer spent almost nine years living in the Garden City before removing his career to London’s greener pastures in 2007.

‘I’m kinda keen to do the robot dance at the summit – but it will be the frozen robot!’ Chris Flack

Flack’s Skype likeness beams with confidence on my computer screen, but the man himself shrugs off adulation. “Christchurch is in my heart”, he says. And besides: “Loads of people do Kilimanjaro”. But “loads” of people have not launched a full scale expedition to Kilimanjaro. Mark Lincoln, 28, the Aranui-based editor of calls his friend an “inspiration”. “I know that Chris wouldn’t label himself a mountaineer but if he says he can do it, he will... as a Christchurch resident myself; I thank him from the bottom of my heart.”

Flack hopes a party of 12 will accompany him in his bid for Kilimanjaro’s peak. He says three other expat adventurers have committed to the cause so far – two of them Kiwis. His website ( displays a message of support from his hero Mark Inglis. Flack hopes others will show their support through sponsorship, or by joining him, saying: “You don’t need to be superman or anything. [The hike] only needs a normal level of fitness. I’ve been saying to people, ‘If you can walk to the bus stop, you can do it!’” Flack says he plans to celebrate his thirtieth birthday on Kilimanjaro’s summit on August 5 and is in talks with documentary makers to film the expedition. Although his team’s hike for humanity will be tinged with sorrow, Chris says he won’t hold back once he reaches the icy “roof of Africa”: “I’m kinda keen to do the robot – but it will be the frozen robot!” By Talia Shadwell / Sunday Star Times


April 14, 2011

What do Dunedin, London, Christchurch and Mt Kilimanjaro have in common? Chris Flack and his plan to raise more than $12,000 for the Christchurch earthquake appeal. A former King’s High School pupil, Mr Flack (29) lived in Christchurch for seven years before moving to London, where he has worked as a graphic designer. In August, he plans to lead a fundraising climb up the highest mountain in Africa, Tanzania’s 5895m-tall Mt Kilimanjaro. ‘‘I’m getting together a group of like-minded individuals, New Zealanders and friends,’’ Mr Flack said. ‘‘The expedition’s aim is to raise £5895 [$NZ12,374] — the height of Kilimanjaro in metres — to help the city and people I hold so close to my heart get back on its feet.’’ Mr Flack said he felt helpless learning of Christchurch’s February 22 earthquake while so far away and wanted to help. ‘‘I’m very excited, as it is an opportunity to get a group of people together who want to be involved in an expedition that not only is challenging and a once-in-a-lifetime experience but one that will also raise a lot of money for a very worthwhile cause.’’ The money will be given to the Red Cross Christchurch earthquake appeal. By Bruce Munro / Dunedin Star


Argène Montgomery-Hönger is climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. A Christchurch student is swapping sub-zero temperatures for the African summer to raise funds for the city’s earthquake appeal. Argène Montgomery-Hönger, 24, left yesterday to join a band of Kiwis climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, to boost Christchurch quake relief funds. The ascent begins on August 1. A rigorous training regime had prepared her, Montgomery-Honger said. “I’ve been sprinting up and down stairs, doing hikes, press-ups, and going to the gym. The self-discipline has been a challenge in itself.” The psychology student’s interest was sparked in May when a friend provided a link to the six-day expedition, organised by London-based Cantabrian Chris Flack.

May 12, 2011

A Christchurch student will turn mountaineer to raise funds for the city’s earthquake appeal. Argène Montgomery-Hönger, 24, will join a band of Kiwis climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, in August to boost Christchurch quake relief funds. A psychology student, she said her interest was sparked when a friend provided a link to the six-day expedition, organised by Londonbased Cantabrian Chris Flack. “I spoke to Chris [Flack] and he said you don’t have to be a mountaineer to do this. It is walkable, although you’ve got to get your fitness up.”

Montgomery-Honger is now the New Zealand fundraising co-ordinator and hopes to personally raise more than $5895 - the height of Kilimanjaro in metres. The other participants, 11 so far, have each pledged to raise $1000. She said she wanted to make a “tangible difference”. “It’s going to take a lot of strength, courage and commitment to get up that mountain, and to me, that’s the mirror of what the point of climbing the mountain is for Christchurch,” she said. “Just living here at the moment takes a lot of strength, courage and commitment.” By Marc Greenhill

‘It’s going to take a lot of strength, courage and commitment to get up that mountain.’ Argène Montgomery-Hönger

Montgomery-Honger said the goal of raising more than 5895 (NZ$11,120) – a pound for every metre Kilimanjaro is above sea level – had been reached. “We’ve still got donations coming in, and we’re going to up the ante by making [the target] the height of Everest, which is 8848m,” she said. Montgomery-Honger, an Irish dancing teacher and musician, will carry two Irish flags in memory of quake victims Owen McKenna and John Joseph O’Connor. The flags will be presented to their families when she returns. By Marc Greenhill


Paul dance from Mission Bay is determined to climb Mt Kilimanjaro – all because of one song. He heard Africa by Toto when he was seven and in it was a line about Mt Kilimanjaro. He’s been hooked on climbing Africa’s highest mountain ever since and is finally getting a chance to turn that dream into reality. It was “fate” that determined the course of events that helped him towards realising his goal, he says. The Westpac customer services manager got a head start when he entered a staff competition and won $2000 which will contribute to the $6000 cost of climbing the mountain. And it was fate again that saw him read the story of London-based Cantabrian Chris Flack, who came up with the idea of scaling all 5895 metres of Mt Kilimanjaro and raising the exact same amount in pounds for earthquake damaged Christchurch. Others around the world were similarly inspired and a team of 13 was formed, with each member individually funding the cost of their climb. Among those members are a photographer and a film producer who will be documenting the entire ascent. They are now thinking of upping the ante to raise the height of the mountain in feet – close to $20,000 – for Christchurch. The plan to climb Mt Kilimanjaro on August 1 is gaining momentum especially with the reminder of last week’s quake, Mr Dance says. He was on the phone to the Westpac Christchurch call centre when it happened. “You just heard the guy, the emotion coming through. Wow. You just feel helpless,” he says. Mr Dance has had a long affair with climbing – he has been doing it since he was 13 or 14 years old.

‘The challenge to get to the top is that sort of euphoric moment knowing you’ve achieved something.’ Paul Dance He says the most frightening thing in his life was climbing Mont Blanc in the midst of a snow storm and having to hide from it in a self-made snow hole. Mt Kilimanjaro will be the highest mountain he’s aimed for “by a long way” and is around 1000 metres higher than Mont Blanc. But the height isn’t his biggest fear – Mr Dance suffers from vertigo and has a phobia of needles. Ahead of this adventure he had to get six injections for insurance purposes and says it was the “worst thing about the trip”. But that wasn’t a deterrent and Mr Dance says any goal is possible as long as people push themselves. He gets a “buzz” from having “a purpose in life to go and do something”. “The challenge to get to the top is that sort of euphoric moment knowing you’ve achieved something,” Mr Dance says. He is preparing physically by swimming twice a week, going for hikes, running up hills, and playing football and cricket. It also helps that he’s no stranger to physical training; he ran at the RUNAuckland event at Western Springs on Sunday and will be running the Auckland Marathon and doing the Taupo Half Ironman later on in the year. The team will take six days to climb the mountain – a little longer than usual, so it can acclimatise better and celebrate Mr Flack’s birthday at the summit on August 5. Mr Dance will fly to the United Kingdom soon after to see his family before returning to New Zealand. A pub quiz, charity cookbook, a bake-off and other fundraising efforts are being planned to help raise the funds for Christchurch. By Natalie Tan / East & Bays Courier

CLIMBING KILIMANJARO FOR CHRISTCHURCH Alexi O’Brien is a former ONE News reporter now travelling overseas, including climbing Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Christchurch Red Cross Earthquake Fund. Here she describes the buildup to the expedition.

July 27, 2011

I’m on the verge of starting my Kilimanjaro climb. It’s a rather terrifying prospect. I’m excited, for sure - but nervous, too. I’ve been travelling for 11 months now - and while it’s involved a lot of walking and trekking, it’s not as though I’ve been doing an organised exercise programme.

In fact, my time in Kenya these past two months has involved a lot of eating: chapati (sort of like Malaysian roti bread) - and ugali (a starchy “cake” made from maize flour and water). For me, travelling’s about experiencing - and I’m very good at “experiencing” when it comes to food! I’m part of a group of Kiwis climbing Mt Kilimanjaro - Africa’s highest mountain, in neighbouring Tanzania - to raise money for the Christchurch Red Cross Earthquake Fund. I’ve been overseas for all of the quakes, watching the terror from afar. When the first quake happened, I logged into Facebook and saw people’s updates: “thinking of you, Chch.” & “Chch people, are you ok?” - and I felt sick to my stomach. I studied in Christchurch at the NZ Broadcasting School, and have a lot of TVNZ colleagues and friends there. It’s been awful being so far away, so a group of us have got together to raise money for the Red Cross Fund. Our aim is to raise about NZD$12,000 or one pound for every metre of Kilimanjaro for the fund - and we’re getting closer! I’ve wanted to climb Kilimanjaro ever since I was 13 and sitting in Amboseli National Park, which lies in the shadows of the mountain. About the time I was there, Helen Clark (the then NZ Labour Party leader) had made the summit - and I knew I’d get there one day, too. This is the perfect opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with other Kiwis, send our love to Canterbury, and do our bit to help our city get back up on its feet. Catch-up I caught up with fellow reporter and good friend Joy Reid just a few weeks ago here in Kenya - and it was so good to be able to sit down and talk more about the quakes and their impact on our friends and colleagues, on daily life, on work. While I’ve been in touch via email or phone with all of my friends over the past year, seeing Joy and hearing about it all in person was so much more intense. It made me think a lot about my upcoming trek - and I know that when I’m climbing, feeling tired after getting up early and walking for hours over

steep terrain, I will be able to give myself a kick in the pants to a) keep moving and b) stop moaning because it’s nothing compared to what my friends have been going through. I’ve been doing some training, though, so that hopefully those moments are few and far between. It’s a six day hike - and in one book, it’s described as “something like walking from the equator to the arctic pole in a matter of days.” Great. The temperature will range between 25 degrees during the day, to -25 near the summit! Luckily, I did some trekking in Peru before coming here, so I have all the requisite alpaca-wool gear, though it’s definitely more for warmth than fashion!

‘When the first quake happened, I logged into Facebook and saw people’s updates: “thinking of you, Chch.” & “Chch people, are you ok?” - and I felt sick to my stomach.’ Alexi O’brien I’ve been on a few walks lately to get the calf muscles ready for the climb, and to break in the hiking boots. Last week, I hiked in the Ngong Hills, just out of Nairobi, and had a sweeping view over Maasailand, and this past weekend I did an incredible 7-hour sunrise trek in Kakamega Forest Reserve, in Western Kenya. We started off at 5am and walked at first through the jungle, hearing just the crickets and the squelch of our tramping boots on the muddy trail. Once we came out onto the road, we trekked in the moonlight for about an hour, before the sky began to lighten and we began our final ascent. We were rewarded with one of the most jaw-dropping sights I have ever seen, as the sun rose over the forest, which stretched for miles around us. The whole time I was walking I was thinking about Kilimanjaro. On summit day we start at midnight for a pretty

tiring day of walking - somewhere between 11 - 15 hours, and I know dealing with the altitude is not going to be easy. But I will also be thinking of Canterbury - each step will be for you, my friends. Training Getting ready for Kilimanjaro isn’t just about training - it’s about being ok with low levels of cleanliness. It’s a six day climb - which means six days of sweating and grime without a shower. I know this is something that Cantabs have been getting used to in their quakeravaged city, and with almost a year’s worth of travelling under my belt, I have learned to be ok with not being squeaky clean all the time. I’m volunteering in Kenya just now, and have been working at a school in rural Maasailand for the past two weeks. I was living with a local Maasai family in a tiny house made of mud and tin. There was no power, and we had to fetch water each day from a tank about a 15 minute walk away. While I can say my neck muscles are stronger after carrying a 25 litre container on my back with a strap across my forehead - I don’t know how the women do it, every day. Kenya - in fact much of East Africa - is in a drought just now, and when you consider that precious water has to be carried back home for cooking and drinking, it doesn’t make wasting water having a “shower” (splashing water from a bucket) a priority. So I had two bucket showers and the rest of the time embraced my new tan (layers upon layers of dust) and became best-friends with my two-for-one pack of baby wipes! By Alexi O’Brien

MOUNTAIN FACTS Mt Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania and is 3 degrees, or about 340km, south of the Equator

Kilimanjaro comprises 3 distinct volcanic cones: • Kibo 5895 m • Mawenzi 5149 m • Shira 3962 m

Shira was the first volcano to become extinct, followed by Mawenzi. Kibo is a dormant active volcano

The Kilimanjaro National Park is a Unesco World Heritage site

Around 25,000 people per year attempt to climb to the summit

Mt Kilimanjaro contains an example of virtually every ecosystem on earth

In 1889, German geographer Hans Meyer and Austrian Ludwig Purtscheller were the first to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro


‘This is a great challenge and for an important cause. I am sure you will gain many wonderful lifelong memories from the adventure.’ Alastair Humphreys - UK legend

DAY 01

Rongai Route DAY 1

1,950 m

3,945 m til summit Rongai is ideal for those who are less confident of their ability being an easier route with a gradual and steady climb. The walk takes you through unspoilt rainforest and wilderness areas and descends via Marangu route on the southern side, so you get to see both sides of the mountain. August 1st After completing registration formalities at Marangu National Park gate, we transfer to Rongai and the climb begins from the attractive village of Nale Moru (1,950 m.) on a small path that wind through fields before climbing gently through attractive forest which shelter a variety of wildlife, including the beautiful Kilimanjaro colobus monkey. The forest begins to thin out and we camp on the edge of the moorland zone (2,600 m.) with extensive views over the Kenyan plains. [3-4 hours walking]

“Fantastic idea, have a great adventure and thanks from us in Canterbury.� Mark Inglis - NZ legend

Heading to Rongai gate, everyone excited, bring on Kilimanjaro @KilimanjaroNZ

DAY 01

KILIMANJARO CLIMB FOR CHRISTCHURCH BEGINS Alexi O’Brien is a former ONE News reporter now travelling overseas, including climbing Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Christchurch Red Cross Earthquake Fund. Here she describes the expedition.

August 01, 2011

Day one of our Kilimanjaro Climb for Christchurch, and we’re already one man down. Kusal, a Kiwi who lives here in Tanzania working for Volunteer Services Abroad, has been hit with a stomach flu. It’s a blow to the team - he was our official photographer - but otherwise we are all here and happy to meet up after months of emails and Skype conversations. It’s certainly great to hear the Kiwi twang in full force!

It’s rather surreal to be here in Tanzania, though. There has been such a build-up of planning and preparation that sometimes it felt as though this day would never come! And tomorrow the big trek gets underway. We’re climbing Africa’s highest peak to raise money for the Christchurch Red Cross Earthquake Appeal. Most of us are connected to Christchurch in some way - others just wanted to help out and we’ve flown in from all over the world to take on this challenge together. We had a briefing tonight, and heard in detail about each of the six days of the trek. Day five - our summit day - is set to be the toughest. We start climbing at one o’clock in the morning and walk all day in temperatures that can drop as low as minus 25. It takes anywhere from 13 to 18 hours to complete the day’s hike, and we’ll be constantly up against the symptoms of altitude sickness as we climb to almost 6000m above sea level.

‘Summit day - is set to be the toughest. We start climbing at one o’clock in the morning and walk all day in temperatures that can drop as low as -25.’ Our guide told us tonight that 75% of people get affected in some way - from nausea to vomiting and pounding headaches, as well as exhaustion. But meeting everyone and talking about our experiences in Christchurch, hearing teammate Argène’s story of how February 22 unfolded for her when she set off on a normal day to have a haircut before the city crashed down around her, gives us the determination to succeed, and hopefully some extra power in our leg muscles over the coming days!

DAY 01

DAY 01

DAY 01

DAY 01

DAY 01

DAY 01

DAY 01

DAY 01

DAY 01


2,400 m

3,495 m til summit August 2nd This is only a steady uphill morning walk, with superb views of Kibo and the Eastern ice fields on the crater rim, up to the “Second Cave� (3,450 m.). The afternoon can be spent enjoying the view over the Kenyan plains or doing a short acclimatisation walk up towards Third Cave. [3-4 hours walking]

Day one ws great, 1st rest day 2, everyone feeling awesum, 1st view of peak, long way to go:) cold morning - 5 star food. @KilimanjaroNZ

DAY 02

DAY 02

DAY 02

Secrets of Kilimanjaro “Drinking enough every day make sure you are drinking enough, at least 3 litres, drink plenty of soups and tea and water... and then determination with confidence... you’ll make it. Its a piece of cake but we’ll show you how to cut that cake and then to finish it & we need to finish all the cake. We’ll make it to the top of Africa. Cut it and eat it together, We need to stay positive.” Guide - Leonard

DAY 02

“Kilimanjaro we can see it, loving it, Stoked ah. Yesterday we couldn’t see anything and then today actually feels like we’re on it not walking in New Zealand. It’s very warm.” - Chris Flack

DAY 02

DAY 02

DAY 02

DAY 02

“Here we are day two just having our morning break - we’re probably somewhere around 3000m high. Over there is a beautiful tall peak, the clouds have cleared and we can see Kibo. There’s a tiny bit of snow and a few random clouds on the top. It doesn’t look high at all.” - Argène Montgomery-Hönger

DAY 02

“It’s amazing, absolutely amazing, very emotional at the moment. It’s been tough but yeah we are doing well. I think a slight bit of fear, anticipation, excitement, mostly fear to be honest yeah & to conclude fear.” - Matt Orton “So I’m feeling pretty good we did a heart rate test quite recently and I seem to be acclimatising well. The signs of acclimatising well are passing wind and peeing often. The second sign of altitude sickness is talking a lot of bullshit, so I think we’ve all got it.” - Chris Flack

DAY 02

“So Lexi and I have worked out a sleeping routine, this is always my side, that’s hers. Heads are always up as its got a bit of a slope and quite a nice view out the door.” - Argène Montgomery-Hönger “I would like to say a big ups to Absolute Africa really generous, these mat’s are actually quite thick and relatively comfortable and poor Lexi she’s a little bit long for the tent and I’m fine so they’re very spacious tents.” - Matt Orton

DAY 02

DAY 02

“So for tomorrow we are not going very far from here, waking up time will be seven, then 7:30 washing water, 8 breakfast then we leave 8:30 or 9. We’ll be going to third cave, so moving from 3450m to 3900m. We expect to be there around lunchtime, have lunch like today, rest, relax and evening tea then a little bit higher and down, then dinner & briefing. Also I’ve got to tell you that tomorrow will be our last water point at the camp. When we go to base camp we will be carrying some water so if you guys want to do some wash wash, you tell us and we give you some washing water. Arriving at the base camp we will be giving you enough drinking water to drink then on the way down to Marangu we’ll have enough drinking water and washing water. Just expect the weather to be like today. It will be very clear and very beautiful & maybe we might have breakfast outside. On the way just tshirt and one fleece and rain gear in your pack, snacks, sun cream, hat. Much better if you use your hat if it’s very hot” - Samson Lauwo

DAY 02

DAY 02

“3600m - fine views of Kilimanjaro out of the tent windows. Everyone seems to be going pretty well. Enjoying the local African food of stew - Potatoes, bananas, yama (a local African dish - meat). The big thing has been trying to drink enough water, 3 to 4 litres a day, which for most of us isn’t normal. It’s quite a weird feeling so you’re either dehydrated or peeing. We’ve got some great guides, a guy called King Soloman and another guide at the back Leonard and today they gave us their words of wisdom be positive stay positive. It’s going to be pretty cold tonight and tomorrow morning what we really need is the cloud to stick around and keep the warmth in - if it’s a clear sky then all the heat will escape.” - Chris Flack

Day 2 - camp in the shadow of Kibo - acclimisation hike peanuts & chicken for evening tea - still beautiful weather - in for a cold night - hiked for 4 hours. @KilimanjaroNZ

DAY 03

DAY 03


3,450 m

2,445 m til summit August 3rd A short and steady morning ascent takes us to the “Third Cave” (3,900 m.). The weather and the scenery change, and the huge bulk of Kibo seems very close to our camp at “Third Cave” [2-3 hours walking].

Day 3 - Lexi drops camera in longdrop. We currently at 3500m same as Mt Cook. @KilimanjaroNZ

DAY 03

“Long drop Lexi that’s my new name.”

“I was just going have a wee before we headed off and I didn’t want to leave my camera in case someone steals it. So I take it in with me, so really bad move that one as it fell right down the hole. I’ve had some fabulous work here from the guys.” - Alexi O’Brien

“Day 3 or as we know it bootgate. So we’ve had a bit of an incident at breakfast this morning, I’m sure you’ve heard all about it, I’m not shaking hands with Lexi at the moment. We are still sort of in the car park after day 3. I’m teaching some of these porters a thing or two & they have taken some good tips off me.” - Paul Dance

DAY 03

DAY 03

“Today’s trekking is a lot easier than yesterday. I decided to get rid of the long pants, gators and all the other stuff that weighed me down, now I’m just rocking the shorts and I can breathe easy but I am popping the altitude drugs. I do like the pace of today, It’s quite easy.” - Joel Rickard

“This is day 3, walking with Absolute Africa on Kilimanjaro, as you can see I’m setting new trends on the mountain. The ears are pretty burnt from walking up here. I figured out how to use the toilets which is pretty useful and everyone is complaining of altitude, crazy talk going on and that’s pretty much it.” - Matt Orton

DAY 03

“Day 3, 3500 m - Mt Kilimanjaro in the distance & feeling good. There may be some stuff happening in my feet but they feel alright... just getting used to being constantly dirty and yeah it’s hot, surprisingly hot. We’ve passed the height of Mt Cook at the moment, the air is starting to get noticeably thinner, the breeze has just got up and it seems like most people are coping pretty well which is great. We are all listening to the guides and it’s all about pole to pole. So slowly, slowly, lots of water, lots of food, lots of rest - Day 3 going well. Tomorrow night there may be a haka... hopefully.” - Chris Flack

DAY 03

“We’re on Kilimanjaro & Christchurch rocks!”

DAY 03

“Pure white jacket going to blend in to the snow, chameleon style, I’m not going to lie, it’s very warm but it’s cold out here, very cold. Starting to feel the oxygen a bit, just checking the altitude.” - Matt Orton

“4000m, it is feeling awesome, we’ve got people peeing in bushes, lots of jump shots, Absolute Africa doing well, still 5 star accommodation and my fingers feel real numb. They’re tingliing & everyone’s gone a bit silly I think altitude sickness has kicked in. We’ve got people wearing white jackets & we’ve got multi coloured eskimo wraps.” - Chris Flack

Day 3 - dinnertime. Just hiked to 4000m - air is thin & breathing is harder. @KilimanjaroNZ

DAY 03

DAY 03

DAY 03

“It’s the end of Day 3, at an altitude of 3,800m and things are pretty tough, you stand up too quickly you can pass out, which is an issue if you’re going to the toilet, cause they have squat toilets here. The disappointing thing about the squat toilets here is that you have to have really good aim cause the hole is a lot smaller here than in Asia. Just talking is making me puff. We had our oxygen and pulse rate taken earlier today at dinner it came in at 88/80. 80 for my VO2 and a pulse of about 90 which is a lot better than yesterday.

We had an after camp walk before dinner where we went to 4,200m and the other guys only went to 4,100m. So we are quite happy about that and we did go with different guides cause we where lagging behind, took a different route from camp. This morning I had a dream and thought it’s not going to be that hard to get to the top and I believed it but I think it’s very reachable. It’s just the pace, the pace is a killer. I’m on my diamox for my breathing which may be helping, I’m not too sure but I’m also on another cocktail of panadol.

4,700m, it’s a big day 5-6 hours walk, we get up at 6 am, we get to camp and then we rest, we meet another track as well could be quite hectic there and we’ll hit bed time about 5’oclock and we’ll be up again at 11. If we do the whole thing a 15 hr trek, walk around the top, do a loop around the top so yeah we will be walking from 1 am. The oxygen level at the top is 50% right now it feels about 70%.

It’s cold here and dusty and the colour of your snot is black. It’s definitely freeze the balls off a brass monkey weather. Still confident about tomorrow. My knees have been holding up. Got some compression bandages & blisters aren’t hurting as much.” - Joel Rickard

DAY 03

“3900m - Starting to notice the air is getting thinner and harder to keep your breath. The camp is pretty cool. We have a massive mess tent and the toilets have been surprisingly clean - just really really nice and there is less flies and no mosquitoes up here. Some great soup once again and egg salad. They all taste pretty cool. Just about time for rest then washing water followed by evening tea. Washing water is water to help clean yourself, keep yourself nice and clean and evening tea is tea or coffee to help you keep the fluids up. Then an acclimatization walk. This will take us past 4000 meters and help everyone get used to the air up there. We have been doing one of those each day. I’m feeling pretty good, toes are slightly ‘tingly’, sunburn, which is all pretty normal. The head is feeling alright. Tomorrow is the big day 5 - 6 hrs on a kind of ‘lunar saddle’ then we get up at 11:30 pm that night, get ready for the big part - Kibo hut to the summit. I will be wearing 7 layers on top and 4-5 on the bottom. The team seems pretty good - there are headaches and dehydration but that’s all quite normal.” - Chris Flack

DAY 04

DAY 04


3,900 m

1,995 m til summit August 4th We cross the lunar desert of the “Saddle� between Mawenzi and Kibo to reach Kibo campsite (4,700 m.) at the bottom of the Kibo crater wall. The remainder of the day is spent resting in preparation for the final ascent! [5-6 hours walking]

Day 4 - 4250m looks like edge of earth - looking down on clouds & up at Kilimanjaro - 6 hour walk. @KilimanjaroNZ

DAY 04

DAY 04

“Well its Day 4, I think, and we are setting off soon for the base camp, and it’s going to be interesting as we get there about lunch and pretty much go to sleep and a few hours later. We get up again about 10/11 pm and make a pursuit for the summit. The feel of the group is pretty good, a few people are a little bit apprehensive. let’s see how we go.” – Joel Rickard

DAY 04

DAY 04

DAY 04

“Day 4, today we are going to hike 5-6 hours to Kibo Hut and that will be our base camp, we’ll have some tea, some food & then rest. Then it’s off, big, 11:30 that night, already it’s business time, a few of us are feeling the effects of altitiude - I’m definitely feeling the effects of oxygen, tingling fingers from diamox, the toes are a bit dodgy, the nose is a bit dodgy, the head is feeling a little dodgy. It’s warm, a lot warmer than we all expect.” - Chris Flack

DAY 04

“Day 4, 4552m, I counted the last two. Samson is still rocking out the Kilimanjaro tshirt, absolute legend. We’ve just noticed this is Mawenzi over here. Mawenzi looks alot like Tryfan back in North Wales.” - Paul Dance

DAY 04

“At Kibo hut, 4700m just about to sign in to say we have made it this far, and the air is definetly thinner and it’s starting to get quite cold.” Chris Flack

DAY 04

“This is me and Bert at Kibo camp. We made it with Absolute Africa of course and it’s all going well. Altitude making a few people crazy as usual. Just signing in and that’s pretty much it. I’ve got to catch my breath every time I speak.” - Matt Orton

DAY 04

“So we’re here at the last supper, just counting down the hours until we head up the mountain, just had some stew and pancakes. I think everyone’s feeling a little bit nervous having seen the mountain, pretty confident, determined and positive as well, we’ll be heading off about midnight, so there are 6 & 1/4 hours to go.” - Alexi O’Brien

DAY 04

“It’s very, very cold make sure you wear lots of layers.” Samson Lauwo

“How is everybody? I just want to talk about the summit. Waking up time will be 11pm. The next thing you need to do is to go pack your things... arrange in layers. Then when you wake up you can just put on your gear and go. Come to the tent and we’ll having some tea and biscuits then off we go. We need to be on time - 11:30pm. Make sure everything is ready before you go to sleep. Pack your things, pack your bag, sunscreen, sunglasses, cameras then when you wake up you just bring your bag here. After the summit, we come back, eat something then pack and go. We start the most demanding part of the mountain. We will have some targets. From here we will be going all the way to William Point (5,000m) about 1.5 - 2 hours from here. In-between we will have short rests. Then from William Point we will be going to Hans Meyer Cave (5,151m) which is half way (the same height as Mawenzi) and will take 1 hour. From Hans Meyer Cave we will be starting the zip-zag (the switchback), slowly, slowly all the way to Jamaica Rocks (5,500m). Then take rest & from there we will be going all the way to Gillman’s Point (5,685m) - our first peak. In total it’s 5-6 hours to Gillman’s Point. We expect to be there at sunrise - it’s amazing, very beautiful… take pictures & short rest. Then 1.5 - 2 hours around the crater rim all the way to the summit. We’ll be passing Stellar Point (5,732m). From there it’s 40 minutes to 1 hour to the summit. Arriving on the summit we will take group pictures then slowly down. The same way back. It’s very, very cold make sure you wear lots of layers.” - Samson Lauwo

DAY 04

MESSAGES FOR CHCH “G’day Christchurch, Day 4, 4700m on Mt Kilimanjaro at Kibo Hut, the air is a lot thinner, certainly noticing the breathing. In about 6 hours at 11pm we are going to be getting ready, getting all gears together wearing as many layers as we possibly can to climb up to summit at 5895m and it’s predicted that tomorrows walk will take somewhere between 11-15 hours so you know naturally we are excited but fundamentally it’s for Christchurch. Obviously this is nothing compared to an earthquake, it will be a struggle and its going to be painful but you know that’s nothing, I think for me my message is even though the earthquake was a while ago still people around the world are doing things and this is one of them. 12 people that didn’t really know each other have come together and have raised over £10,000 pounds or $20,000 for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. A big thank you to Absolute Africa for kind of just running with an idea and letting us all be part of that. I guess my message for Christchurch is stay strong to all my friends and family there, stay strong. Yeah absolutely and I think even though it looks like the earthquake is over I know that they are ongoing. I think that in a way that this endurance test that we are on now is a challenge. There is something about that, that shows a hell of determination and personally I was lying in my tent and thinking I actually feel that I can’t believe I get to be this person about to climb Kilimanjaro for Christchurch. More than that its like... it has been a bloody challenge living in Christchurch day to day the last couple of months to have something to talk about that’s positive, that gives people...hope... other people on the other side of the world really care. Personally I’m so stoked to be here. I’m representing and we’ll get through and create a city that is thriving and delightful to live in once more. So bring it on. There is a saying on Kilimanjaro ‘Pole, Pole’ which means slowly slowly and Christchurch slowly slowly rebuild.” - Argène & Chris

‘There is a saying on Kilimanjaro Pole Pole which means slowly slowly and Christchurch slowly slowly rebuild.’ Chris Flack

DAY 04

‘It’s just a few hours now until we go up, feeling really really good, super excited, it’s great to see the top, yeah totally pumped can’t wait, this is for you Christchurch.’ Alexi O’Brien

“We are about to begin preparation for the climb. It’s very cold and i’ve got plenty of layers. Feeling excited, feeling pretty cold as well. My message to Christchurch is peace all the best, hope that everything is going well over there and we are doing this climb for you & hope it’s all well.” - Matt Orton

“It’s bloody cold and it will get colder still, I was a bit tired when we got up here I must admit but I’m feeling much better now after a bit of a sleep and a feed. Looking forward to the climb now. I wasn’t looking forward to it 2 hours ago. I’ve sort of come right now you know its all good.” - Bert Denee

“Hello I’m Paul, how are you? alright yeah. So last day just been told we are getting ready to climb the summit. I thought this was the summit so it sucks but yeah I’m putting every piece of clothing I’ve got on it’s pretty damn cold. Great sunset at the behind me and infront of me is pain. Today walking across coming to this campsite suddenly reminded me of why we are doing this. Just had a little quiet moment to myself thinking yep this is really worthwhile and looking forward now to knocking that bastard off.” - Paul Dance

“I’m cold and not looking forward to the cold but the climb... yeap... we’ll be there when we be there. Really excited and we’re doing this for Christchurch. It’s going to be amazing.” - Caroline Denee

“It minus 4 roughly, just packing. I’m in bed & just getting my clothes together. Dinner was interesting, had some green anti-freeze from Flack. My nose has started bleeding which is not a good sign. My oxygen level is 62% versus my heart rate which is about 114. So it’s pretty good (for the heart rate part that is). My message to Christchurch is we love you, we are doing this for you. I can’t really think right now. We understand you’re continuing to live in plight not knowing when its going to end & trying to keep some sought of normality going in your life.” - Joel Rickard

“It doesn’t actually look that far, can I just point that out, although there is a mighty fine glacier up there... so... yeah bring it on. Pretty damn exciting although it’s very cold. Definitely just about to head into the tent and put on about 50 layers... Bring it on.” - Argène Montgomery-Hönger

“Horrifically sun burnt ears that are very sore so I’m patched and ready to go. Just trying to pack and get everything sorted and fingers crossed that we make it to the top. So we think it’s going to be pole-pole and extra pole pole the whole way, so yeah just have to dig deep and go hard or go home I guess... yeah suck it up princess and get on with it.

“G’day its summit day this evening, and it’s pretty cold, altitude is kicking in but I think of Christchurch, awesome city, got close family there and a few good friends yeah don’t think I would have bothered.” - Rhys Williams

For you guys back home in Christchurch, my heart goes out to you, I know its been a really hard last 6 months but we are doing this for you and I hope that you’ll see us all at the top and giving you a big wave and yeah good luck with everything that’s about to come your way.” - Vanessa Macdonald

DAY 05

DAY 05

‘Ok guys good to go... hello... ok’ ‘I went to hell and back and it wasn’t a very nice place’ ‘Chris, Chris the curvature look, we are so close, have you seen it?’


4,700 m

1,195 m til summit August 5th We start the final, and by far the steepest and most demanding, part of the climb by torchlight around 1 a.m. We walk slowly, in the darkness, on a switchback trailthrough loose volcanic scree to reach the crater rim at Gilman’s Point (5,685 m.). We enjoy a short rest whilst enjoy the spectacular sunrise over Mawenzi. Those who feel strong can make the three hour round trip to Uhuru Peak (5,896 m.), passing close to the glaciers and ice cliffs that still occupy most of the summit area. The descent to Kibo (4,700 m.) is surprisingly fast and, after some refreshment, we continue the descent to our campsite at Horombo (3,720 m.). [11-15 hours walking]

DAY 05

Gillmans Point DAY 5

5,681 m

214 m til summit ‘It was bitterly cold, with every step I took forward, I slipped back another. I couldn’t feel my toes and my fingers could hardly grip my poles. The water in my camelpak was freezing as I walked, making it impossible to drink.’ - Chris Flack

DAY 05

“Congratulations you have made it... take care... sit somewhere, sit somewhere.... congratulations” “thank you... this is for Christchurch... yes … yes” “Happy Birthday to you... congratulations Mr Coffee...” “ What’s this place then?” “Gilman’s point”... “piece of cake” “How are you?” “I feel amazing” “aha enjoy now?” “yeah... that’s worth it” “How are you Chris?” “I feel good” “Happy Birthday” “Thank you”.

DAY 05

DAY 05

DAY 05

DAY 05

DAY 05

‘On the top of Kilimanjaro, 5895m. That’s the hardest thing I have ever done. The last 300m seemed to go on forever it was like the air getting thinner. The guides were great they took our bags. Someone told me this is harder than childbirth. So i’m lucky I’m a guy so will never have to experience that. Just completely buggered. You know all those things you say you’re going to do at a place like this, you don’t do any of them you just soak it in. Cheers Christchurch.’ - Chris Flack

‘On top of Kilimanjaro. That’s the hardest thing I have ever done, the last 300m seemed to go on forever.’

DAY 05

‘Alright we have made it to the top of Kilimanjaro, it’s been the longest day of my life but it feels amazing, here we are on the roof of Africa. You know it took absolutely everything to get here and I so wanted to give up so many times. My message to Christchurch is hang in there we’ll get through and we’ll rebuild and have an extraordinary city again. So stay strong.’ - Argène Montgomery-Hönger

‘It’s been the longest day of my life but it feels amazing, here we are on the roof of Africa.’

DAY 05

DAY 05

Uhuru Peak DAY 5

5,895 m

Summit - 8:10 am

DAY 05

‘The best thing for me was after I thought it was game over, when I just about fainted. I got in at the front of the line, behind Samson and I managed to get in his rhythm and all I thought about, was just ‘boom, boom’ one foot in front of another – I wasn’t thinking about how my stomach wanted to explode, how my fingers and feet were numb and when will this end. We got the sunrise at 6 am. My acclimatization was sore stomach & I didn’t really get a headache but I’m getting one now from dehydration and over exhaustion. I was on cloud 9 on the summit... I was floating.’ - Chris Flack

“Honestly I’ve got no energy in me at all, I can’t even open my eyes.” Paul Dance

“Urhuru peak, we’ve made it to the summit of Kilimanjaro. It’s been epic, I’m not going to lie it’s a tiresome one, literally I was just having to force my legs to walk, it’s that bad... worth it in the end. To all those people in Christchurch. I hope what we have done here, you appreciate and I hope all the money we raised benefits you and it’s just a great moment hard to describe in words. To conclude climbing a massive mountain with Absolute Africa plus raising money for Christchurch equals by-winning.” - Matt Orton

DAY 05

DAY 05

‘That’s the life isn’t it, this is the Kilimanjaro Express.’

DAY 05

DAY 05

HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY It’s quite an unusual place to celebrate your 30th. Will you do anything special on top of the mountain to mark your birthday? Originally I was going to do the Robot Dance and wave my NZ flag around like crazy. I was so tired when I got to the top that all I could manage was a group photo and a photo with my NZ Flag. I tried to record a video message for my twin brother but I don’t think it will make sense as I was a ‘blubbing mess’. We managed to perform the haka to the porters at the end of the expedition which was amazing. I’m now concerned that i’ll have to go one better and climb Mt Everest for my 40th!!! Do you feel like you’re missing out on a typical 30th birthday celebration with all your friends? Not really - I was super stoked to have 12 like-minded people celebrating my birthday on the Roof of Africa (including a few very close friends). We were together for 7 days in total - so it really felt like a week of birthday celebrations. Once we got back from the summit - the porters had organised a suprise birthday dinner - they had even made a massive 30th birthday cake and wine. Naturally none of us touched the wine but it was a great thought. I still have the ‘normal’ party with family and friends to look forward to at the end of August - so it’s all very exciting. By Chris Flack / interview with Sunday Star Times

Day 5 - the hardest thing ever. We stood on the roof of Africa. @KilimanjaroNZ

DAY 05

DAY 06

DAY 06


3,720 m

6 hrs til a clean shower August 6th A steady descent takes us down through moorland to Mandara Hut (2,700 m.), the first stopping place at the Marangu route. We then continue descending through lush forest on a good path to the National Park gate at Marangu and head back to a welcome hot shower at our hotel. (1,830 m.). [5-6 hours walking]

“Day 6 - we made the summit yesterday, 8:10 in the morning and probably one of the hardest things of my life, we’ve all been recounting stories of how we were feeling. Two of us, myself and Rhys, said it felt like we went to hell and back. After a good night’s rest, the first night I’ve slept though the whole night... it’s now a feeling of relief in some ways and certainly the things that are hard in life are the most rewarding and that was one of them. I think we are all just pretty keen to get off the mountain, get clean and get some sleep. Being dirty and having bucket showers is probably something Christchurch is used to. So for a lot of us this is just a small taste yet we are all complaining quite fast. Once you’ve gone a month without power it’s nothing... the cold and things like that... a lot of it is pretty similar to Christchurch. We came and we did it and I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. Thinking of Christchurch the whole way was definitely motivating me especially when I went to some very dark places in my head... in some ways I want to say thank you but in some ways we shouldn’t even be here.” - Chris Flack

“I went to some very dark places in my head.” Chris Flack

Day 6 - long walk out, bbq with porters, haka & rest = big day. @KilimanjaroNZ

Made it back from Kilimanjaro for Chch - absolutely worth it but also one of the hardest things I have ever done. @alexiobrien

DAY 06

DAY 06

DAY 06

DAY 06

DAY 06

DAY 06

DAY 06

DAY 06

DAY 06

“It’s going well, I can walk & it’s been a long couple of days. These poles are brilliant cause you can see a straight leg, that’s my technique. We are on our final walk, we’ve only got another 2 to 3 hours to go and lets just say certain muscles and parts of the body have officially given up - mainly my knee.” - Argène Montgomery-Hönger

DAY 06

“Jambo, G’day - day 6 and we are just on our final walk down the mountain. I can’t believe it’s our final walk actually. I was walking down the mountain thinking only a few more hours until our next campsite but there is no more campsites its an actual bed.” “The guides are my new heroes, we are like out of breath dying and they’re running with 20 kilos of gear... its just insane.” “Where I’ll just continually moan about my little back pack there.. here’s Lexi’s, that’s right and just behind it is mine.. now looking at the dust factor... this is attractive. particularly attractive right here... because it’s already on tanned legs I don’t think its quite so pronounced... I can show the hands as well” “Actually if we take a look down here... there’s a little bit of dust action.. and the hands... look spectacular.. they have been recently washed, bloody good.. your nails look good... my nails look terrible compared to that... Caro says next time bring a nail brush... I actually almost look African... anyway we thought we would just show you the twin peaks... its kind of hard to see from here but Monty Python would have been proud... over there is Mawenzi peak and if we go just over this way... we can see Mount Kilimanjaro... covered by clouds.. and so the only thing missing really is the bridge between the peaks... it might explain a lot.” - Argène and Alexi

“Ok we’ve find a little bit of something that reminds us of New Zealand. A fern of course related to our silver fern but just like to say its on the slopes of Kilimanjaro - its a beautiful fern.” - Argène Montgomery-Hönger

DAY 06

DAY 06

DAY 06

DAY 06


DAY 06

“Remember the haka is all about passion & determination - all the things we showed on Kilimanjaro.�

DAY 06

Our Mountain Song

We’ll be coming ‘round the mountain when we climb! We’ll be coming ‘round the mountain when we climb! We’ll be coming ‘round the mountain, we’ll be coming ‘round the mountain, We’ll be coming ‘round the mountain when we climb!

We’ll be confident, determined, positive. We’ll be confident, determined, positive. We’ll be confident, determined. We’ll be confident, determined. We’ll be confident, determined, positive.

We’ll be walking “pole, pole” when we climb! We’ll be walking “pole, pole” when we climb! We’ll be walking “pole, pole,” We’ll be walking “pole, pole,” We’ll be walking “pole, pole” when we climb!

We’ll be wearing 7 layers when we climb. We’ll be wearing 7 layers when we climb. We’ll be wearing 7 layers. We’ll be wearing 7 layers. We’ll be wearing 7 layers when we climb.

We’ll be drinking, eating, resting when we climb! We’ll be drinking, eating, resting when we climb! We’ll be drinking, eating, resting. We’ll be drinking, eating, resting. We’ll be drinking, eating, resting when we climb! We’ll be doing washy washy when we climb! We’ll be doing washy washy when we climb! We’ll be doing washy washy. We’ll be doing washy washy. We’ll be doing washy washy when we climb!

We’ll be spewing, struggling, coughing at the top. We’ll be spewing, struggling, coughing at the top. We’ll be spewing, struggling, coughing. We’ll be spewing, struggling, coughing. We’ll be spewing, struggling, coughing at the top. We’ll be grateful that you got us to the top. We’ll be grateful that you got us to the top. We’ll be grateful that you got us, we’ll be grateful that you got us. We’ll be grateful that you got us to the top.

Kilimanjaro NZ raised over



for the Earthquake Appeal

CONQUERING KILIMANJARO Alexi O’Brien is a former ONE News reporter now travelling overseas, including climbing Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Christchurch Red Cross Earthquake Fund..

August 08, 2011

I last wrote the night before our expedition was due to get underway. Twelve of us mostly Kiwis - had joined together to climb Kilimanjaro - Africa’s highest peak - to raise money for the Christchurch Red Cross Earthquake Fund. We were nervous then but I think if we’d really known what was to come, some of us may not have got on the bus the next morning!

The first three days were relatively easy strolls through magnificent scenery. The pine plantations thinned out into alpine plains, the twin peaks of Mawenzi and Kilimanjaro towering above us. We were treated to stunning sunrises and sunsets each day, with views that literally took the breath away (though, that could also have been the increasing altitude!). The rules for beating Kilimanjaro were to walk ‘pole, pole’ (slowly in Swahili), rest/eat/ drink a lot, and be confident, positive and determined. Sometimes the ‘pole, pole’ pace seemed almost comical, as our feet inched forward step by step, but it’s necessary in order for the body to acclimatize. Kilimanjaro loomed overhead - and we were constantly reminded of our destination. Porters carried 20kgs of luggage up the trail - our gear, tents, food, water. I constantly marveled at their strength, as most of them wore backpacks as well as balancing extra weight on their heads. I managed to drop my camera down a longdrop toilet on the way up - not my finest moment. There was high-drama as the porters and guides worked together using various contraptions, head torches out, peering into the dim hole. A hook on the end of a tent pole

was finally used to haul it out, but suffice to say the camera doesn’t work anymore! The fourth day was a 6 hour walk in the morning up to the Kibo Huts - at 4700m. The afternoon was spent trying to rest up for the big summit climb. At 11pm we gathered in the mess tent - almost ready to go. I was wearing two pairs of thermal long-johns, leggings and wet weather trousers. On top, I had a singlet, a long-sleeved merino, another thermal, an alpaca-wool jumper, down jacket, wet weather jacket, scarf, another neck warmer, a woolen hat, the hood from my jacket, two pairs of gloves and I was still cold. The air was frozen and the wind whipped through our bodies despite the layers. Just about midnight we set off. We trudged in the darkness - zig-zigging up the mountainside on switch-backs that seemed to go forever. I had my ipod on for a bit, jigging away in a bid to keep warm (and distracted) to old Kiwi band the Fast Crew’s; “Uplift me, as long as I’ve got my music with me, I can’t stop rhyming, stop climbing, I can’t stop ‘til I’ve got this song that’s in my head. Let’ go - are you ready?” Let’s go.” The scree was slippery - two steps up, one step back. Two steps up, one step back. In my head I chanted “keep walking. Keep walking. One more step. You can do it.” I breathed warm air through my gloves to stop my fingers from freezing, and pulled my scarf up around my face to protect it from the chill. The darkness was punctuated with light from our head-lamps. Looking down the path, they shone like glow-worms, but I tried not to look at the lights bobbing up the mountain-side for a thousand meters above me - that was too disheartening. For days I’d been singing as we walked anything I could think of that was mountainrelated: “Climb Every Mountain,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “She’ll be coming ‘Round the Mountain,” etc, but that summit morning I had nothing, no spare breath to sing. But luckily the guides did. “Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro,” they sang, walking beside us and behind us. “Don’t sleep, don’t sleep,” they’d call. “You can do it! It’s a piece of cake.” We walked on, ‘pole pole’ - leaving two of the group to walk slower with other guides,

because they were struggling with altitude sickness. It wasn’t long before everyone was feeling it. I looked behind at Rhys - a Kiwi living in London. “How are you doing, mate?” I asked. “Struggling,” he replied. Argène, a few climbers behind, looked wasted already. Up ahead, I could see Janak - an Englishman - swaying as he walked. Paul, a Brit living in NZ - walked close behind him, holding a hand out to steady him on the steep incline. I could hear another climber being sick; most of us had bloody noses. I can tell you one thing, altitude sickness is brutal. For some unknown reason I was the only one not affected. The team joked later that because I’m tall - the guides had dubbed me “mba twiga (the singing giraffe) - I am used to higher altitudes than anyone else! But despite the sickness, and the bone-aching exhaustion, we trekked on.

‘Christchurch, we know you are enduring a lot as you cope with the aftermath of the quakes. Kilimanjaro was a test of our own endurance and we did it for you.’ Alexi O’Brien Six hours later we reached “Gillman’s Point” - just in time for sunrise. We gasped as we reached the top - the first summit - and saw the world curving around below us, the sky gold and blue and orange all at once as the sun began to rise above the cotton-wool clouds that spread towards the horizon. We’d made it, sort of. We still had a three hour round trip to the true summit - Uruhu Peak at 5895m, but at least we’d finished with most of the uphill. I surveyed everyone’s faces. There was pride, smiles - but mostly plain exhaustion. We raised our cups of hot tea: “To Christchurch,” I said. Everyone repeated, “To Christchurch,” and stood quietly.

The sun was up now and light bounced off the glaciers around the rim of the crater. The scenery was incredible - the glaciers and deep crater, Mawenzi peak poking its head through the clouds - but we were almost too tired to notice. Almost there. We were grimy from the dusty walk up - dirt streaked across our faces and covered our clothes. We just had to get to the summit. Some climbers were still being sick, others were feeling slightly delirious, and can’t remember the walk around the crater. At the summit we all collapsed on the ground, wiped out. There were tears and hugs, of course, but it took 5 minutes or so for us all to gather enough energy even to do that. We had made it. We took photos, and shook hands in congratulation, but it wasn’t long before the first climber pleaded “can we go now?” Eager to go lower, to breathe easier, to feel better. We gathered our layers, and began the slow walk back. As we descended, each meter brought some relief from the team’s sickness, but it was another 4 hours before we were back at camp. My knees were shot from “skiing” down the scree on the way back down the mountain. We had lunch and a short rest - before packing up and walking a little over 3 hours to where we’d sleep that night. I try to be a positive person, but those hours dragged and it took every piece of ‘get up and go’ that I had to keep walking. I wanted to sit at the side of the path and not move for hours. I had cramp in my calf, my knee ached, my thigh muscles were tight and I had a pinched nerve in my hip. But we had to keep walking. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see a sweeter sight than camp that early evening. We celebrated two of the teammate’s 30th birthdays, before bed and one of the best, and most-deserved, sleeps in a long time. Christchurch, we know you are enduring a lot as you cope with the aftermath of the quakes. Kilimanjaro was a test of our own endurance and we did it for you, raising almost $18,000 for the quake fund in the process. It was one of the toughest things I will probably ever do - but it was worth it.



August 25, 2011

September 7, 2011

As part of a team of Kiwis from around the world, University of Canterbury master’s student Argène Montgomery-Hönger successfully conquered Mt Kilimanjaro on 5 August 2011. The expedition to climb the world’s tallest walkable mountain was in aid of raising money and boosting morale for the people of Christchurch. To date, the team has raised more than $20,000 for the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal and has received acknowledgements from Prime Minister John Key, the High Commissioner to London and Chief Executive of NZ Red Cross for their efforts. Argène reflects on her achievement:

Chris Flack and a dozen other New Zealanders from throughout the world have raised more than $20,000 for the Red Cross Christchurch earthquake appeal by climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. A former Dunedin resident now living in the United Kingdom, Mr Flack brought together the team for the fundraising trek to the top of Africa’s highest peak earlier this month. Now back in London, Mr Flack told The Star he was elated the group had completed the venture and raised so much money. But reaching the 5895m summit on his 30th birthday after a five day climb produced mixed emotions, he said.

‘‘Relieved that I made it, and sad that the epic adventure was over,’’ Mr Flack said. One team member had to pull out before the trek started due to food-poisoning. Two other team members did not complete the final day’s climb because of altitude sickness. ‘‘We started the summit ascent at 11.30pm on the fourth day. For the next eight and a-half hours we walked ‘pole, pole’ or ‘slowly, slowly’ up a very steep scree slope. ‘‘I had to fight with my mind and body to keep going. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, being on the brink of exhaustion for that long.’’ The descent took only one day. ‘‘I’m now concerned that I’ll have to go one better and climb Mt Everest for my 40th.’’ By Bruce Munro / Dunedin Star

“Reaching the top of Kilimanjaro was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The first three days we hiked around four hours each day, gradually edging closer to the mighty peak of Kilimanjaro towering above us. By the fourth day at 4700m above sea level, the altitude was notable. There were times when I woke up gasping for breath and even the smallest physical exertion like tying my shoe laces was a challenge. After hiking six hours and a short rest, at midnight on 5 August in the dark we began our final ascent. Wearing five layers of clothes with only my eyes and nose exposed to the -10C, donning a head torch and walking ‘pole pole’ (slowly in Swahili) we worked our way up the switchback of loose scree. With every step forward I slipped half a step back. It took every ounce of determination I possessed to just keep putting one step in front of another for six very long hours. After nearly passing out and feeling nauseous most of the way up, we reached Gilman’s Point, 5681m just in time to see the most breathtaking sun rise over Mawenzi – the other summit of Kilimanjaro.

‘This is for you Christchurch, if we can climb this mountain, then we can get through any challenge life throws at us.’ Argène Montgomery-Hönger

Thinking Uhuru Peak can’t be too far away now, we continued our ascent only to realise the last 200m in height would take us over two hours, such was the speed of walking we were capable of. “Standing at Uhuru Peak, 5895m, and being able to see the curvature of the earth, I truly felt as though was I on top of the world. At first there was no celebrating, only needing to sit down to recover, but gradually it started to sink in that we had made it! Holding the New Zealand and Irish flags (in honour of the two Irishmen killed in the February quake, one of whom was a music student of mine) at the summit, I felt a huge sense of pride and gratitude that I’d been given this opportunity to represent my city. Close to tears, I remember thinking: ‘This is for you Christchurch, if we can climb this mountain, then we can get through any challenge life throws at us’. Climbing ‘Kili’ was an extreme endurance test that 12 Kiwis were willing to go through as a sign of their solidarity with the people of Christchurch. I hope that this gesture provides Cantabrians with a new hope for the future and also the strength to keep on ‘pole pole’.”


Paul Dance of Mission Bay conquered Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Christchurch earthquake appeal. A palm-sized volcanic rock sits on Paul Dance’s desk as a reminder of his encounter with Mt Kilimanjaro. The Mission Bay resident set out to conquer the mountain with 13 others last month to raise funds for Christchurch. Only 10 made it all the way to the top and the 39-year-old bank manager was one of them. Reflecting on the climb, Mr Dance says the group was lulled into a false sense of security by their guides for the first few days of their five-day ascent. He says that gave them a better shot at making it to the summit.

‘It’s kind of nice to know you’ve done something that actually has really made a difference. Even in a small way, to people in Christchurch.’

At the campsite on the fourth day Mr Dance really started to feel the 4700m altitude. Then at Gilman’s Point, just 300 metres before the summit, he began to waver and got disorientated. People were throwing up and coughing up blood, he says. “But I didn’t want to stop.” At one point, he thought he wasn’t going to make it. “I was really in a very low place. I was in my own world. One of the porters gave me a plastic mug of hot, sweet black tea. I took a couple of swigs. And I thought, I can do this. “All the way to the top I was just thinking about why I was doing it – Christchurch and all that sort of stuff. That really helped.” He says projects such as the Mt Kilimanjaro climb help to dispell the notion that the earthquake is all over. “There’s a lot of ignorance in England. This has helped people understand how much [Christchurch] has been impacted.” The group aimed to raise $5895 initially – the height of Mt Kilimanjaro in metres. They then raised the target to its height in feet. Today, their total is close to $20,000 and donations keep rolling in. “It’s amazing how many people say `I didn’t know you were doing it. Let me sponsor you’.

Paul Dance

“The expedition definitely exceeded expectations,” he says. “It’s kind of nice to know you’ve done something that actually has really made a difference. Even in a small way, to people in Christchurch.” Mr Dance says highlights were the strong bonds he formed with the team, the stunning hospitality of the porters and guides who carried two huge birthday cakes up to the summit, rescuing a camera from a long-drop and receiving a letter from the prime minister. “It was definitely an experience of a lifetime.” The team was formed by Chris Flack, a London-based Cantabrian who had plans to celebrate his 30th birthday doing something “very cool” and challenging.

Seeing the depth of destruction of his city and his former workplace, the graphic designer felt compelled to help.

She still teaches the deceased’s seven-yearold daughter the tin whistle, an instrument commonly used in Irish music.

Flack says the climb’s aim was “to let people in Christchurch know that things are still happening, that people are still thinking about them six months on.”

Trudging through physical pain and loss of vision in the final six hours on the mountain, the determined 25-year-old thought of the suffering Cantabrians experienced.

Also on the trip was Argenè MontgomeryHönger from Christchurch.

“If people can go through hell and they didn’t even ask for it, then I can do this because I asked for it.

A Master’s student in psychology at the University of Canterbury, her studies were disrupted by the quake. But the real reason she took on the challenge was to honour one of her students, an Irishman, who was killed in the quake.

By Natalie Tan / East & Bays Courier



September 17, 2011

A newsagent found a team of trekkers in a newspaper advert and combined his passion for fitness to conquer the treacherous Mount Kilimanjaro. Janak Patel who will turn 60 later this year, travelled with the small group of New Zealanders to Africa’s highest peak in northern Tanzania last month, on a mission to raise money for the Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake appeal. Thanks to the support of friends, family and generous customers from his shop in Oldfield Lane South, Greenford, Janak raised £1,000 to help the survivors of the 6.0 quake in February. After six gruelling days, walking a total of 60km and camping on en route in the spectacular national parks, the resilient group reached the peak at 5,895 metres on August 5.

Despite the tough terrain and high altitude, Janak, who is a keen cyclist and has two London to Brighton cycle rides under his belt, said he did not find it too strenuous. “I walk 2km a day,” said the 59-year-old, “and my work means that I’m always on the move.” The father of two discovered the team in a newspaper but said: “I’ve been wanting to climb the mountain for a long time.” Originally he planned to make the trip with a friend, but when his friend’s fitness lessened he was forced to find a new group. The sporty dad now has plans to do more fundraising: “I want to do a half marathon next year and then hopefully a full marathon later on.” By Joanna Thom / Greenford & Thorn


14th August 2011


Chris Flack Kilimanjaro NZ Expedition Coordinator +44 (0)77 80 832886

Dear Chris On behalf of everyone at New Zealand Red Cross, thank you for your unique and incredible support for the 2011 Earthquake Appeal. The expedition team’s achievement of climbing Africa’s Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for those affected by Christchurch’s devastating earthquake is something to be admired. I want to congratulate you all. With the help of successful fundraising efforts like yours, New Zealand Red Cross is able to continue to support those in need. Money from your expedition team’s fundraising event will help people right across Christchurch get clean water, food, shelter, comfort, reassurance and practical help. People who have lost family members, been living without basic amenities or have been forced to leave their homes due to damage will be eligible for bereavement, emergency and hardship grants. At the time of writing, more than $49 million dollars has been sent out in grants to individuals and families. In the coming weeks and months, as different needs are identified, New Zealand Red Cross with your help will be committed to meeting them in the short and long term. We’re able to achieve this unique commitment through the support of people like you. I hope you’re proud of your achievement. Thank you for making all this possible With sincere thanks,



We would like to acknowledge the following people and organisations for their support: Jeni & Dave Osborn - Absolute Africa / Sally Herbert & Clint Atkins - All Sports NZ / Hilary Muir & Peter Mac - The Breeze / Bruce Munro - Dunedin Star / Marc Greenhill - The Press / Talia Shadwell - Journalist / Natalie Tan - Journalist / Mark Lincoln - NZ Raw / Greg Brand / Miles Murphy / Sandra - Tembo Tamu / Emirates / Marmot NZ / Icebreaker / Kathmandu / University of Canterbury / The Press / Mission Wow / YMCA, Christchurch / Full On NZ / Anna Priest - Personal Trainer / Respect the Mountains / NZ Herbal A massive thank you to our porters, guides and cooks. They were amazing – from fixing hiking boots, to getting cameras from the bottom of long drops and cooking our meals every day to the ‘small’ task of getting us to the top of Kilimanjaro by ‘singing’. Thank you to Samson and the rest of the team.

“I walked into the Absolute Africa office nearly a year ago. My mission that day was to persuade a company that I had talked to a couple of times on the phone, to help us raise money for a city on the other side of the world (that they may have never heard of).

Expedition Charity:

I was in luck that day – the first person I met was Jeni – She is the face and the voice of the company. Her passion and enthusiasm for Africa is evident every time you talk to her. I also met the bossman ‘Taxi Dave‘ – or Taxi as I would come to know him. (He had gotten the name ‘taxi’ as he was the first person to drive a taxi from London to Kenya in 1979 – I would also learn that these ‘antics’ are very normal with Dave). I told him about the plan and how much money I wanted the expedition to raise. He then told me how he had visited New Zealand and had a lot of Kiwi friends and wanted to help as much as possible. Fast forward 9 months and I had the privilege of sharing a tent with Dave on Kilimanjaro. Over 6 eventul nights I got to learn about him and what makes a company like Absolute Africa tick. I got to hear the famous stories and also see the jubilation when he made it to the top and then the absolute tiredness when his legs turned to ‘jelly’ on the way down. Dave got to ride the ‘Kilimanjaro Express’ for an afternoon and the smile on his face, as he bounced along the path that day, is still etched in my memory. From that first meeting and every detail until we were all safely off Kilimanjaro, Dave, Jeni and the rest of the team at Absolute Africa have been there supporting us and Christchurch, all of the way.” - Chris Flack

Expedition Partner:

Expedition Team:

KIA KAHA /KilimanjaroNZ @KilimanjaroNZ /KilimanjaroNZ

Kilimanjaro NZ Expedition Photo Book  

At 12:51 pm on February 22nd 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city. 182 People lost their liv...

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