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Mount Kilimanjaro stands in distinctive dominance above all that surrounds it. It is possibly one of the most dazzling landforms in Africa. It's huge snowcapped summit, towering high above the surrounding savannna is one of Africa's all-time classic images. On September 5th, 2001 I find myself standing at the base of this, the highest mountain in Africa.

"What the hell was I thinking?" is the question that keeps on rearing it's head throughout the morning as I await my turn to embark. I am accompanied by Charles McManus, a fellow medical student. We have trained long and hard for this trip. Our training grounds have included several well known public establishments in Galway, each of which has it's own uniquely challenging staircase. The repeated lifting of pint glasses filled with alcoholic beverages in smoke filled atmospheres has no doubt increased our cardiovascular capacity a thousand fold and we are, of course ready for anything nature can throw at us. We could have gone to a nice resort and relaxed for 2 weeks, but no - that wasn't good enough for us! Now, we stand in Machame Village getting prepared for a challenge that will see us rise to 5895 metres above sea level.

We were initially going to take the tourist 'Marangu Route' or 'Coca-Cola' route as it is known, but the day before our departure, our tour operator in Nairobi innformed us that the Marangu route was quite crowded and it was raining heavily on it. So for no extra cost we could take the more demanding Machame Route. We thought about it for a while and then just said 'what the hell?'. A little extra work would be no harm, plus the route offers some of the most spectacular views of the mountain.

This is our story...