Cameron Childs and Tom Wheeler both 20 years old have recently completed a seven day climb up Mount Kilimanjaro.
Cameron who is a Customer Services Advisor and Lifeguard Tom have been friends since school. They have always been up for taking on new challenges but have never done anything on this scale before. The two lads who both work at Crowborough Leisure Centre, have climbed Scafell Pike in the Lake District several times, along with Bowfell.
Colleagues at Freedom Leisure helped them prepare for their gruelling climb up Africa’s highest mountain, and knowledge from a specialist team of guides helped them reach the Uhuru peak at the summit of Kilimanjaro.
I’ve always dreamed of going to places and trying things to challenge me, and we’ve both wanted to climb the Seven Summits since we were kids. Kilimanjaro felt like a natural starting point as its one of few summits you can walk the majority of.
Prior to completing the climb, which took place on 7th to 13th July 2015, both Cameron and Tom sought out support for their training from their fellow Freedom Leisure team members. Their training involved being in the gym at Crowborough Leisure Centre five days a week working with personal trainers Nick Heasman and Chris Willett. In order to ensure they were able to cope with their heavy bags during the climb, the pair were advised to increase their weight training to build up their strength.
The advice and support Nick and Chris gave us was great and really helped us prepare for what lay ahead. During our training on the weekends we’d fill our rucksacks with rocks and go running to help build up our strength and get used to the weight. I tried to eat around 4500 calories or more a day to compensate for the amount of energy I was using up in my training and to build as much muscle as I could before we left.
Talking about the challenge itself Cameron explained how the advice from their guides had really got him through the more difficult times:
Our guide Kefas kept telling us the climb was a ‘mind game’ and to always ‘stay positive and happy’. That was surprisingly helpful. I kept thinking ‘when you’re going through hell keep going.
It certainly was no easy feat for the pair, with their toughest challenge taking place on the summit night.
We were awoken at midnight to start climbing at 1am. We were aiming to reach the summit in time for the sunrise at 6:30. Our guide told us that the average ascent time is normally between seven and eight hours, we did it in 5 hours 40 minutes but it was tough! Each step was a real effort due to the high altitudes and lower levels of oxygen. It was slow going and very tiring as I had a splitting headache and nausea at this point, all in complete darkness and about -20 degrees. But it was worth it for the moment the sun rose at Uhuru peak, certainly a once in a lifetime moment and something I’ll never forget!
It was a fantastic experience and we’re now hoping to get on to an advanced mountaineering course this winter in Scotland so that we are qualified to partake in technical ice climbing. This would allow us to take on Mount Elbrus in Russia which is the tallest peak in Europe. One day we hope to complete Mount Everest but we’ll certainly need to get some practice in first.