Hard Tasks: Mark

low cloud over paths and trees on kilimanjaroIt snowed on Box Hill today and a very cold wind was whipping in from the north.

Portents of things to come perhaps?

Everyone keeps on going on about how cold it is at the top. Charles has lent me a guide-book about Kilimanjaro by Alexander Stewart. It makes sober reading with many salutary comments about the perseverance needed to get to Uhuru summit.

The descriptions are littered with words and comments like ‘daunting,steepens considerably, hard, ‘endless & enormous task’, demoralizing,”the result is agonizing, there is no other word for it” and “the pure drudgery will dull even the most resilient spirit….”.

It made me think..how hard is it going to be? Admittedly Parkinson’s is both the driving force and the biggest handicap. What is the hardest thing I’ve ever done or will this be it? Admittedly tabbing across the Brecon Beacons, with a 40lb Bergen and rifle, whilst on military service wasn’t easy. However there is one event that always springs to mind, and the reason being that there was no real goal to aim for…it would have been so easy to give up!

In August 1998 I finally got around to walking the Pennine Way. About 360 odd miles (including detours) over about 16 days. 22 miles a day, each and every day, eventually with blisters as big as…well, Kilimanjaro! August is supposed to be the hottest and best time to go however it turned out to be just about the worst summer on record. Half way through this particular adventure I was met with blinding snowstorms….in the middle of ‘flaming’ August. The rest of the time it either howled a gale or rained persistently, or sometimes both. I had a miserable time, borne out by the daily diary I kept. It was a 16 day hard slog after which I vowed never to do it again.

I met a couple who had walked it a couple of times and they gave up ½ way. Similarly, and unbeknownst to me, Janet Street Porter was filming a North South walk and when I got to see the programme some time later, she went on about how unusual and horrendous the weather was that summer; almost bringing and end to the filming! Hopefully the Gods will smile on me on Kilimanjaro.

I also have to mention that having spent many years running up and down mountains across Europe when in HM Forces, I always swore that I would never do it again when I ‘got out’. Oh! How the mists of time dim our memories.

And I always remember of a quote by Nietzche used in an article by an Everest climber
when asked why he dares death to reach mountain summits.

“Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you”


Photo with thanks to naeemebrahimjee on Flickr, available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/naeemebrahimjee/4898050733

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