Sue Simms Climbing Kilimanjaro

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Sue Simms Climbing Kilimanjaro

30th May 2006

Sue Simms attended the Bexhill Rotary Club’s Evening with Ladies at the Cooden Beach Hotel and delivered a moving talk on her climb of Mount Kilimanjaro and her involvement with the Proteus Syndrome Foundation. Sue started by saying that she was approached by two colleagues to make the climb. She was not a spontaneous person and knew nothing about it other than it was a mountain in Africa, but she jumped at the chance of such an adventure. In the following weeks she found out that it was the highest stand alone mountain in the world at 3 miles high, it was in fact made up of three volcanoes, success rates were between 50% and 80% due to altitude sickness, hypothermia and general fitness, there were also on average 10 deaths a year on the mountain. Not surprisingly she was having second thoughts. Training became a priority and she started by walking everywhere but progressed to climbing the five Munros in Scotland, which are mere hills by comparison, but Sue thought that “this was the hardest thing she had ever done” which gave her even more concern as this was the tag line for the clime of Kilimanjaro.

At this time she saw a video of Jordan a young man with Proteus Syndrome, which is named after the Greek god who had the ability to change shapes. Jordan is part of the 1066 Specials football team and despite his deformities achieves more than the average able bodied youngster. She was so moved by the courage and determination of this young man it gave her the will to carry out the climb, and promised to take a banner to display at the top of the mountain in aid of the Foundation. This was only six weeks before she was due to set off but she still managed to raise £2000 sponsorship in aid of the Foundation.

The climb deliberately took the longest route which gave more time for acclimatisation and as a result had an 80% success rate which proved to be accurate with 10 of their party of 12 ultimately reaching the summit. They employed 37 porters and guides and Sue had nothing but praise and admiration for these people referring to the guides as true gentlemen. Like all big adventures the main interest seems to revolve around toilets, Sue said that this was without doubt the worst aspect of the climb and with 20,000 people a year now making the climb and using these basic open closets it is not too difficult to imagine why.

The climb took eight days - six up and two down - and the final day’s climb took six hours, starting at midnight to arrive at the summit for sunrise. This was a climb equivalent to Ben Nevis but starting from 15,000 feet! It was at this stage that people were falling by the wayside from both their and other parties, and Sue, who was in a state of near total exhaustion gasping for breath in the thin air, said that she fully understood the reports of summit fever. This is where climbers have reportedly walked past people literally dying in their blind quest to make the summit. On reaching the top and unfurling her banner to the Proteus Foundation Sue was totally overcome with emotion and was unable to stop crying. She was unsure as to why this was - either the sheer beauty of the glaciers and the view where the earths curvature could clearly be seen or the simple relief of achieving her goal. Sue said that despite everything that she had done the climb of her mountain paled into insignificance against the mountains that Jordan had already climbed in his lifetime and those that still lay ahead.

Photo: Sue with Bexhill Rotary Club President David Stedman.