Kilimanjaro challenge raises £70,000 for air ambulance
A team of Cornwall Air Ambulance fund-raisers have completed a gruelling climb of the world's highest freestanding mountain.
The group, who reached the summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on September 19, were mostly strangers before the event, but have since grown friendships that they say will last a lifetime.
Tanya Millington, from Falmouth, had a personal reason for making the trek:
"My nan sadly died last year," she said. "The day after I received a leaflet from Cornwall Air Ambulance about a Kilimanjaro trek. I felt this was a sign – to get fit, challenge myself to do something completely alien to me and continue supporting my nan's charity of choice."
Rebecca Douglas decided to climb Kilimanjaro, having previously been helped by the air ambulance. she said: "I really wanted to do this challenge because 17 years ago I was airlifted with my three-week-old daughter. I was only 24 at the time and it was pretty scary but the crew were really caring.
"Then, just over three years ago, my husband was also airlifted when he fell off a ladder and fractured his shoulder."
The team left Cornwall on September 11 before embarking on a seven-day trek through Tanzania to the summit.
Dominic Wood, from Truro, who made it to the top with the group, had a special reason for taking part.
"Dad died two years ago to the day that we set off for Kilimanjaro," he said.
"He instilled this sense of adventure in me and we had often talked about doing this mountain, having explored places like Sri Lanka together.
"We decided as a family that I should scatter some of dad's ashes at the top of the mountain as a tribute to him."
Dan Foster, Dominic's lifelong friend who also climbed, added: "It was pretty emotional up there. I'm really proud of Dom for doing this. The final ascent was tough and he hadn't been well a few days before so his energy reserves were pretty low, but he was determined to do this for his dad and he dug in."
Rebecca agreed that the final push was a struggle, physically and emotionally, saying: "I didn't think it would be so tough, and would probably have turned back if it hadn't been for the support that we gave each other as a group. Everyone of us shed a tear at some point, I think we all felt such an incredible sense of achievement."
This sentiment was echoed by Tanya, who admitted that before the challenge she wasn't used to physical exercise.
"I am the girl you see at the supermarket driving round looking for the closest parking space," she said. "Camping has never been something I would consider and I am terrified of bugs, so climbing Kilimanjaro was completely outside my comfort zone. But reaching the summit was a tremendous achievement for me. Once I had reached Stella Point I was beyond exhausted and suffering from the altitude. But after many tears, hugs and a hot chocolate I somehow summoned the energy to continue up to Uhuru peak.
"I had so many feelings. I was relieved, exhausted, elated, humbled and very emotional. I had done it and proved to myself that I can succeed in all I set out to do. A very proud and special moment in my life."
Collectively the 31 members of the group raised more than £70,000 for the charity and the expedition was organised by fundraising co-ordinator Tom Matthews.
"When we came up with the idea of climbing Kilimanjaro we didn't know if we could organise it, let alone if anyone would join us," said Tom. "We have been overwhelmed by the support and commitment. The group really has developed special bonds."
Tom added that he had already begun organising a trip to Machu Picchu in autumn 2014. For details visit cornwallairambulancetrust.org/peru