A group of 24 Orangemen completed a mammoth adventure this morning when they reached the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro.
By Graeme Cousins
Updated 4th Jan 2023, 2:18pm
It was a journey that spanned two years, involved a great deal of planning and preparation, and most importantly of all has been responsible for raising more than a quarter of a million pounds for children’s cancer charities.
They were inundated with congratulations including a large pat on the back from GOLI Grand Master Edward Stevenson who is keen to meet them when they return home.
The six day trek up the highest mountain in Africa, saw the full group of 24 safely make it to the top at 4.48am (GMT).
Sharing a picture of the hikers, the Hiking For Little Heroes Facebook page wrote: “Well done lads! Everyone back home so proud of you all!”
The team, led by Banbridge Orangeman Stuart Magill and supported by 76 Tanzanians in the roles of chefs, doctors, guides and porters, faced many challenges along the way including a two-hour climb of a 300 metre steep cliff face made from volcanic rock and a night when the winds were so strong that the entire camp got a maximum of three hours sleep .
Leader Stuart said: “Looking from camp it looks impossible to climb but from the day we booked our trip this was the day we were looking forward to the most.
“During our training up the Mournes we loved climbing the Devil’s Coach Road but this was the Devil’s Coach Road on steroids. The walking poles were in the day sack as you needed to use your hands the whole way up.
“It took two hours to climb the wall and once you got to the top we had the most amazing views of Kibo Peak – the top of Kilimanjaro. The photos from there are mind blowing but don’t give it the justice it deserves.”
The Hiking For Little Heroes challenge had been delayed from last year due to Covid, which allowed the group more time to raise more than £250,000 for four charities – Children Cancer Unit at Royal Victoria Hospital, Angel Wishes, Cancer Fund For Children and B Positive – because of their links to Adam Watson, a nine-year-old from Banbridge who passed away in August after a brave battle with leukaemia.
In an update on Monday from Tanzania they planned to be leaving their camp at around 11pm ton and hoped to be at the summit around seven hours from then following a hike in the dark with temperatures dropping as low as minus 22.
Before they set off on Monday morning they were reminded of just how tough a task they were trying to complete.
Stuart said: “We were getting ready to start walking when we heard a helicopter coming into camp to airlift someone off. This was a wake up call to the reality of climbing Kilimanjaro and the dangers of high altitude.”
The group celebrated New Year’s Eve on Kilimanjaro at a camp which was described as “a bit rowdy”.
Stuart said: “The camps over here are massive, there are many groups here climbing Kilimanjaro and there are well over 100 tents at each camp. Our group is easily the biggest with the average group being just half a dozen.”
On Monday afternoon members of the hiking party who have season tickets at Ibrox donned their kits to cheer on Rangers from Tanzania. And they nearly got a welcome boost from Glasgow, but unfortunately their team conceded a late goal to draw the game against rivals Celtic.
Over half the group had been suffering from altitude sickness but Stuart said that thankfully it is pretty much all gone apart from a few mild symptoms and yesterday he said they were focused for the final push.
He said: “The morale of the group is still as high as it was from day one, this is one of the biggest reasons for the success of our trip thus far. Confidence is high but no one is underestimating the scale of the challenge that awaits us.”
The Grand Master Most Worshipful Brother Edward Stevenson has congratulated all of the brethren who completed the climb of Mount Kilimanjaro.
He said: “On behalf of myself, the senior officers and all members of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland I offer our congratulations to the brethren who successfully completed their climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in the early hours of this morning.
“I, along with a great many others, have been following their progress in recent days and I am delighted all their hard work has paid off.
“This was no easy task and required an awful lot of planning and preparation, but it has been done with the aim of raising a substantial sum of money for the Children’s Cancer Unit and Angel Wishes.
“I look forward to meeting with the brethren in the weeks ahead and hearing more of their experiences on this amazing journey.”
Reacting to the Facebook post which revealed the men had reached the summit, Diana Acott wrote: “What an amazing achievement. Brilliant preparation and training to get you all safely to the summit. Congratulations and what an amazing amount you have all raised along the way.”
Lorraine Boyd Gordon said: “What an achievement. You should all be so so proud of what you have accomplished and the phenomenal amount of money you have raised for such very worthy charities.”
Source: Belfast Newsletter