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Kerre McIvor-Reaching new heights

It was tough, but thanks to amazing teamwork, Kerre climbed Kilimanjaro.

It’s done. For the past couple of months, I’ve been putting myself through torture at the gym; cashing in favours to spend time at the Warriors’ hyperbaric chamber; and waking in the dead of night, rigid with fear at the prospect of what lay ahead.

I had Googled, read, researched and picked the brains of those who had gone before, but ultimately, I had no idea whether I’d be able to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.

Some people said climbing the highest mountain in Africa was a breeze – a literal walk in the National Park, albeit up a bloody steep incline.

Others said it was the worst experience of their lives – ending in failure and crushing despair. I knew that Martina Navratilova had failed to even reach the base of the mountain; on the other hand, Cheryl Cole had made it to the top.

In the end, I would only know if I could summit Kilimanjaro once I started putting one foot in front of the other. But surely, given I was to climb the mountain for a worthy cause (World Vision’s microfinance programme in Tanzania), fortune would smile upon me.

It had already handed me a cheeky wink, with my fellow climbers. Boh Runga had the dubious pleasure of sharing a tent with me, and given that I don’t even share a room with my husband, I was wondering how I’d go co-habiting under canvas with a virtual stranger. But a better roomy a girl has never had. We shared laughs, grizzles, soap and toilet paper, and I hope I have a friend for life.

I had expected Olympic medallists Mahe Drysdale and Juliette Haigh to bring single-minded determination to the challenge – what I hadn’t expected was their kindness and team spirit. And Rhys Darby, stricken with a terrible head cold and chest infection, soldiered on without a word of complaint, and that meant that no-one else could whine or grizzle, unless they were in greater misery than him.

The only downsides were the toilets and a lack of water. After a long day hiking in clouds of red dust, a shower would have been bliss and restored the spirit.

However, we were up a mountain, so were reduced to doing the best we could with half a basin of warm water and some wet wipes within a zipped-up pup tent.

The squat toilets got progressively worse the higher we climbed.

Decomposition doesn’t occur at high altitude, and by the time we got to Mawenzi Tarn, at 4300 metres, you could cut the air with a knife. Not even the bare chest of former Springbok Percy Montgomery, who was indulging in a very public wash down, could lift my spirits.

By the time we got to Mawenzi, some of the team were suffering from altitude sickness, and we had the sobering experience of watching people being carried down the mountain. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I felt fine. A little grumpy, but fine.

All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other for eight hours and I would be at Uhuru. And that’s exactly what happened. Six hours after we’d set off, our entire team reached Gilman’s Point, the top of Mount, Kilimanjaro.

Rhys made it – despite the fact he’d been coughing up his lungs for the entire climb. Boh made it, despite suffering altitude sickness. And it was their efforts that inspired me, Mahe, and four others of our wider team to push on to Uhuru.

You can listen to Kerre’s talkback show on Newstalk ZB, Monday

to Thursday, 8pm to midnight.

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