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Trekking to the top

A local school-girl’s successful five-day trek to Mount Kilimanjaro has brought her closer to realising her dream of climbing the Seven Summits – the highest peaks on seven continents, reports Fiona Kingston...

Just days after Adriana Brownlee, a Year 12 pupil at Kingston’s Tiffin Girls’ School, climbed the challenging Welsh 3,000s (15 3,000ft peaks in under 24 hours) she set out to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro with her father, Tony Brownlee.

To reach her goal via the popular Marangu Route, they ascended 1,000m a day, a rapid ascent which Tony, a seasoned climber, says defeats 50 per cent of those who try.

A high level of fitness, both physical and mental, achieved after months of rigorous training in Richmond Park and at a local gym with a sports coach from St Mary’s University, paid off.

At midnight on day three, after an earlier testing 10km hike to the route’s Kibo Huts (4,700m) and a few hour’s rest, the pair continued up the mountain. Using head torches, they completed, at a temperature of minus 15°C, a very steep five-hour continuous ascent up icy scree to Gilman’s Point (5,700m).

This stop, just two hours from Uhuru Peak, the true summit (5,895m), was reached at 5am in the morning. Seven people from the group of 13 turned back too tired to continue.

Adriana’s stamina, developed through dragging tyres, a positive mind-set, and her recent rapid ascent and descent of 15 Welsh peaks, enabled her to push on. She dug deep and continued to climb up undulating snow and ice to the top.

At the summit, she was greeted with an incredible sunrise. Her dad, to whom days earlier she had excitedly shown Mt Kilimanjaro from their hotel window, says: “I felt emotional for the last 100m. I knew that Adri had put everything into it. I had to man up not to shed a tear. I never cry.”

The threat of altitude sickness due to falling oxygen levels demanded a swift descent. What had recently taken seven hours to climb took the Brownlees threeand- a-half hours to descend.

Whilst the 75km five-day trek was exhausting and mentally challenging, Adriana says: “My legs didn’t hurt at any point, physically I was fit enough for it.” This is good news as this Christmas she is off to climb her third summit, South America’s Mount Aconcagua (6,962m).

A revised training programme is already in place. Having already climbed Russia's Mount Elbrus in 2017, this gutsy teenager’s dream of becoming the youngest woman to climb the Seven Summits, has just moved one step closer.