On the 8th March David Baker along with nine family and friends (pictured above) set out to take on the incredible challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa sitting 5,895 metres above sea level, in support of The Cure Parkinson's Trust (CPT) and The Worshipful Company of Butchers. Here David shares his inspiring story.

“Two years ago, in the pub, what seemed like a good way of fundraising soon became a reality. Kilimanjaro was the target and I soon had nine other ‘very keen’ volunteers to join in on sharing a life time opportunity of conquering the largest mountain in Africa. We wanted to support both The Cure Parkinson’s Trust and The Worshipful Company of Butchers and decided to set a very high fundraising target of £100,000.

On the 8th March we set off on our trip (pictured above). Tensions were high, facing the unknown was lurking in front of us and we didn’t quite know what to expect. On arrival, two vehicles took us to our first lodge. After breaking down four times during our 20-minute transfer the team were asking me what I had got them into! Our next stop in Merangu was to be our last place of stay before the climb. Met by Abraham, our tour guide, we were briefed on what we were about to do and what we were about to be faced with.

The next morning, we got a transfer to Rongai Gate, which sat 2,364 metres above sea level. On the journey up we started to get some views of Kilimanjaro (pictured below). This single standing mountain was an awesome sight as we approached the gate to the national park. We were greeted by 38 porters, guides, helpers and Milton the cook. These people were soon to become our family for the next six days.

We arrived at our Simba camp, 2,671 metres above sea level. This short walk of four hours, up and down through a tropical forest was hot, humid and drained a lot of energy. Kilimanjaro was not going to make this easy for us.

We had our wake-up call at 6.30am with a bowl of warm water and the instruction of "washy washy". Trying to find what you need to wear whilst crouched in the very restricted area of the tent, would soon bring many of us to breaking point. Breakfast at 7am, porridge, bacon, egg, fruit and toast. We thought this was brilliant, a full breakfast every day……. that was the last time we saw the bacon and the porridge washed down with honey was the main staple food we had for the rest of the trip.

We had five main guides, Abraham the senior guide and tour leader, Haance, Simon, Innocencent and King James and all of them took turns in leading us from the front. “Pole Pole” were the words followed by “sippy sippy”. Walk slowly and keep drinking. The treated water had an acquired taste but luckily with the flavourings that some of us brought with us it became more bearable to drink.

We set off on our second day loaded with about 7kg in our back packs. We had 3-4 litres of water, snacks and spare clothes. The weather could change at any point and the mountain would not warn you. It was very hot and humid and within the hour Liz, feeling light headed, fainted. Luckily Tim and Andrew were there to catch her and bring her safely to the ground. Liz was soon back on her feet and leading the team to the next camp.

Kilimanjaro was just starting to test us, and she kept reminding us who was in charge. The terrain changed and, faced with very uneven and unstable ground we safely made it to Kikelelwa Camp 3,600 metres above sea level. A few of us started to suffer from headaches and slight dizziness. We were told to eat, drink and rest and this is exactly what we did. Camp at night was getting quieter as energy levels started to diminish.

Early morning call at 6.30am, “washy washy” ……. this was starting to feel like ground hog day. A climb of over 700 metres of altitude over a distance of 18km taking six hours (pictured below) was our next big test. Legs were getting heavier and limbs were hurting. Altitude was starting to mess with our breathing, our minds and our emotions. Doubt started to cross my mind - how on earth am I going to make it? At some point everybody had a low. This is where team work really kicked in. There was always somebody to hug and to be reassured that you will be okay and to stay strong. The bond in the team was getting stronger and stronger.

Day four, a gruelling seven hour climb over volcanic rock and through a bleak, lifeless landscape which can only be described as like walking on the moon’s surface. We were heading towards base camp, Kibo Hut 4,720 metres above sea level. We arrived there in the heat but as soon as the sun disappeared the temperature plummeted to sub zero and then the hail started to hit camp.

We had to be up at 11pm and ready to start the final ascent at midnight, having slept in what we were climbing in to help stay warm. We began the 1,000 metre climb in pitch black with only our head torches lighting up the feet of the person in front. The African sky was littered with the brightest stars - a sight I shall never forget. With only 50% oxygen, every breath was an effort. Shuffling feet was all you could do on the steep shingle paths and navigating even the smallest of rocks was an arduous task. Tanks were now running low; our legs and feet were like lead. With sleep deprivation to add to all of this many of us were starting to feel the effect of altitude sickness. King James, our guide, sang all the way up which helped us keep momentum. Soon the mesmerising sun began to rise, and we could now see the beauty of Africa below us. We dug deep and took energy that we have never asked for before from our minds and bodies to complete the final ascent.

At 7.15am we finally reached the summit of Gillman’s Point, 5,685 metres above sea level. It took a few seconds for it to sink in, but we had done it and all of us had made it. Emotions were uncontrollable, tears of joy and success. This amazing adventure had only been possible because of the strength and resilience of the people within the team.

Liz, Jo, Lucinda, Lizzie, Martin and I decided to take the extra two hour hike to Uhuru Peak (pictured below) which stood at 5,895 metres whilst Tim, Andrew, Charles and Steve started to make their descent. Every step seemed to take every last bit of energy we had but before long another milestone was reached. We were officially the highest people in the whole of Africa. With 360 degree views, we marvelled at the crater of Kilimanjaro, its silent glaciers and the flat plains of Africa below.

Now the walk down. Every few metres the air got better; you could feel the oxygen pouring into your lungs and the headache eased. Coming down was far quicker but as hard, if not harder, than going up. Legs were burning now as we almost skied down the scree. The dust and heat were getting more and more intense. 14 hours after beginning our ascent we were back at base camp damaged but not beaten. After 45 minutes rest we were off again on another 10km hike.

Kilimanjaro was not going to let us go. It felt like she wanted more out of us even though we had conquered the summit. Knees, hips, ankles and joints had taken such a pounding that walking on the flat even hurt. Obstacles still confronted us - dried river beds with loose boulders and rocks caught a few of us by surprise. After nearly 18 hours of the hardest, toughest and near on impossible hiking any of us had ever done we were at Horombo Huts, 3,720 metres, dropping 2,176 metres in one day.

After 11 hours sleep and one last "washy washy" it was time to continue the descent but before we left, our team of 38 porters and guides joined together in traditional African song. We had struck a friendship and relationship that I will never forget and without them nothing would have been possible. It was time to say goodbye and finish what we set out to do. Six more hours of trekking through the rain forest. Seeing life again, butterflies, monkeys and other native animals. The shear smell of vegetation after days of dust and, let’s face it, pretty smelly tents was amazing.

Marangu Gate was our final destination, mission complete (pictured below). I have never put my body through such punishment and pain. Never did I expect it to test me as much as it did. I really learnt so much about myself, life and especially the people I had around me. To be part of a team with friendships that grew so close and tight in such a short period of time will be a life experience I will never forget or let go of. It's a great privilege to have shared an amazing adventure with such amazing people and a true example of the fellowship that is so apparent within this company.

On top of that we have raised over £60,000 and that is all thanks to every one of you. We cannot thank you enough for helping us to achieve that. A truly amazing amount that is beyond our expectations. I will leave you with this, a saying I heard on the trip by one of our guides that had a real impact on me…… ‘Pain is temporary, Pride is forever’.”

CPT would like to thank David and the rest of 'Team Butchers' for their incredible hard work and fundraising efforts! To read more of the team’s story or to support their fundraising please visit their fundraising page.

If you feel inspired by David’s story and would like to take on your own trekking challenge for CPT you can search the many fantastic hiking challenges here. Alternatively please contact George or call 020 7487 3892 to discuss your fundraising ideas and find out how we can support you.