On Wednesday 2nd October a team of 21 people set off on the challenge of a lifetime to climb Kilimanjaro the World’s largest free-standing Mountain. This inspiring team included eight amputees (four men and four women), all with varied limb differences of different levels ranging from below the knee – Tracy Kitto, to full a full hip disarticulation – Damian Harper and Simon Grater, who is an amputee and Type 1 Diabetic and Mick Kirby, an upper limb stroke survivor.
The uniqueness of this Kilimanjaro Challenge was designed to give each of the amputees involved the optimal chance of summiting the Mountain. The strong team of 21 people included two Doctors, two Prosthetists, eight amputees and friends and partners. And an additional support crew of 75 local people who were their guides, porters and kitchen staff. The team undertook an extended trek over eight days allowing for the differing needs of this inspirational 8 person Ampu-Team.
Four of the eight amputees summited Kilimanjaro; Anne Garland (who at 62, is the oldest female AK amputee to summit) and Kiera Roche who both reached Gilman’s Point. Chris Linnitt and Rebecca Legon continued on for another 3-4 hours and reached the 3rd Uruhu Summit. Rebecca was the first amputee to complete the challenge in a speedy time of under 12 hours, and Chris battled through immense discomfort as his prosthetic leg had broken. All of the amputees challenged themselves beyond their comfort zones and those that didn’t summit only failed to do so due to illness and or prosthetic malfunction. This challenge was always a high-risk expedition with very little knowledge about how the prosthetics would perform at altitude and under duress, the team were pretty much climbing blind.
This was an incredibly tough challenge and nothing you read or watch can prepare you for the long days, altitude and tiredness of sleeping in a tent in the wilderness for eight days. The prosthetic support and pre-event preparation were incredible and the above knee amputees could not have succeeded without the hard work and preparation carried out by Chris Parsons and Tim Howarth, including the design of a battery-operated portable charger.
The team were met at the finish line by Tanzanian government officials who had heard about this fantastic group of individuals all with different disabilities and had organised a welcome party, which was documented and shown on local TV stations.
Kiera Roche, LimbPower’s CEO said, ‘this was the most challenging thing I have undertaken, it required both physical and mental toughness to get through each day and to reach the summit on summit night, a huge feat for a team of amputees’. She added, ‘this challenge was not just about pushing our personal limits, but also about leading the way to show other people with limb loss and limb difference that anything is possible with the right support and equipment’.
The team have raised an incredible £30,000 for two limb loss charities, LimbPower and the Amputation Foundation. Both organisations work to improve the lives of people living with limb loss and limb difference.Damian Harper, Amputation Foundation Trustee said “I’m so incredibly proud of us all. I didn’t reach the top, but I reached my Kilimanjaro. My personal goal was to be the first Hip Disarticulation amputee to summit with a prosthetic leg, unfortunately my socket failed and I had to stop on safety grounds. My main aim for our group was to show other amputees that life can continue post amputation, that it can be a new beginning. We are all everyday amputees using standard prosthetics, not athletes, just Superheroes. It was an honour to be part of this team’.