Loddon team’s highs and lows of Kilimanjaro cancer challenge

Keith Burnett and his wife Karen were raising money for Prostate Cancer UK.

Keith Burnett and his wife Karen were raising money for Prostate Cancer UK. - Credit: Archant

A couple who embarked on the challenge of a lifetime to climb Mount Kilimanjaro said the experience would “forever live within our hearts and minds”.

The group visited an orphanage during their trip and said the children were "incredible"

The group visited an orphanage during their trip and said the children were "incredible" - Credit: Archant

Keith and Karen Burnett, from Loddon, teamed up with Mr Burnett’s brother Steve and work colleague Paul Choak to tackle the 19,340ft (5,895m) mountain in Tanzania last month.

They raised funds for Prostate Cancer UK - a cause close to their heart after Mr Burnett’s older brother, Dave, was diagnosed with the condition 18 months ago and is currently undergoing treatment for it.

Before tackling the climb, the group spent time exploring the African country and also arranged a trip to an orphanage.

Mr Burnett said: “No-one can prepare you for the sights, smells, friendliness, poverty, humility, courage, strength, and friendship that you will encounter on a trip such as this.

The two members of the team reach top of Kilimanjaro.

The two members of the team reach top of Kilimanjaro. - Credit: Archant

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“The children in the orphanage were incredible, making us feel so welcome to have a glimpse into their little world. Singing their song of welcome and introducing themselves in clear English to us.

“Feeding 63 young children every day using a wood fired cooking range is a challenge in itself, but they do it.

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“No clean running water for the showers and toilets is a challenge, but they manage.

“We honestly do not realise how lucky we are, and it is heartbreaking to see such adversity in the 21st century.”

The group then set off on a six-day trek to the roof of Africa via the challenging Machame route which is often completed in seven days.

Mr Burnett said: “The porters are phenomenal, running ahead with loads balanced on their backs and their heads that made our eyes water just looking at them. We were looked after so well at every step of the way, and nothing was ever too much trouble.

“The route up is simply stunning, taking in The Lava Tower, and the formidable Barranca Wall. The scenery, and vegetation varies from tropical rainforest through to alpine desert, and finally to a world of glaciers so close to the equator.”

Unfortunately, just 141 vertical feet from the summit, Mr and Mrs Burnett began suffering the effects of the high altitude and were forced to descend.

Mr Burnett said: “It would have taken another 2.5 hours of walking to have made it, and we were running on empty after a challenging day and just three hours rest before taking on the summit climb at midnight.

“Nothing could prepare us for the debilitating effect that the lack of oxygen has on the body. We decided to be sensible and admit defeat - so near and yet so far.

“Steve and Paul carried on with two of our guides while we turned back, and I am pleased to say that they both reached the summit - although it drained them both completely.”

Although the couple did not reach the summit, Mr Burnett said the experience more than made up for the disappointment.

He said: “Is anything in life ever really about reaching the summit, or is it about the effort that you put in to trying to get there.

“The people we have met, the new bond forged with my brothers, the views, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the memories that we have made far outweigh the disappointment of not seeing that rugged wooden sign with our own eyes.

“Most importantly though, we have been raising money for Prostate Cancer UK.”

If you would like to donate to the cause, text KBKB55 and the amount to 70070 or at www.justgiving.com/Keith-Burnett2

Are you embarking on a trip of a lifetime? Email lynn.crombie@archant.co.uk or call 01502 712060.

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