A MAN who climbed to the top of Africa’s highest mountain in memory of his father has told of his “surreal” adventure.
Graeme Hardie, a father of two from Corstorphine, has raised more than £5000 for Motor Neutrone Disease (MND) research after his climb to the peak of Kilimanjaro.
The 57-year-old, who lost his father to the disease 36 years ago, said it was “the hardest thing” he’d ever done, and at one point, he thought he wouldn’t make it to the top.
Graeme set off from Edinburgh Airport on September 26 with a group of 28 other MND fundraisers on his mission to Kilimanjaro, which is more than four times higher than Ben Nevis.
His aim was to raise awareness of MND – a condition that affects the signals going from the brain to the muscles and for which there is currently no cure.
Despite months of training, Graeme recalled standing at the bottom of the mountain feeling “petrified”, before his six-day journey began. He said: “It was the most fantastic experience but the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
“The climbing isn’t actually that bad – it’s the altitude that affects you. As you get higher up, your breathing gets heavier and you start to feel like you’re not with it – almost as if you’re in a permanent daze.”
Graeme said camping in freezing cold temperatures and walking for eight hours at a time was a difficult task.
Of the 28 volunteers who started the trek up the 5895-metre mountain, only 24 made it to the top as tiredness took its toll.
Graeme said the group had been accompanied by an experienced guide and doctor at all times and they had examined their health at every turn.
He said: “At one point, I thought they weren’t going to let me continue to the top. We were being observed constantly and one of the guides kept asking if I was OK.
“I was really tired because I had been concentrating on walking so much, but the altitude was playing with my mind. I felt like I was dreaming.
“Some people were disappointed they didn’t make it, but you can only do what you can do – safety comes first. I was delighted I did make it.
“We were only at the peak for around 20 minutes but it was surreal, just phenomenal.”
Graeme, who is now undertaking a Global eHealth course at Edinburgh University, said reaching the peak was an emotional moment, as he thought about his father who passed away when he was only 20.
He said: “Shortly after the trip, I celebrated my 57th birthday, and my dad died at the age of 57 so it was an emotional time.
“My family are really proud of me and I would encourage people who have thought about having an experience like this to do it.”