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Cracking Kilimanjaro

Some of the climbers with supporters at LJ Fairburn & Son headquarters in Lincolnshire Some of the climbers with supporters at LJ Fairburn & Son headquarters in Lincolnshire

Welcome to Cracking Kilimanjaro, the official blog for the LJ Fairburn Kilimanjaro Climb.

In the evening of Monday 1 September, a team of intrepid food industry professionals will be boarding a plane and heading to Tanzania. After visiting our Sesame marketing project, they will begin their climb to the summit of Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, in support of Farm Africa.

The team includes Daniel Fairburn, Managing Director of LJ Fairburn & Son, a family-run egg supplier from Lincolnshire. He will be accompanied by, among others, climbers from the poultry production suppliers Vencomatic Group, and egg packaging company Conexpak.

The climbers are aiming to raise £35,000k for Farm Africa, as part of our Food for Good initiative which is bringing together the food and hospitality industry to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems: hunger. All expenses - flights, hotels etc - have been met by the climbers themselves.

You can follow the progress of this eggs-traordinary challenge right here, and encourage them with a donation via the team's JustGiving page.


Day ten: Summit to celebrate!

After a really tough eight and a half hour struggle being blasted by icy winds, we all made it together to the summit of Kilimanjaro!

We are so proud of our performance; all of us making it to Uhuru Peak is such a massive achievement.

There were some pretty dark hours during the final push up the mountain, with a few of us suffering from altitude sickness. Once again there were stages when we were forced to scramble over loose rock and up paths that were nearly vertical.  It was well worth the utter physical and emotional exhaustion to stand as a team at the peak and see a gloriously beautiful and emotional sunrise.

Reaching the summit was a moment that we will never forget. Even under the most extreme conditions we stuck together as a team. We were determined to make it to the summit together no matter how long it took.

A very proud Daniel Fairburn said, “We’re all shattered, but thrilled at the achievement of making it to the very top as a team. Each and every one of us is hugely proud on an individual level. But this climb has always been about LJ Fairburn doing its bit with the rest of the food industry to support Farm Africa and its work to end hunger in eastern Africa. So a huge thank you to everyone who has supported this climb and helped us to raise so much money.”

Day nine: Higher than the aeroplanes

Day six of the trek (Tuesday)

View of Kili as the team closes in on the summit

We started today’s climb in a boulder strewn, stony landscape, heading for the Barafu Hut which apparently stands at 4600 metres. We are so high up now that we are higher than passing aeroplanes, it’s strange to think that only a few days ago we were all on one of those planes arriving in Tanzania for the first time!

Today’s climb was hard but short as we are resting this afternoon, before an early tea and bedtime in preparation for the summit attempt which starts at night to make the peak for dawn. It has been very windy  here which has made the camp feel a little precarious but this hasn’t dampened our spirits, everyone is determined to make it as a team, however long it takes.

Egle describes how she’s found the climb so far. “I have felt really excited the whole time we’ve been climbing in this stunning landscape. The altitude has meant that I’ve struggled a bit with a lack of sleep, some headaches and keeping up the regime of frequent eating needed to fuel us but we are staying positive.  I am missing my bed and being warm. At night we wear a pair of gloves, a hat, two jackets and two pairs of socks to make sure we’re warm enough up here! This has been an amazing experience but it will also be a relief to have summited, this will be hard to explain to my friends afterwards.”

Aitor added his thoughts as he prepares to bunk down for his last night on Kili. “I’ve found the whole climb really thrilling and I have been really motivated. I am in no doubt that we’ll reach the top and it is probably going to be one of the most emotional moments of my life so far.”

Before I started on this journey I would never have imagined how beautiful it would be up here. Seeing Kili above the clouds tonight will be priceless. We will have an early dinner at five tonight and then bed before we set off for the night climb. Now its time to rest before taking it step by step to reach the summit.” 

Day eight: Facing "the Wall" 

Day five of the trek (Monday)

After another cold night on Kili we woke to face a notoriously hard day of the climb known ominously as “the Wall”. Before we set off there were some nervous faces in the camp. We are all tired and feeling the altitude but our team is really working together mentally to beat each stage as it comes.

We all found today really tough.  Before we set off we could see the 700 foot high volcanic wall rising before us and knew that we would have to overcome this before we could even start to think about reaching the peak.

The temperature has been dropping each day but this morning was truly freezing. We’re all very grateful for our down jackets and are already looking forward to hot baths and warm beds on the other side of the mountain.

We’ve all noticed that the altitude is beginning to make each move more tiring and difficult. It takes much longer to climb as the journey progresses but our team are all pulling together and there is a buzz of determination to keep going to reach our goal. 

Day seven: A climb to the lava tower

Day four of the trek (Sunday)

Last night we camped above the clouds at high altitude. And after retiring to our tents, we quickly discovered what that means: icy temperatures and very little sleep. As we emerged yawning into early morning sunlight we found the outer canvas of our tents had frozen over during the night.

As ever, the guides rallied round and soon had a wonderful cooked breakfast ready for us. We'll never know quite how they do it in these conditions.

And then it was off to the lava towers, dauntingly precipitous outcrops that can be reached only after an ascent of unbelievable steepness.

Our pace was slow, and all conversation quickly dried up in the oxygen-thin air. The landscape was rocky and barren, but it was inspiring to look down on the clouds from on high.

After reaching the towers, we then had to descend - even harder on the knees than going up!

We've arrived at camp for the day with headaches, nausea and shortness of breath. But team spirit is high and we're determined to make it now having come this far.

Day six: Spag bol by moonlight

Day 3 of the trek (Saturday)

Image: view from Kili above the clouds

Today's been a really tough day. Our hard climbing (lots of uphill scrambling) has gained us a lot of altitude. But with that comes thin air. Everyone's amazed at what a difference a few hundred metres makes.

Add on to that our first day of brilliant African sunshine, and there's a lot of pink faces all round.

After the uphill stages we pushed on through a vast upland landscape of heather, dotted with vast volcanic outcrops. It suddenly sunk in that none of us really had known what to expect. And as we trekked into camp on a large, bare plateau, we suddenly became very emotional. When you suddenly find yourself in such alien surroundings, it's amazing how you bond together as a team.

Our guides and porters seemed to know exactly how we were feeling. They sang and danced to welcome us on to this eerily lunar setting.

And our spirits rose further as they cooked up a miracle of a meal that none of us will ever forget: carrot and pumpkin soup, followed by spaghetti bolognese! All served up under a huge, silvery African moon.

We marvelled at the vastness of the African night sky and the brilliance of the stars. And then crept back to our tents, nervous about another day's climbing up this tough, unforgiving mountain. 

Looking back on the day, Jack Ballard said:

"We're all having peaks and troughs. My trough was last night when I had a splitting headache and about three hours' sleep.

But it's all turned round today, mostly because everyone in the group is so keen to support the ones who are struggling a bit. We all know our time will come when we don't feel great so team spirit is everything!

We're close to the top at 4,700 metres above sea level, but there's still a lot of walking to come. I can't wait for a proper bed!"

Day five: This is getting tough

Editor’s Note: apologies for the lack of news from the LJ Fairburn team. They have been having trouble getting a connection on the mountain. We’re delighted to say, however, that the team has finally been able to get through. They sent us an update on the last three days climbing.

Day two of the climb (Friday 5 September) has been incredibly hard work.

On Friday morning we packed up our tents and left the forested slopes of Lemosho, ascending up in a steep climb through a vast forest of juniper trees.

There was little to see from the dense forest until we broke out of the forest on to a zone of vast heath that felt more like Scotland or the North Yorkshire Moors than Africa.

Day four: Kili at last

image: the team gathers before setting off to climb Kilimanjaro

(Editors Note: Apologies for the delay in posting Thursday's blog - we were unable to contact the team for some time due to bad weather on the mountain which made it difficult to reach the team by phone - we've now been in touch with the team who are all fine. They gave us this update from their first day on the trail up Kilimanjaro.)

At last! As Thursday dawned there was a palpable sense of excitement around the team. It was the day we had been thinking about for months. The first day of our trek to the roof of Africa.

Spirits were raised even further by a substantial breakfast at the team hotel and then it was off from Arusha where we have been staying to the starting point of the Lemosho trail which will lead us through a dizzying kaleidoscope of landscapes and climates to the summit, at 5,895 metres above sea level.

The first day was tough but beautiful as we strode out through the lush scenery of an Afromontane forest in the foothills of Kili. We walked at a steady pace for four hours before stopping for a picnic lunch in a lovely shaded glade in the forest. 

Then it was another couple of hours walking before finishing for the day and setting up camp. Tonight is our first night sleeping out in the open and under canvas. We're all tired, but excited about the scenery and challenges to come.

Team member Penny Ruszczynski summed up how we all felt by the end of day one of the trek:

"It's incredible to look out over these huge landscapes and to realise how much the pace of our busy lives in the UK have slowed down. The views are incredible and it's thrilling to hear nothing but the crunch of our boots on the trail and the sound of wildlife as we head up the mountain. Of course we know there's tougher challenges to come, but we're ready to put ourselves through some pain so we can raise money for such a good cause."

So why not add a little more to our total by making a donation

Day three: Seeing Farm Africa's work firsthand

Today we had the pleasure of visiting Farm Africa's Sesame marketing project in northern Tanzania. We met Basilisa, Theresia, Ernest and Jacob of the Nsange Sesame Group, a group of farmers that Farm Africa has been training to improve their sesame production, harvesting and selling. They told us how, with their new seeds, skills and knowledge they are now able to put three meals on the table for their families.

Theresia in TanzaniaSesame is a versatile crop, and the group showed us some of the sesame goods they had produced. They gave us a tour of the warehouse and Ernest demonstrated how to use the oil press to make sesame oil. It seemed to be quite a labour-intensive activity, but sesame oil fetches a much better price than plain sesame seeds. Currently the group sells the oil locally (along with sesame soap), but they have big ambitions to grow the group and export their products. They explained that by working together, as a co-operative, they have greater selling power, and are a more attractive, safer proposition to buyers.

We asked the farmers lots of questions, and we were particularly impressed by the amount of sesame the farmers can now grow compared to before they received training from Farm Africa. They in turn were keen to find out about us - they quizzed Daniel about caring for chickens and the best way to make a business out of rearing them. They were absolutely amazed that LJ Fairburns & Son have over 1.75m chickens! They were really keen to learn from Daniel's experiences, especially as his family business began so small too.

It was wonderful to see a Farm Africa project in action, and to meet and learn from the farmers. We were really struck by their pride in their work, and that they were now able to feed their families three meals a day, every day.

Photo is of Theresia showing off her new water tap - the latest addition to her house and made possible through money she raised from selling sesame. This saves her a 5km round trip every day to fetch water. 

Day two: A glimpse of the mountain

Kilimanjaro seen through the window of the plane

We’ve had a busy first stage in our epic journey from London to Tanzania. After a night flight to Kenya we changed planes and flew into Kilimanjaro airport. During the flight we caught our first glimpse of the towering Mount Kilimanjaro. We all thought that the mountain didn’t look too intimidating until we realised that we had merely seen the peak showing through the clouds!

No sooner had we landed than we were off again on a very long drive through the sights and sounds of Tanzania. For a number of people in our group this is their first experience of Africa.

Adrian from Vencomatic explained, “I don’t know what I was expecting but the weather so far has been like Manchester, misty and grey. However when we arrived in Arusha town it was amazing, there was just so much hustle and bustle. I think at the moment we’re just all trying to take it all in!  I can’t believe how the landscape changed so quickly in our journey today, from lush and green to barren in minutes.”

When we finally arrived at our destination we met William who runs Farm Africa’s sesame marketing project. He introduced us to some farmers who have joined the project and who told us how they are now growing bigger sesame crops and are making a better living from their produce.

We will be meeting more farmers tomorrow but it is great to already gain a sense of the difference that our support will make to families like those we met today.

There is a tangible sense of excitement in the team that the challenge that we have all trained so hard for is just around the corner. 


Day one: An egg-citing start!

The LJ Fairburn image gather at Heathrow before boarding their flight for Nairobi, and then on to Tanzania.

Image: left to right - Aitor Echeverria Insausti, Jack Ballard, Egle Kalinauskaite, Adrian James, Joanna Stormonth Darling, Sam Davison, Daniel Fairburn and Amy Sharpe.

After months of intensive planning and training, the LJ Fairburn Kilimanjaro Climb team has met up at Heathrow and is raring to go.

And as they unfurled the same banner that they hope to unfurl again at the top of Kilimanjaro on 10 September, it all began to feel incredibly real.

They've travelled from all over the UK - from Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and the West Midlands - to be here, and there was huge excitement as some of them met the other members of the team for the first time.

Fortunately, LJ Fairburn's Managing Director, Daniel Fairburn, is leading the team and was on hand to help explain who is who and how everyone is linked to LJ Fairburn.

As the team prepared to board the flight, Daniel looked forward to the next twelve days:

"It's great for us all to be together at last and on our way. There's a lot of excitement around as for all of us, this is the biggest challenge we've ever undertaken. We all know how important the money raised from this climb will be in bringing positive change to the lives of farmers and their families, and that is hugely motivating. We can't wait to be up in the air and on our way."

It's not too late to egg the team on by making a donation. They're going to need all the encouragement they can get if they are to make the punishing 5,895 metre climb to the top of Kilimanjaro - the roof of Africa!

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