At 05:46 on Monday 28th November, Haymarket Automotive duo Rachael Prasher and Jim Holder stood on top of Africa’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, completing a five-and-a-half-day trek totalling 37 miles up the 5895-metre mountain.
The pair formed a part of a 15-strong expedition of industry heads, raising money for the automotive charity Ben, with the entire group reaching the summit. So far, the pair have raised 76% of their £14,000 fundraising goal.
Following the Machame route, famed for its steep inclines but higher success rate as it gives longer to acclimatise to the altitude, the duo experienced everything from tropical rainforests to freezing nights on the barren mountain, weathering strong winds and long days. The high altitude also meant the entire group had to do several ascents and descents on the mountain before the summit push, to reduce the effects of altitude sickness on the body and mind.
The summit day included a final six-hour push up the remaining 1100 metres of the mountain, with the trek beginning at midnight in order to be able to see the sun rise over Africa. With the mountain summitted, the team then had to walk three hours back to camp, where they rested for a couple of hours before trekking another six hours down the mountain as they sought to reduce the effects of altitude on their bodies as quickly as possible.
“It’s been challenging throughout, with the daily treks and cold nights draining our reserves, but summit night was something else again,” said Rachael Prasher, managing director of Haymarket Automotive. “It was below zero when we started, and between 3am and 5am was somewhere around minus 10. With only a head torch to pick our way up it was a gruelling test of mental as well as physical strength.
“After almost six hours of hard walking it was a magical moment when the glow of the sun started to appear on the horizon. To see its rays spread over Africa from the top of the world’s largest free-standing mountain was something I’ll never forget, and to be able to share that with a team that had bonded like a family over the preceding days is something I’ll always treasure.”
Jim Holder, editorial director at Haymarket Automotive, added: “The build up to the final summit trek was brutal – snow, hail, rain, sleepless nights and huge climbs than meant 5km could take more than five hours, but the summit night was an even greater test again as we pushed ourselves to reach the top in time to see sunrise.
“We set off from around 4600m, with around 1100m – or the height of Snowdon – to go and I don’t think I took a single step for the next six hours where I wasn’t rendered completely out of breath just by the effort of walking at such high altitudes. Coupled with the cold and dark it made for an experience that is perhaps best savoured in the weeks and months to come. If someone wanted to do it I’d encourage them – but I certainly won’t be doing it again!”
Prasher and Holder formed a part of a wider group of automotive industry heads raising money for Ben. The automotive charity provides mental health and physical health support for individuals and businesses within the industry. It estimates mental health is one of the biggest issues affecting the sector, and can cost the industry as much as £1.2 billion a year through absences, lack of productivity and staff turnover. Ben’s helpline is expected to take 13,000 calls this year alone, the highest on record.
The pair was joined on the challenge by James Tordoff and Andy Bateman (JCT600), Adrian Wallington and Clive McGregor (Marshall Motor Group), Leon Bosch (Partners &) and Joel Combes (Lawgistics), Neil Grant and Spencer Grinham (Hella), Andy Hamilton and Anthony McAteer (Euro Car Parts) and Zara Ross, Rachel Clift and Matt Wigginton (Ben). The expedition was led by Jason Rawles of Aspire Adventures.