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Eight Torbay RNLI volunteers conquer Kilimanjaro.

Lifeboats News Release

‘All of us agree - toughest thing we have ever done.’ was one of only two short texts that managed to get through to us in the UK from the eight Torbay RNLI crew who successfully climbed Kilimanjaro.

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

Joking around before the Climb

‘All of us agree - toughest thing we have ever done.’ was one of only two short texts that managed to get through to us in the UK from the eight Torbay RNLI crew who successfully climbed Kilimanjaro. All eight made it to the summit of the mountain on the morning of Sunday 19th February.

A huge fundraising effort has been happening since March last year around a series of relay Challenges undertaken by teams from Torbay RNLI crew, including a 15,000-foot sky dive, 12-mile swim and 200-mile bike ride. They have collectively raised over £80,000 for their station. All time spent by the crew on these Challenges has been volunteered, and all travel costs personally covered by those participating.

The Kilimanjaro Climb marked the culmination of these Challenges.

The only other text that made it through from the Climbers came from Nick O’Brien (Lifeboat Operations Manager) as they descended the mountain. It simply stated: ‘Done it. 09:57 local! All completed. Signal poor. Took us 10 hours. Still descending. Walking for 14 hours. A few more to go.’

At 5,896 metres, Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Lack of oxygen at that height challenges most fit young climbers. Our team of eight, with an average age of 60, all made it to the top. And all eight are now safely back in Torbay.

Their return on Wednesday 22nd February was marked by a large crowd who had gathered outside Torbay’s RNLI boathouse to greet them back home. Now they’re back, they can share some of their stories, photos and videos.

Ian ‘Barney’ Barnaby, reflecting on the climb, said ‘We were very lucky our mate Rob (Dr. Robert Bromige) wanted to come along on this adventure. Apart from being reassuring, it also meant we were able to get advice if we felt a bit dodgy and take the appropriate altitude medications when needed. I think this must have helped us succeed. On average a third of climbers who set out never make it all the way. But every one of us did!’

Simon James concurred. ‘We met one chap at the hotel on our first day, who was intending to climb to the summit with his three grown up sons. When we next saw him, he was only a few miles from the top, but he was in quite a bit of trouble with altitude sickness - very wobbly and hallucinating badly. His sons were about to turn back, but Rob came to the rescue and managed to sort him out. They all made it to the summit and safely back down. I believe he has just made quite a generous donation to our JustGiving page.’ ( )

Richard Burden explained just how tough the challenge was. ‘We were exhausted at the end of each day. And the smallest things became very important, like cups of warm tea; our precious daily ration of washing water; opportunities to stop and simply rest for just a few moments. The lack of oxygen meant we had to strictly follow a slow marching pace and synchronise our steps with concerted breaths in and out. Bouncy mountain gazelles we were not. Rather we plodded our way up in a stately fashion. If we lost discipline, our guides would shout ‘polay, polay’; Swahili for slowly, slowly!’

Gary (‘Fletch’) Fletcher also recalled the effort required and the ways morale stayed high; ‘Of course it was challenging. But there were plenty of moments that made us laugh and many that caused some confused bemusement to our porters. They all took to ‘Greasy’ (Second Coxswain, Richard Fowler) of course, and honoured him with his own Swahili nickname. None of the rest of us got a nickname. But the prize event must go to Roger (Good) for lashing out at his poor tent in a very English kind-of-way, when he spilt his ration of washing water at six o’clock one morning. It reminded onlookers, of John Cleese’s response when his car broke down in Fawlty Towers – apparently, it’s a popular TV programme in Tanzania, and quite appropriate when you think about it, given where Fawlty Towers is located.’

Final words go to ‘Barney’ who has organized and led the crew across all six Challenges: ‘We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us over these events, from all our business sponsors to everyone who’s donated whatever they could afford - it has been incredible to see how the community has got behind us over the last 12 months and especially for this climb.’

A 15 minute film can be viewed on You Tube, which shows a sequential selection of photos and video clips providing a visual insight into their journey to the summit.

For more information about the Challenges and see all the Gold and Silver sponsors, you can visit their fundraising

The event’s lead sponsor is Interline, a Torbay based builders’ merchant who service the southwest of England and have contributed significantly towards preparatory logistical and fundraising costs. Helly Hansen has also made a significant contribution towards the specialist mountain-climbing clothing needed.

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

At the start of the Climb (Lemosho Gate)

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

The Magnificent Eight on their way up

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

Waiting for dinner

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

Sunrise at Gilman's Point (5,756 metres) just before the summit

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

On the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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