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Moving Mountains With Kanza Ahmed

12 December 2017

In the build-up to her expedition to Mt Kilimanjaro, Kanza Ahmed tells us all about her charity challenge series, and how she became an Outdoor Hero.

“As a Public Health Specialty Registrar, I am always trying to encourage people to go outdoors and get fit, but if I am totally honest, I know personally how difficult it is to motivate yourself to get outdoors and move!

“Given my determination to trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, you’d be forgiven for thinking I am naturally sporty… but I am more likely to be watching my football team, Liverpool FC, instead of playing a sport. In fact, in my school reports, I consistently got a D+ for my ability to do anything sporty but an A- for the effort I put in.

“However, I eventually realised it didn’t matter that I wasn’t skilled; the most important thing was to put in the effort and the passion. I am not likely to ever beat Mo Farah in a marathon, but like him, I will work hard to cross the finish line (even if it is 4 hours after he crosses it!)

“As an Asian Muslim girl, sports and physical challenges are not something promoted within the community but I want to change that attitude. We are seeing increased rates of obesity and diabetes so this is a great opportunity to encourage ordinary folk to enjoy the outdoors and benefit their physical and mental health.

“This is why the Trekmates #OutdoorHeroes project is so important. It recognises that any ordinary person, with the right equipment and a bit of motivation, can go and enjoy the outdoors and challenge themselves.”

“This year, in conjunction with the charity Penny Appeal, I set out to undertake a series of crazy outdoor challenges in order to raise £10k to build fresh water wells in The Gambia and so the project #ChallengeKanza was born! People have been sponsoring me to undertake crazy outdoor challenges and providing lots of support along the way!

“I set up the Challenge Kanza campaign for three reasons:

1)            To raise money and awareness for good causes which improve public health.

2)            To encourage other normal people like myself to take up physical activities.

3)            To push myself to my limits.

“In the last 9 months, I have run 3 half marathons, my first ever full marathon, climbed Mount Snowdon 4 times, climbed Ben Nevis and jumped out of an aeroplane for a sky dive. All of this has been preparation for the biggest challenge: to climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world – Mount Kilimanjaro!”

A dormant volcano that last erupted over 360,000 years ago, Africa’s highest mountain (and the world’s highest free-standing mountain) is situated in the Northern part of Tanzania, in the Kilimanjaro National Park. It covers an area of 100 kilometres long, and 65 kilometres wide, and includes almost every type of ecological system – allowing for some fantastic landscapes to trek through.

“I am excited but completely nervous about this challenge. I am looking forward to the views, being with an amazing team and really challenging myself – but at the same time, I know I will be exposed to the raw elements, sub-zero temperatures and have my mental and physical endurance tested!

“And of course…then there is the altitude sickness!”

The mountain’s summit – affectionately referred to as the roof of Africa – stands higher than both Everest base camps, but whereas it will usually take climbers 8-10 days to reach those camps, trekkers on Kilimanjaro’s fast routes will reach the summit in 4-5 days. These rapid ascents make the trek a difficult, and dangerous proposition.

Approximately 25,000 people attempt to summit the mountain annually; only two thirds of those are expected to succeed, with altitude-related problems the most common reason for climbers to turn back.

In fact even the most experienced climbers are expected to suffer some form of altitude sickness on the journey, with headaches and sickness the most common symptoms, something Kanza is all too aware of. She knows this is her biggest challenge yet.

“To top it off, both the BBC and British Muslim TV (Sky 845) have been following my progress and yes, my attempt to climb will be filmed – so all the sweat, snot and tears will be on TV for all to see!”

So could she have imagined embarking on this challenge when struggling through all those tough P.E. lessons?

“If you had told the 13-year-old version of me that in 20 years’ time I would achieve all of this, I would have told you that you were talking nonsense. However, now I know you should never underestimate what you can achieve when you set your mind to it!

“You can follow my progress and sponsor me via www.justgiving.com/kanza-ahmed1 or on Insta and Twitter via @challengekanza Let me know what you are up to and how you are doing! I look forward to hearing from and meeting more everyday #OutdoorHeroes.”

You can follow all of Kanza’s progress online, and across social media, as she takes on trekking the world’s highest freestanding mountain.