Backstory - Climbing Kilimanjaro

My camera had warmer clothing than me on this trip! I bought it a perfectly-moulded padded camera jacket which fitted snugly around every handle, knob and button -- with velcro straps allowing quick access to the interior. When it was all zipped up and ready to embark on its sub-zero adventure, I was quite jealous of its outfit!

Cold was to be the biggest challenge for the camera on this trip. Low temperatures can drain a battery in minutes and at the summit it was minus 25 degrees Celsius. Without electricity for the five days of filming, I carried five batteries and a hefty supply of handwarmers (not for my hands but to keep the batteries warm).

During the first 24 hours of the trip, there was also solid rain and fog. I barely pulled out my camera. I filmed a few GVs at the park gate and a piece-to-camera in the mess tent. It was a paltry amount of footage. Fortunately conditions improved. By the time I reached the summit the weather was near-perfect with blue skies and dazzling sunshine.

While cold was the biggest challenge for the camera, one of my biggest challenges was weight. With the camera, microphones, spare batteries and tripod, plus my own day load (of waterproofs, extra layers, snacks and water), there was a hefty amount of kilos on my back. I lifted weights for several weeks before leaving and it was that training which allowed me to lug all that gear to the top.

Most trekkers spend ten minutes at the summit. Guides encourage their clients to descend quickly to avoid altitude sickness and hypothermia. Frank, my guide, was very understanding when I explained I would need longer than that. We arrived at the top before sunrise and when I pulled off my gloves, it was so bitterly cold that I found it difficult even to unzip my backpack let alone press the correct buttons. I wished I had put all the settings on automatic the night before. In addition with the air so thin, my delivery became very breathy. After three takes, I packed up. We had already been at the summit over an hour.

I could never have done this trip without the support of my Tanzanian crew. They went beyond the call of duty, patiently waiting for me throughout the day as I set up (again and again) to secure a shot of terrain, a cloud formation or most puzzling of all for them, a piece of litter. They set up camp, cooked me piping hot food and even guarded my camera while I ate my meals.

The one hazard I did manage to avoid entirely was altitude sickness, and the trick was climbing Mt Kenya a few days earlier. At just under 5,000m above sea level, it is a perfect accllimatiser. It is also a beautiful mountain and deserves to be discovered too.