Ever since deciding to travel through Africa I knew I couldn't do it without conquering Mount Kilimanjaro, the world's highest free-standing mountain, and it soon became a major focus of my trip. Very quickly the goal was set, Matt (my brother) and I would climb the mountain together. What follows is my diary extracts from the final day on the mountain
00:38 Johnny gives me a knock to let me know it's time to get up. I have slept in all but two layers of what I will climb in and am ready to go in a matter of minutes. Stomach is turning inside out, not hungry at all, this is the feeling I used to love when playing rugby as it always came before the big event.
00:49 I force two bowls of hot porridge down knowing I will be grateful for the energy later. Matt and I sit in my tent drinking hot tea and eating a few biscuits, neither saying much but knowing what the other is thinking. Most other groups have gone, Arnold is holding us back a few hours as, in his words, our 'pace is crazy'.
01:16 Out of the tent and make two quick video diaries for our documentary before checking Arnold is ready for the hike - what will be his 263rd time at the summit if all goes to plan.
01:19 Matt and I both look up the mountain, the summit lies a further 1400m up from where we are, and see several lines of lights slowly making their way up the slope step by step. We will officially be the last group out of the gate, but given the nature of us both will look to catch as many other groups as possible.
01:28 Time for us to do a final check to ensure we have everything we will need to help us reach the top. Bags loaded with snacks, water and a few other bits and pieces we are taking. Everything is packed, checked and ready to go.
01:37 Arnold calls our summit team, himself, Johnny, Matt and myself, in to say a silent prayer. Emotions running pretty high right now, difficult to describe the exact feeling but it is one somewhere between sheer determination that I will do this and a slight fear of what lies ahead in the dark.
01:39 We take the first of many footsteps that will hopefully see us reach the summit for sunrise. What to say other than at the moment I am so fired up and focused on this, and apart from cold toes am feeling great.
02:30 Almost an hour in and we are making good ground, already passed one group and on the way to making it two. The air is getting thin, but keeping a steady pace so not feeling it too much right now.
03:15 Still feeling strong, although trying not to look up too much as it just reminds you how far is yet to go. Using other groups to track down is helping us keep our pace, and we don't even need to tell Arnold our intentions. For him 'Mzungu hunting' is becoming something of a hobby.
03:49 The cold is setting in now, more so than ever before on this trip. My toes and fingers have lost all feeling, my camel pack pipe has frozen and the wind is chilling me from the core out. Arnold warned us it would get cold, but I never thought it would be this bad. Turning my mind off the task at hand and just running on auto-pilot.
04:03 Matt is really feeling the cold and we have to stop to get warm tea and food inside so we can keep going. Am worried Matt has left it too late to eat, guess we will have to wait and see. One thing is for certain I'm not standing on the top of Africa without him.
04:21 Another stop as the cold and low energy levels hit Matt again. Thoughts of not reaching the top rattle around my mind, but not letting them settle. We are going to do this, no matter what.
04:57 Things are better now, we have braved the worst of the cold and accepted it will be like this until sunrise. Matt's energy levels back up and it's one step at a time as the crater rim looms on the horizon.
05:24 So close to the crater rim now, from where it is, in relation to what we have just done, pretty easy going according to Arnold. My mind is taking me where my body doesn't really want to go at the moment, with the only thoughts being those of what it will feel like to stand on top of this beast.
05:49 Finally we have got to the crater rim. Now it's my turn to suffer from a lack of energy, but being so close to the top I just keep going. Arnold tells me to look left, and when I do I see a huge glacier just meters away from me. That's the inspiration I need to finish this.
06:01 The sun is starting to tinge the horizon so many wonderful shades of red and orange. Never have I seen a sunrise like this before. It's cold but I have to take photos, which means off with the gloves. Seemed like a good idea until I tired to put them back on, hands freezing again now.
06:12 More pictures as the scenary just keeps getting better and better, the crater in particular. The summit is so close that we know we have all but made it. Nothing can stop us now, so starting to enjoy the moment a bit more. Suddenly it's not so cold, not so painful.
06:24 The first sighting of the summit and it's sign to welcome you. So close to achieving one of my biggest goals to date, and Matt is right here with me. Together we have pulled through this.
06:36 We have done it. Stood on top of Africa, tears running down my face as all the emotions of the last five hours hit home. Give Matt a huge hug as we both realise we have achieved our goal, we have conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro together. Lost for words, this is simply too much to take on board.
06:49 A lot of picture taking has been done, as we try and come to terms with what we have just done. Arnold calls us all in for a prayer again, and then I take a moment to say my own prayer to my Gran. She was there with us the entire way up, and somehow I feel a connection to her here.
06:58 Matt and I are buzzing. Our bodies are flooded with emotion and excitement. We came through everything and reached the top. Now for the journey back down, and at some stage I think it will truly hit home what we have just done.