On Monday 13th September 2010, at approx 6.30am, the Captains successfully scaled the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro!
The team of more than 50 climbers, including 15 former Wales captains and current coach Warren Gatland, reached the top, after a 6 hour walk from midnight in minus 20 degrees.
While most of the team reached the 5,895m summit, a small number were told to turn back, as they were badly suffering from the dizzying and dangerous effects of altitude sickness.
The climbers will now focus on raising their group target of £1m for Velindre Cancer Centre’s Stepping Stones appeal, raising awareness about lung cancer and funding research.
Former Wales captain Bleddyn Bowen said yesterday during the last leg: “I managed to get to the summit which was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. It’s been a challenge and an experience, put it that way. I have seen a lot of nature – some quite attractive monkeys and some very pretty birds and obviously the mountain is a pretty impressive sight. There was a wonderful sunrise in the morning at the summit of Kili when we were there, at about 6.30am.
“I think everyone’s lost about a stone-and-a-half in weight, I think we’re all looking forward to getting back and looking a bit better.”
Former Wales captain Mike Hall said: “I did make it to the summit – it was pretty tough – tougher than I expected it to be.
“It’s more the mental challenge than the physical challenge. We had very little sleep before we got to Kibo – we set off at midnight, in the dark and in the cold with head-lamps on, with six hours walking ahead of us.
“The last hour was the toughest – no question. The sun came up about six o’clock which motivated us. We just realised how high up we were and how little oxygen there was. We’d had four or five days of acclimatisation but you can only spend two to three minutes at the top for a photograph before you want to get out of there as quickly as possible.
“People have bonded really well. I think you have to, camping in these circumstances. There were some great efforts, especially from some of the older boys – Eddie Butler and Bob Norster.”
Western Mail health editor Madeleine Brindley said: “It’s bitter sweet for me, because I have had six days on the mountain and five fantastic days of walking.
“I didn’t make the summit – I was turned back on doctor’s orders because I was suffering from bad altitude sickness.
“But 92% of the group made it up to the summit which was fabulous. A lot of them made it to Gilman’s Point, the first peak, and Uhuru Peak, which is the second peak. So there are a lot of sore legs.
“Some people are saying ‘never again’.
“But I think there is a general sense we have achieved a hell of a lot, not just for the mountain but also for Velindre.
“It’s been a hell of an adventure, it’s been quite amazing. Even though I didn’t make it to the summit, personally I have had a wonderful time.
“There is such a good feeling between everybody, I’ve made lots of friends, I have seen some absolutely breathtaking scenery which is really quite indescribable.”
Madeleine wrote in her blog yesterday: “Last night we had a camp site full of exhausted bodies and exhilarating tales of reaching Gilman’s Point and the Uhuru peaks. But almost to a man everyone said it was horrible and never again because of the sheer effort involved in an atmosphere with hardly any oxygen to sustain life.”
The team arrived back in Wales today (16 Sept 2010).