Nurse practitioner successfully climbs to the roof of Africa

Peter Smith at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Peter Smith at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

A Morpeth man had two reasons to be proud after making his way to the highest peak in Africa.

As well as reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895metres) in Tanzania, Peter Smith was part of a trio that raised a big total to help the burns project at a hospital about 25km away from the mountain.

Peter with Patrick, one of the guides, about 4,300m up Mount Kilimanjaro, with Mount Meru in the background.

Peter with Patrick, one of the guides, about 4,300m up Mount Kilimanjaro, with Mount Meru in the background.

The extra element meant he was very busy in the months leading up to the expedition.

Along with preparing himself physically and mentally for the trek, he organised a range of events to bring in funds.

These included curry nights, coffee mornings, cake stalls and an African-themed social evening.

The 55-year-old, an experienced nurse practitioner with the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, has visited and worked at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) several times over the past 10 years and is actively involved with the burns initiative.

He did an expedition for charity in the Himalayas in 2006.

His trekking partners in Tanzania were Claire Finn and Tracy Millwater – both of whom also work within the trust.

It took five days to get up to 4,600metres and the final leg that Peter managed to achieve took place between 1am and 8.30am.

He said: “Since I first went out to Tanzania, I thought it would be nice to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and I’m pleased that I have now achieved this goal.

“As well as the need to be physically fit, you need a lot of mental toughness to cope with the conditions at high altitude.

“The path we took was clear – even higher up – but there were points where you had to take care, such as walking around the crater rim near the top.

“I felt elation and a bit of relief when I reached the summit and I shed a few tears.”

He added: “Looking back on the experience now, there is a personal sense of accomplishment at both getting to the summit and being part of a team that brought in more money than we were expecting.

“I’m very grateful to all those who supported me and/or made a donation, including family and friends, work colleagues and St Robert’s parishioners.

“A special thank-you goes to my wife Heather, who is there for me with every adventure and challenge I undertake.

“Soon after returning, I did a presentation to the Morpeth Explorer Scout group and hopefully it will inspire them.”

The trio raised approximately £9,000 for the burns project and before they went to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, they went along to the KCMC to see the vital work carried out and drop off equipment and consumables provided by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

For Peter, it was also an opportunity to catch up with some familiar faces.

The trek was organised by Bright Northumbria – the registered charity of the trust.

As for the terrain they experienced and what happened from when they exceeded 4,000m, the following is taken from the blog Peter did.

‘Trekking across the five climatic zones that exist on Kilimanjaro – savannah or plains, rainforest, moorland, alpine desert, arctic tundra – encountered during our seven-day expedition was rather surreal.

‘Leaving the heat (34 degrees centigrade) and dust of the African plains on day one and trekking up to the snow, ice and glaciers at the summit of Kilimanjaro by day six is something that I have never experienced anywhere else in the world.

‘Despite an appropriate ascent profile that should have increased the chances of us all reaching the summit, it was not to be on this occasion – with Tracy unfortunately unable to set off on summit night due to suffering from acute mountain sickness and Claire succumbing to the effects of altitude after attaining 5,300m.

‘Feeling good in myself, I continued and I was able to make it to the summit.

“The sea of clouds thousands of feet below me; the curvature of the earth visible so clearly; the deep blue sky with the sun so bright that it was painful to the eye – all of it was worth the effort of each step I took.

‘The organisation of the trek by 360 Expeditions from start to finish was faultless. Our guides, Patrick and Eric, were exceptional and with the group of porters we had, it made for one big happy family.’