Written by Kimberly Koch | Regional Marketing Manager D-A-CH at Gripple GmbH

I believe it is best to start at the very beginning, since you might already be asking yourself what my journey to Africa's highest mountain has to do with Gripple. A lot actually, because the entire trip was organised and financed by Gripple, or rather GLIDE. How does that work you might ask? Well, you first need to understand our unique corporate culture and the values that go along with it.

Gripple is a company that is 100% employee owned. In 2011, GLIDE was founded, an organisation that represents all of Gripple's shareholders and the shareholders of our partner companies. In addition, GLIDE embodies the values of our founder Hugh Facey and ensures that these are lived out accordingly in the individual companies. GLIDE is therefore instrumental in maintaining and developing our unique corporate culture. As one of the many initiatives organised by GLIDE, four employees worldwide are selected each year to participate in an employee development programme on Mt Kilimanjaro. Together with Kandoo Adventures, our colleagues can grow personally, strengthen their resilience and practice self-motivation during an 8-day trekking and a subsequent 4-day safari. This year (2023) I was one of the lucky participants!

You want to know more about GLIDE? Then just click here.

The application phase started at the beginning of September 2022 and is open to all GLIDE shareholders, regardless of length of service, age or gender. All applicants write a motivational letter and then have to pass a personal interview with our GLIDE representatives. By the beginning of November, the following four candidates had prevailed:

  • Will Duron (Gripple Inc)
  • Laszlo Papp (Gripple Ltd)
  • Dan Nestor (Loadhog)
  • Kimberly Koch (Gripple GmbH)

We were also accompanied by Nikita Singh (Gripple India), who had already been selected for the 2022 Trek but was unable to participate due to Corona restrictions in India.

One of the few requirements for participating in the adventure is fundraising for a charitable cause. Participants are given a target of €1,000, which they then collect and donate to a charity of their choice. I was able to raise €1,286.76 by selling a Gripple internal calendar and donated it to the regional charity Menschen für Kinder e.V. in Germany.

If you want to find out more about our charity involvement, you can click here.

The fundraising was of course followed by an intensive training and shopping phase for the equipment and then we took the plane to Tanzania on 28 February 2023 to experience our biggest adventure.

01 March 2023: The first view of Mount Kilimanjaro

Before the trek started, we had one more day to acclimatise. From the garden of our beautiful hotel in Moshi, we enjoyed our first view of Kilimanjaro and full of euphoria took our first selfie. We spent the rest of the day on a guided tour of Moshi with our lead guide August. Here we visited a market, a coffee roastery and a souvenir shop. In the afternoon we met for a first health check and got to know the rest of our group, as besides five employees of our companies Gripple and Loadhog, there were also four tourists from England and the USA joining our trek. During the health check, our blood oxygen level and pulse were measured as a basis value and the last questions and organisational details were clarified - such as what we should pack in the daypack, what clothes should we wear the next day and what the general schedule looks like. Afterwards, we enjoyed a typical dinner outside the hotel, got to know each other and felt a mixture of anticipation and tension with regard to our upcoming adventure.

8 Days Trekking - Lemosho Route - Mt Kilimanjaro:

For us 9 tourists, the team consisted of 4 guides, 1 cook and 27 porters. Each porter carries a weight of 20 kg - an incredible achievement that I marvelled at and admired every day!

Day 1: Londrossi Gate - Mti Mkubwa

Elevation: 2,360 m - 2,895 m, Distance: 6 km, Time: 3 hours

The start of our adventure! First we drive 3 hours by bus from Moshi to Londrossi Gate. Once here, we receive a delicious packed lunch consisting of chicken, fruit, vegetables and a muffin. After sufficient refreshment and an entry in the visitor's book of the national park, we finally start our trek and all of us in the group are now quite euphoric. For some of us, however, the euphoria quickly fades as we all have to get used to the very slow walking pace. This is set by the guide and is essential for the success of the group, as it gives the body enough time to get used to the altitude. So the first lesson on our trip is >Pole Pole< (Swahili for slow), a principle we are often too impatient for in a fast changing world. However, I have learned on my journey that sometimes it is good to slow down and look at things step by step and stage by stage. Because otherwise we might miss details that would otherwise be lost to us. In the case of the first day of hiking, these details would have been the enjoyment of the breathtaking landscape of the rainforest, or the numerous monkeys that we could observe along the way.

Arriving at our first camp, we move into our tents and are served a delicious dinner followed by a health check and briefing for the following day. At this point I would like to give a big shout out to Jouvenal, our waiter, and August, our cook. They both helped to make the experience a very special one. As well as, of course, our guides, August, Schoba, Meshak & Nico, who were always there to help and advise us.

Day 2: Mti Mkubwa - Shira 1

Elevation: 2,895m - 3,500m, distance: 8 km, time 5 hours 15 minutes.

6.30 am. >>Wakey, Wakey<< sounds through our camp, followed by a slight shaking of the wall of my tent. After that, the daily routine not so different from the routine at home: getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, packing things, but with the difference that you don't have to worry about make-up or your hairstyle. After the health check, we start the next stage of our hike. In terms of landscape, we change from rainforest to moorland today. This requires a long ascent over stony terrain, which offers us wonderful views. Towards the end of the hike a light rain shower starts, but it does not last long. Arriving at the camp, a fantastic lunch awaits us consisting of: Soup + Spaghetti Bolognese + Fruit. There is no more programme planned today and our group decides to do some yoga exercises under the guidance of Brittany. Afterwards, we relax comfortably in a circle of chairs until we are called to dinner, consisting of courgette soup and chicken curry. Only when we want to change from the group tent to our individual tents, we are surprised with an incredibly beautiful view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, which had been hidden behind a layer of thick clouds all day.

Day 3: Shira 1 - Moir Hut

Elevation: 3,500m - 4,200m, Distance: 14 km, Time 5 hours 30 minutes.

Today the hike takes us through mostly flat terrain with breathtaking views of Mt. Kilimanjaro. At the end of the trail, rocky climbs await us, taking us up to 4,200 m above sea level. Salt can be seen on many of the rock formations. August, our lead guide, explains to us that this route is also known as terrain for buffalo, which pass by here in search of the salt. Arriving at the camp, we receive an offer from our guides for an additional hike up to 4,300 m (45 minutes ascent and 40 minutes descent). This is to help our bodies acclimatise better. Will and I use this opportunity to familiarise ourselves with our trekking poles and are rewarded high up with gigantic views of the camp. Later this was even topped by a breathtaking sunset that Mother Nature had in store for us after dinner. A beauty that is hard to describe and that I will probably never forget in my whole life!

Day 4: Moir Hut - Lava Tower – Barranco Camp

Elevation: 4,200m - 4,600m - 3,950m, Distance: 12 km, Time 5 hours

Today, the first signs of altitude sickness may set in as we hike to the highest point so far at 4,600m (Lava Tower). Along the way we are again rewarded with great views of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Arriving at Lava Tower, our porters have already set up the group tent and toilet tent and a delicious lunch awaits us. Afterwards we follow the important mountaineering principle "walk high, sleep low", which is crucial for the success of the trek and the acclimatisation of the body. Along barren rocky landscapes, we discover a waterfall and green landscapes in between, and are amazed at how nature makes its way through stony terrain. In the evening, I show the first signs of a slight headache, otherwise I fortunately have no complaints.

Day 5: Barranco Camp – Karanga Camp

Elevation: 3,950m - 3,930m, distance: 7 km, time 4 hours 30 minutes.

For me the most strenuous and challenging day so far! The Barranco Wall is definitely the section I had underestimated beforehand, because the abyss seems a bit too close for my personal comfort and my whole body is under enormous tension. Taking pictures, which I have usually done along our hiking trail, is something I can't even dream of doing today! The most difficult section is the Kissing Rock, which the trekkers master with one guide on each of their sides. A very short walk indeed, but intense for me, which is why I was only too happy to leave behind me. Much to the amazement of some of the other trekkers in our group, who found the Barranco Wall to be the highlight and would have loved to climb the wall again straight away! Perhaps I should highlight that I at no time have felt unsafe with our guides and that this is more of a personal challenge and subjective perception on my part! Another lesson I gained for myself at this point: everyone has different challenges and baggage to carry. Teamwork is about recognising, acknowledging and supporting people with their challenges, no matter what. A big thank you to my group members who have demonstrated this all along the way! They supported me a, gave me a hand without question and encouraged me constantly. Once we reached the top, we were again rewarded with beautiful views and my body gradually relaxed again so that I could enjoy the rest of the hike.

Day 6: Karanga Camp – Barafu Camp

Elevation: 3,930m - 4,800m, distance: 6 km, time 3 hours 45 minutes.

Things are slowly getting serious. We hike to Barafu Camp, the base camp from which we will head for the summit tonight! A little bit of nervousness sets in and a few people in our group show signs of altitude sickness, including loss of appetite and headaches. Fortunately, I myself have no problems. Barafu Camp is divided into a lower camp and an upper camp, and even now I thank our guides from the bottom of my heart for taking us on the arduous journey to the upper camp earlier that day. This last section - from Camp 1 to Camp 2 - led us over large stone slabs that were not easy to walk on. If I were to imagine this section in the dark with a headlamp and as the first stage of the ascent to the summit, I am sure it would have acted as a motivational brake on the entire team. When we arrive at camp, the guides instruct us to get our clothes ready and pack our daypacks so that there are no delays during the night. After an early dinner, we go to the tents to rest and sleep.

Day 7: Barafu Camp – Gipfel – Mweka Camp

Elevation: 4,800m - 5,895m - 3,100m, distance: 30 km, time approx. 16 hours.

10:30 pm the night before: the now familiar >>wakey wakey<< and a slight rattling of my tent rouse me from sleep and indicate that it is time for what is probably the biggest challenge yet: the ascent to Uhuru Peak (5,895 m). Euphoric, but also slightly nervous, I dress in all the layers of clothing I have brought and then make my way to breakfast. A slight tension can be felt among the rest of the group. Armed with a headlamp and trekking poles, we set off one after the other in a duck walk under the motto >Pole Pole<. Our group has never been as quiet as today, because everyone seems to be busy with their own thoughts. Along the way, I notice how my hands and feet are getting colder and colder and an increasing nausea is rising in my body. Moreover, it becomes more and more difficult to motivate myself. This is when I realise how much the encouraging words of our guides Meshak "Well done guys" "You are doing so great" help me. So I start my own self-motivation programme and become my own cheerleader by thinking only positive thoughts and reciting affirmations. "I am strong", "I can do this", "My only limit is myself" and so I move forward - step by step. I interrupt these thoughts in between only to think of Caribbean beaches and warmth, while my hands and feet get colder and colder. Then finally, after about 6 hours of climbing, we reach Stella Point (5,756 m), the first summit point on Mt Kilimanjaro, and the euphoria returns. Very slowly, the sky turns in beautiful shades of red and orange and I am ready to sit down and watch this natural spectacle. At that moment August interrupts my thoughts and says "Just a little further guys". A damper, as I thought we could have a short rest. In retrospect, of course, it makes perfect sense, as not too much time should be spent up on the summit, where the air is too thin and which in the worst case scenario could be life-threatening! So we continue >Pole Pole< one step ahead of the other. By now I feel like I'm in a kind of trance and sleepwalking. It feels like I could just trip over and fall asleep at any moment. With my back to the spectacular sunrise, we went on and on "Just over this hill", "Just around this corner", August said, and I began to wonder when we would finally arrive at Uhuru Peak. Then all of a sudden I saw it: a queue of people in front of a sign in reachable distance. Immediately the euphoria returned, followed by pride, happiness and gratitude, and so the previously mounting feelings of tiredness, cold and frustration were quickly replaced. At no moment in my life have I felt so many emotions at once and yet at the same time I felt an inner peace, a sense of arriving and being at peace with myself! Finally it was time to enjoy the sunrise, mind you the most beautiful I have ever seen, and queue up to take our summit photo as well.

After all the photos were taken, we headed straight back to Stella Point and then back down to Barafu Camp. This descent over slippery sandy ground took about 2 hours, but possibly 3 hours. To be honest, I had no sense of time at this point and also failed to look at the clock. Already during the descent I realised that my big toes regularly bumped against the front of my hiking boots and that this could possibly lead to problems during the further descent. Once back at camp, we were given a tasty lunch and then were allowed to rest for 1 hour before walking another 3 hours to Mweka Camp (at least 3 hours were scheduled).

During this time I sought advice from Jouvenal, our waiter, about the tightness of my walking shoes and he recommended that I remove the soles. A tip that definitely helped, but my toes got progressively worse during the descent. The descent was long, tiring and over very rocky terrain. We had to be careful not to fall with every step, while fatigue overcame our bodies. In addition, the euphoria of the summit goal was gone and we all only had the wish to finally arrive at the camp. Instead of the planned 3 hours, we needed about 5 hours at the end of the day.

Day 8: Mweka Camp - Hotel

Elevation: 3,100m - 1,800m, distance: 10 km, time 4 hours.

My toes didn't make the best impression the night before, so I bandaged them for protection and started the hike. The path led us through a beautiful rainforest, from which at some places we could even catch glimpses of the summit again. Some people in our group were faster than others and I tried to keep up as best I could, but was going much slower than usual because of the pain. Towards the end, only music helped to motivate me and I walked the last hour to Mweka Camp, more or less limping. Despite the pain, it didn't occur to me to give up and I gritted my teeth and finished the trek. At the bottom I bought a Coke Zero to celebrate the day and I can say that it was by far the best Coke of my life! Once all the group members had arrived, we signed out of the National Park visitor book, took a group picture and then drove 1 hour by bus and with a stop at a souvenir shop back to Moshi to our old familiar hotel. After the best shower ever, we went out for dinner together and ended the evening with pizza, burgers and beer. Proud of our achievement and our endurance!

What other insights did I gain from my adventure?

The friendliness of the people in Tanzania is contagious. It costs nothing to be friendly and to have a positive attitude towards life. Many more people should live their lives with this in mindset!

It has been incredibly good for me to live in the moment. I tend to often overthink and play out scenarios in my head that will never happen anyway. In the future, I want to focus more on what is right in front of me and on things I can actually control, instead of worrying unnecessarily and wasting energy and time - just living more with the mindset >>Hakuna Matata<<. This doesn't mean to not thinking ahead, but realising that you can't control everything and appreciating the moments and live phase you are currently in more, without trying to chase for the next big goal or adventure!

In addition, I have found that nature can be my feel-good and balancing mechanism. During the hike, I was more balanced than I have been in a long time and I really want to keep this feeling by integrating walks and hikes more into my everyday life.

4 Days Safari:

Day 1: Moshi – Tarangire

Early in the morning we were picked up by our safari guides Godwyn and Toni in 2 safari jeeps. They drove us from Moshi to Tarangire National Park. For all of us in the group, this was our first safari and a great euphoria set in when we could already see the first zebras shortly after entering the national park. Other sightings that day were: Antelopes, warthogs, giraffes, elephants, monkeys, buffalos and lions.

The whole day we couldn't stop beaming and enjoyed this incredible experience to the fullest.

We spent the night at the Farm of Dreams and it lived up to its name. After 8 days of camping, we arrived here in pure luxury. The hotel surprised us with a beautiful pool area and very good food. We all felt a bit like kings, especially when we were greated with welcome drinks and warm towels at the reception.

Day 2: Tarangire – Serengeti

In the morning, we left our hotel for the Ngorongoro National Park with a beautiful viewpoint of the crater, where we did not miss the opportunity to take a few pictures. Afterwards we drove for about 2 hours through the park with interesting views of Masaai villages, surrounded by wild animals like zebras, knus and elephants. The Masaai people live in the direct vicinity of wild animals.

We then move to the Serengeti National Park (Swahili for endless prairie) where we spend 24 hours. Here again incredible animal sightings await us with: Lions, hyenas, zebras, wildebeest, vultures, hippos, giraffes and buffalo.

We spent the night in glamping tents in the middle of the national park. An exciting experience, as we could listen to the sounds of hyenas and lions at close range during the night. The perfect mix of luxury and down-to-earthness crowned with a natural evening cinema - a fireplace.

Day 3 – Serengeti – Ngorongoro

On day 2 in the Serengeti National Park, we could hardly believe our luck as we were rewarded with the following animal sightings: cheetahs, zebras, wildebeests, eagles, lions, elephants, hippos, a leopard, warthogs, giraffes and baboons.

I don't think it's necessary to mention how lucky we actually were with our safari experience! In addition, we were able to observe the Great Wildebeest Migration. This is the largest animal migration in the world, with 2 million animals (wildebeests, zebras & gazelles) migrating clockwise through the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems each year to follow the rain. A spectacular event for which tourists from all over the world come to visit and which we were allowed to witness just by the way!

In the evening we went back to the Farm of Dreams, where we spent our last evening together.

Day 4 – Ngorongoro – Flughafen

Another spectacular highlight awaited us in the morning before our departure. The visit to Ngorongoro National Park, a collapse crater on the edge of the Serengeti. The beautiful, green landscape reminds me of Jurassic Park and regularly amazes us!

Animal sightings on the day include: Lions, hippos, zebras, flamingos, baboons, buffalos, hyenas, ostriches, rhinos, wildebeests, warthogs, elephants and vultures.

Afterwards we drove directly to the airport and said goodbye to Tanzania. Taken back home with us were countless unforgettable memories, self-knowledge and good intentions. But a small piece of my heart will now remain in this wonderful country forever.

Thanks to GLIDE and Gripple for this unique experience that I will never forget in my life!

Tags: Corporate, CSR