Letchworth pensioner reaches Kilimanjaro peak

A PENSIONER who climbed Africa’s highest peak for charity said her first mountain ascent will also be her last.

Joan Smythe, of Redhoods Way West in Letchworth GC, decided to scale Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania earlier this month after celebrating her 65th birthday and admitted questioning what she was doing while attempting the 5,681m climb.

Despite challenging weather conditions, after six-days climbing, in which she was supported by a team of porters, Joan reached the peak on Monday, September 5.

“It was really hard going,” said Joan, who is raising money for Leisure Direct, which provide sport and leisure activities for adults with learning difficulties - including her 23-year-old daughter Amy - living in North Hertfordshire and Stevenage.

“I didn’t realise it was going to be so hard but I would never have given up even if I had to crawl.

“We got higher and higher through the clouds and the last bit I started at midnight. I think the aim is to get to the top by sunrise but I was only three quarters of the way up by then. I could see headlights way up and then people turning back one after another.

“It was so cold I thought my fingers were going to drop off. I was absolutely exhausted and I thought my God I’m 65, what the hell am I doing up here!

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“When I got to the top I just cried, I couldn’t believe I was there. It’s such a sight when you get up there and it was worth every minute of it. It was an amazing experience.

“It was the first mountain I’ve ever climbed...and the last!”

About raising money for the Mencap-affiliated charity she added: “On behalf of myself and Leisure Direct I would like to thank everyone who sponsored me. I’ve got �1700 but I’m hoping to get to �2,000 - then we’ll see about next year, but not a mountain!”

To sponsor Joan visit www.justgiving.com/Joan-Smythe

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