At almost four miles above sea level, Teresa Aspden’s vision was getting misty. “I was planning how to live life,” she said, having struggled to make out people’s faces. “I was blind.”
Altitude sickness is one of life’s more bizarre ailments, and while Teresa’s vision thankfully returned to normal after 24 hours, memories of her ascent of Mt Kilimanjaro for Help for Heroes will last forever.
Part of a 30-person Discover Adventure group that included the model Jodie Kidd, Teresa, 59, and her nephew, Aiden Heyworth, 29, scaled Africa’s highest point alongside military veterans, with the fundraising total currently at £91,000.
“Quite a few got altitude sickness,” said former St Hilda’s pupil, Teresa. “[There’s] this enormous mountain, and you’re thinking, ‘oh my God.’
“The first day was walking through rainforest,” she continued. “The second was alpine desert, which was like a lunar landscape; the third was scree; the fourth day really affected people with breathing, but luckily not us; we were dead chuffed really!”
At 5,895m, Kilimanjaro is the same height as seven Burj Khalifas - the world’s tallest man-made structure. “I was thinking, ‘this is hard, but the lads that have been in Afghanistan have got to go through this every day,’” said Teresa. “The humour pulls you along. It’s a bit basic, but funny!”
Aside from the crass banter, climbing with the military vets was an insight for Teresa, a clinical nurse specialist who has worked with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder patients before, and it spurred her on.
“We had spaghetti to fuel us, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life - all the blokes said the same, even Aiden, who’s been in the Marines,” she said. “It was just heads down and plodding, and it was awful.” But the best was yet to come.
“When we got to the crater, the sun was coming up. We could see the curve of the Earth,” said Teresa. “Unbelievable. People were hallucinating - I thought I’d seen a bag of pink knitting - God knows where that came from!
“When we got to the top, it was surreal,” Teresa, who impressively was the oldest person in the group, continued. “We were only allowed four minutes up there because of the altitude."
"I'm just so proud of them both," said Teresa's sister, Marie. "Especially as they did it for Help for Heroes. One of Aiden's close friends was injured in Afghanistan and he's a paraplegic now - that's always at the back of his mind, all the people that he's lost and the people that are suffering now. It's out of our minds now, but it's not for them, not for the ones who are suffering still."
“When you’re back, you’re saying, ‘I’ll never do that again,’” said Teresa. “ Then two or three days later you’re like ‘hmmmm...’”
Teresa’s JustGiving page is at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/H4HKilimanjaroTrek2016-1079474961