Below is the link to Lukas Bachman and Ireland's fantastic performance in winning Bronze in the World Mathematical Olympiad.
Congratulations to Lukas on such a phenomenal achievement on a world stage.
Glenstal Abbey School - Education on a human scale.
Passionate teaching with small class sizes (12-16 on average)
Set within a Norman Revivalist Castle juxtaposed with great modern facilities.
The castle looks over a 400 acre valley rich in wild flowers, lakes and forests.
The monks work closely with students, lay staff and parents - welcoming all faiths.
GAS has a strong boarding tradition with 75% full-time boarders.
A wide rang of creative and sporting activities. Over 90% of students play an instrument.
Set within a Norman Revivalist castle juxtaposed with great modern facilities.
Diverse and well-balanced Irish Curriculum. Excellent exam results & University destinations.
The word ‘Glenstal’ means ‘The Glen of the Stallion’, and is an English rendering of the Irish Gleann Stail. The glen itself is a very impressive geological feature, consisting of a mile-long valley, formed during the last ice-age, rich in many kinds of wild flowers.
What`s going on at Glenstal Abbey School?
Below is the link to Lukas Bachman and Ireland's fantastic performance in winning Bronze in the World Mathematical Olympiad.
Congratulations to Lukas on such a phenomenal achievement on a world stage.
Glenstal Abbey School Trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro. It sounded very straightforward in the email, at least that was what we thought when our school’s sports director pitched the idea in December 2016. In reality, it was more than just a school trip. It was an extreme adventure, an expedition that would challenge us both mentally and physically, an experience only a few achieve once in their lifetime.
Once we had our confirmed team of students and adults the real planning and training began. It took fifteen months to prepare for our trek up the famous mountain. We started with practice hikes in Ireland, pitting our abilities and new gear against different terrain and weather situations (it always seemed to be in the rain). We researched the best boots and jackets and asked all of the important questions, such as could we bring our phones and what snacks do we pack? We also set out our key objectives for the trip and it was clear that getting to the summit was a priority, but not the only the goal we wanted to achieve. We wanted to include other experiences on our trip, such as going on a safari and giving IT support to a secondary school in the city of Arusha.
On June 9th, 2018, 26 confident but slightly apprehensive students and dads arrived at Dublin airport to begin the journey to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. We were given a quick briefing by our expedition leaders, James McManus and Mike Jones. We split into small teams to create a “buddy” system (no man left behind). To our dismay, the no phones rule was stressed again, and several phones were reluctantly handed over before we set off. The dads seemed overly pleased about this for some reason. We boarded the plane and began our adventure to the roof of Africa.
After the 14-hour journey involving two planes and a four-hour layover in Addis Ababa airport, we finally saw our ultimate goal from the plane window, the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro rising up above the clouds. There were a few shocked comments that went something like, “**** it’s high”, and “what was I thinking?”. We landed several minutes later at the small and rustic Kilimanjaro International Airport. Once we had cleared customs and immigration, and with our luggage piled high on the roof of the bus, we set off for the Outpost Lodge in Arusha, our base for the trip.
At the lodge that evening we were split into different teams and each team would be assigned one of four jobs per day. The jobs included the “Porter Welfare” team, who weighed the bags each day to make sure the porters weren’t overloaded, the “Go” team whose job was to organize the group during the trek each day and to sign in at each camp, the “Prep” team who briefed the crew each evening on the next day’s trek and explained the distance, timing and the proper gear to bring, and lastly the “Support” team, who assisted the expedition doctor, Edel McEntree, and kept the group going while on the trail. Throughout the week, all teams did each job once and this approach really helped us get more from the overall experience by seeing how the operation worked.
Early the next morning, we set out for the foot of the mountain. Upon arriving at our starting point, Machame Gate, we double-checked our gear and celebrated the birthday of one of
our crew members, Chris. We then met our guides who would be leading us up the mountain. We were amazed and a bit taken aback after seeing the entire support crew needed (porters, cooks, and guides) to get us up the mountain. Nearly a hundred of them! The first day was a long hike through a rainforest, but spirits were high when we reached camp for the night. Most of us unpacked in our own tents, then went to the “space station” tents to relax and talk to the other members of our group. The food we got on the mountain was great and even included fried chicken and chips, plus staples like porridge, fresh fruits and vegetables, it gave us the fuel we needed each day.
Day two, to be honest, was a bit more dreary and misty. Though it was our shortest day of hiking, the ever-present rain and the steep and rocky nature of the trail to Shira Camp made the hike more difficult than the previous day. We reached camp and were relieved to be out of the rain and hoped the weather would improve. Luckily for us, the next day was much better. We rose above the clouds that had been stalking us for a day and finally got another glimpse of the snow-capped peaks. During one of the breaks, we had the rare privilege of a song from our school sports director, Benny. Sadly, the sunshine didn’t last as we got closer to Lava Tower. At this stage, we had gone from rainforest, though moorland, into alpine desert. The landscape around us was rocky and barren and by the time we reached the tower we were all hungry, dusty, and tired. Fortunately, we had a nice warm lunch in the space station tents so we could recharge for the last hike of that day. We descended to Baranco camp at about 3700 metres so our bodies could adjust to the high altitude. At this point, our campsites were above the clouds, hindering our view of the land below.
The fourth day was one of the most interesting, as we had to scale Baranco Wall. It was similar to an experience during our training when we were climbing Carrauntoohil back in Ireland. It was an almost vertical wall, but we had a trail zigzagging through it. Our Go Team leader that day, Mark, set a vigorous pace up the wall which was followed by a much-needed rest at the top. The next stop was Karanga Camp and everyone tried to get a good night’s sleep, despite the cold conditions, in preparation for summit night. The next morning, we continued on to Kosovo Camp. We were extremely lucky to have been granted access to this camp, as it took an hour off our summit night climb. That evening, we were given a final brief on the hike to Uhuru Peak. By now, most of us had felt some of the effects of the altitude. Nausea and extreme fatigue were starting to set in. Despite knowing that many other climbers give up and go home, we were all determined to keep going. Morale was high as we got into our sleeping bags that night. It was a chilly -10 degrees Celsius. Everyone was a bit nervous, but excited to conquer the mountain.
On day six, we were woken at 12 AM. In total darkness and sub-zero temperatures, we had a quick breakfast and prepared our gear. No one really spoke as the enormity of the challenge became real. We were going to climb to the summit in the middle of the night with only our small headlamps to light the way. As we began our climb, the guides began to chant and sing. It was incredible to us how fast they could climb while singing at the same time. Unfortunately, singing can’t melt snow and ice, and soon we were knee-deep in snow, slipping and sliding every few steps. We counted down the hours to the “false summit”, Stella Point, where we would be able to see the real summit. With our leg muscles burning and our lungs gasping, we finally reached the crater rim that made up the top of the mountain. Some took a break there before the final push, while others kept going. As the sun come up, we were greeted with an incredible sight. The summit was covered in snow and we could see glaciers and ice structures. We were also able to look into the crater of the dormant volcano. I will always remember the feeling of relief and accomplishment when we finally made it to the summit. We had hot drinks and took photos, but we couldn’t stay long, as the temperature at 6000 metres was frigid (-20 degrees Celsius) and our oxygen was at a minimum. Descending from the summit only took us an hour and a half, in comparison to going up, which took five and a half hours. After a brief rest at Kosovo Camp we were back on the trail to our next camp further down the mountain.
After getting some well-earned sleep at the last camp, everyone was happy to be almost finished. The guides and porters gave us a last farewell dance with Irish, Glenstal, and Munster flags being waved in triumph. We began our final downhill trek to the gate of the national park. It took us just six hours to come down what had taken us days to go up. We reached the gate exhausted and dirty but elated. We took more photos and happily guzzled fizzy drinks and chomped on chocolates. The bus journey back to the lodge was very similar to the bus journey to the mountain, with light-hearted stories and jokes shared, but with a strong sense of accomplishment. We felt as if we had won the challenge. That night at dinner, we discussed the best parts of the trip. The porters, guides, and doctor were incredible, the views were unbelievable. The local people were really friendly and our own friendships had been formed and strengthened with good humour and respect as we faced our own individual challenges on the mountain.
We stayed in Arusha for the next three days before we flew home. Most of us went on a safari to Tarangire National Park, where we saw elephants and their young up close. We were fortunate enough to see cheetah and some brazen monkeys. We then spent two days on our community project. Our project was to donate computers we had brought with us and to give computer lessons to the students in Kaloleni Secondary School. We had a good time helping them create their own email addresses and teaching them how to use the keyboard and the computer programs and apps. The students were incredibly excited to receive the computers and picked up the skills we taught them very quickly. To end our time there, we had a soccer match against their school team. We lost, badly. We all left the school after the second day having made new friends and appreciating the things we take for granted here in Ireland. The plane journey home was almost exactly like the one going to Tanzania. There was, however, one big difference. We had all just climbed the world’s tallest free-standing mountain and that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
Glenstal Abbey School Kilimanjaro Diary – John Cannon
Day 1: Saturday 9th June: Limerick to Dublin to Ethiopia to Tanzania
Saturday morning was a frenzy of last minute packing and repacking for myself, Matthew and James. We were eventually ready to load the car with 8 bags (comprising 3 rucksacks, 3 duffle bags and 2 bags containing computers, rugby & soccer balls). We departed Limerick excited but also with some trepidation. Matthew took charge of the musical entertainment for the journey and my abiding memory of the drive to Dublin is Toto’s Africa and fabulous sunshine.
We arrived at Dublin airport at 3.30pm and most of our group assembled shortly thereafter and the families said their goodbyes. The Earth’s Edge team of James McManus, Mike Jones and Dr. Edel distributed our branded Glenstal/Earth’s Edge jackets before check-in.
Photo 1 – Garret Hartigan and Benny McEvoy modelling the new jackets.
Our overnight flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was delayed:
However, we eventually boarded an Ethiopian Boeing Dreamliner 787 and settled down for the 8 hr flight. We had a 2 hr stopover at Addis Ababa. The airport was thronged with people and hot. Not much to do but wait. Our next flight was from Addis to Kilimanjaro International Airport, a 2.5hr flight on another Dreamliner. We had our first sight of Mount Kilimanjaro from the airplane, stunning and intimidating!
Day 2: Sunday 10th June: Arrive in Tanzania
As we flew over Tanzania it was greener than I expected. Apparently the recently ended Wet Season has been the wettest in 15 years. We were delighted to arrive at Kilimanjaro airport and disembarked the airplane into hot sunshine. Passing through the airport was slow. It was our first indication that Tanzanian paperwork (visas and customs) takes lots of time and operates at an African pace. We were all pleased that our bags arrived intact. Earth’s Edge Tanzanian partners were waiting outside the airport with our bus and our guides quickly loaded our gear onto the roof.
It wasn’t clear to me how we were all going to squeeze into the bus but it was possible with four abreast and fold-out seats in the aisle. We had a 1.5hr bus transfer to our hotel on the outskirts of the city of Arusha. The region is a sprawling mass of humanity (circa 1.7m inhabitants). We passed mile after mile of shacks with corrugated iron roofs at the side of the road. Many of the locals sat outside on battered chairs on the parched earth. At junctions on the main road local youths lounged around on motorbikes which seem to be the primary means of transport.
We arrived at the Outpost Lodge hotel in the late afternoon. The hotel was small but functional. Security is clearly important. The gates of the hotel are locked after all arrivals and there is a permanent guard manning the gate. We had been allocated 2 person rooms.
Our room partners will be replicated in the tents on Kilimanjaro. Benny McEvoy is my room- mate, I hope he doesn’t mind snoring.
The students and parents had tea at their leisure. The hotel restaurant was pretty good with an extensive menu. Apparently they have 8 chefs, sourcing labour is not an issue in Tanzania! The entire group then assembled for a preparatory briefing. Earth’s Edge had divided the students into four groups (Prep team, Porter Welfare Team, Go Team and Craic & Support Team) with assigned tasks for the following day.
We were in bed by 9pm, mosquito nets in place and malaria tablet taken.
Day 3: Monday 11th June: Drive Arusha to Machame Gate and trek to Machame Camp
Benny and I woke early and were up by 6am. We were anxious to ensure that our rucksacks and duffle bags were properly packed and within the weight restrictions for the porters. We had a good breakfast, porridge, omelette and fruit. We also took our first Diamox tablets which help the body cope with altitude. A side effect of Diamox is a pressing need to pee very regularly!
The group assembled at 8am to load the bus. We had brought extra bags with donated cold- weather clothing for the porters and these were gratefully received. We departed for a 2hr transport to the Machame Gate. We had a couple of stops en route, pharmacy and gear shop for some last minute requirements. The bus climbed steadily for the last 40 minutes of the drive. The road was heavily rutted after the rains and the foliage was lush with vast swathes of banana trees and sunflowers. Machame gate elevation is 1,800m (for comparison, Carrantouhill is 1,038m).
Machame was a hive of activity with lots of Tanzanian porters and other groups preparing for departure. The Tanzanian National Parks Service has rangers employed at each gate and all groups are required to register. The process was typically slow with lots of forms to fill and signatures. We had a packed lunch while waiting and Christopher Burke-Young was presented with a birthday cake.
We were introduced to our porters. They carry our 15Kg duffle bags, their own kit, tents, food etc. We were also introduced to our guides. These are highly experienced climbers who have many years of experience climbing Kilimanjaro. One guide, Innocent, took the lead to set the pace and we were off. He deliberately sets a slow and steady pace. The trail quickly enters a tropical rain forest. We stop every hour to hydrate and snack and occasionally for Innocent to point out some of the flora and fauna of the rain forest. Each person carries circa 4 litres in their rucksack and is encouraged to drink this amount on a daily basis. We are reminded by the guides and Earth’s Edge team that hydration is critical to coping with the altitude.
It is warm throughout the day, tee-shirts, sun hats and sunglasses. We stop for lunch and then continue to climb. The gradient is steady and occasionally steep.
After about 5 hrs we reached Machame camp at 5pm. Elevation is 2,835m and we are now beyond the rain forest into moorland with smaller trees and bushes. The porters have leap- frogged us as we hiked and our camp and tents are assembled when we arrive. We have two-man orange and white tents. We have an opportunity to organise our tents and kit as darkness falls very quickly. Dinner is at 7pm by which time it is pitch black and we use our head torches. The temperature also drops dramatically and we need our warm coats and hats. We have two mess tents, one for the students and one for the adults. Our Tanzanian chefs seem to be able to produce great food in these inhospitable surroundings. We have popcorn, soup, a meat dish with vegetables and potatoes and orange segments for desert. We are all pleasantly surprised at the quality.
The Prep team provide a briefing after dinner detailing the route for the next day, expected number of hours hiking and equipment needs. The night sky and stars are stunning. We can see both the northern and southern star constellations.
Everyone was tired from the long day and settling into our tents by 9pm. However, my sleep was fitful as I adjusted to the hard ground and not very flat tent location and sleeping bag and periodic Diamox tent exits into the freezing cold.
Day 4: Tuesday 12th June: Trek from Machame Camp to Shira Camp
We woke at 6am. The Go team were responsible for making sure all participants were awake and packing and ready for breakfast at 7am. Breakfast comprised porridge and pancakes and tea/coffee. We prepared for the hike and were introduced to the new morning ritual of songs and dance led by our porter team. “Hakuna Matata” is Swahili for no worries or no troubles and is about the only phrase I recognise. It is extraordinary how uplifting it is to see the sun rising and the porters singing to lift our spirits for the day ahead.
We begin hiking at 8am and follow a steep trail all the way to the Shira Plateau. A new guide sets the same slow and steady pace. The landscape continues to change with fewer trees, more ferns and shrubs. A light drizzle persists and becomes a more steady light rain and we need our ponchos or rain-jackets. We make steady progress but some of the students have begun to suffer with mild vomiting and diarrhoea. This may be a combination of the altitude and new food. The guides ensure regular rest stops each hour and we can now look down at the rain forest far below enveloped in mist. The rain obscures some of the views that would normally be visible today.
We arrive at Shira camp in the early afternoon. It is misty, wet and cold. We have a relaxed afternoon and early evening. It is interesting to see the students meeting in the mess tent to play cards and chess and to read in the absence of electronic gadgets. Each of the student teams provide a briefing on their experiences during the day and what can be improved. We are warned that tomorrow is a demanding day. James McManus is typically enthusiastic telling us that we are “killing it” which seems to be indicate all is going reasonably well.
Dinner is at 6.30pm. Pumpkin soup, rice, beef stew and watermelon. I have no idea how our porters manage to carry watermelon this high up a mountain. The Porter Welfare team tell us that the porters and guides have a much more basic diet than us which seems to mainly consist of “ugali” (a maize porridge).
We are in our tents by 8.30pm and most sleep better (although or two late-night Diamox exits are now the norm).
Day 5: Wednesday 13th June: Trek from Shira Camp to Barranco Camp
Benny and I awaken early, 5.30ish. Matthew has been ill during the night and I help him get organised. Dr. Edel provides medication and it seems that several of the students have had varying degrees of illness during the night. The porters provide basins of hot water for an early wash before breakfast at 7am. The mandatory songs and dance from the porters follow breakfast and there is more participation from the students and parents.
We leave Shira camp and walk east towards Lava Tower, a huge rocky outcrop. The weather is changeable varying between mist, rain and cold to sunshine and warmth. There are great views over the clouds and we can see Mount Mera peak above the clouds. This is another dormant volcano close to Kilimanjaro. The highlight of the day is Benny McEvoy singing to entertain the troops. Each evening, a number of hats are awarded to recognise actual or fictional skills – best leader (admiral hat), best for safety (traffic cone hat) and best for craic
and support (joker’s hat). It seems coincidental that Benny and I have been awarded the joker’s hat in successive days by the students. Benny raises the standard of the joker’s position with his mournful song of rebellion.
We reach Lava Point after several hours hiking and stop for lunch. Remarkably the porters have already erected the mess tent for lunch. Lava Tower elevation is 4,630m and it is very clear that most are feeling the altitude. Symptoms include headaches and vomiting and general tiredness. The student’s mess tent is noticeably quiet at lunch.
Even though it is the middle of the day the temperature at this height can be very cold and we need our heavy down jackets when sitting still. Most feel better after lunch. We then descend for 2 hours in wet and misty conditions to Barranco camp. We are all tired and some of the group have become separated during the descent and take half an hour longer to reach camp.
Dinner is typically good and we are hungry. Soup, main course and fruit. We are in our tents by 8.30pm. I sleep fitfully as I am anxious about the Barranco Wall tomorrow.
Day 6: Thursday 14th June: Trek Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp
We get up at 6am and pack as usual. It is a beautiful clear morning. The sun rises over the clouds in the valley below. The view is spectacular. Breakfast at 7am comprises porridge, eggs and pancakes. The porters dance and sing and the students really engage which is great to see.
The Earth’s Edge team tell me that the Barranco Wall is not quite as hard as it looks. I am apprehensive. It looks incredibly difficult. The guide for the day starts at a faster pace than previously and I can feel the impact on my heart-rate even before we are at the base of the wall. We ask the guide to moderate his pace which helps. We climb the wall. Hiking poles are stowed on bags. We need our hands and we climb slowly and carefully. I dread to think what would happen if anyone slips. I hear later that a porter drops a bag, it goes a long way
down. I have no idea how the porters can manage the rock face with the heavy loads. I struggle with my light rucksack. Eventually we reach the top of the wall and are rewarded with stunning views of Kilimanjaro, the Heim glacier and the surrounding landscape. Spirits are high, we are really climbing this mountain. We have tea and snacks as we marvel at the views.
The trail then enters the Karanga Valley with lots of short ascents and descents as we cross small streams. There is a very steep final section to Karanga Camp and I am amazed how every person in our group copes with the steepness.
We arrive at the camp and have lunch. Celery soup, chicken and chips. The students mess tent applauds the arrival of chips. We spend the afternoon recovering from the exertions. The sun is wonderful, the views are wonderful and life is good.
Dinner is at 6.15pm. The elevation of Karanga Camp is 4,000m.
Day 7: Friday 15th June: Trek Karanga Camp to Kosovo Camp
Breakfast is at 7am as usual. We depart at 8.30am following songs and dance. We walk along a ridge towards Barafu Camp. We come across more hikers and porters from other groups than previous days as this is where a number of trails come together. The pace is slow and steady and I hope that we are acclimatising. I try not to give much thought to tonight/tomorrow. The landscape has become barren and free of vegetation and dusty. We use the Earth’s Edge buffs to protect our airways. We reach Barafu camp after 3 hrs of hiking and break to register with the rangers. Many of the other groups are setting up camp here and will launch their summit attempt from this camp. The summit looks a long way up from here!
After a short rest we continue on a steep trail towards the quieter Kosovo Camp. The initial hour is over steep rocky ground. I would not like to be attempting this at 1am in the morning in pitch black. We arrive at Kosovo camp in bright sunshine. The views are amazing. Kilimanjaro looms above us and the clouds and valleys below.
Exhaustion and altitude sickness are taking a toll and some of the students are struggling. Dr. Edel and the Earth’s Edge team talk to all participants to assess how they are feeling. We are all somewhat anxious about tonight. We try to rest where possible. Dinner is in the late afternoon and we are encouraged to eat and hydrate to fuel our bodies for later. James McManus and Mike Jones provide a detailed briefing about the night ahead. Everyone listens intently. James makes it clear that this will be the most physically and mentally demanding night of our lives. No pressure!
We go to our tents and prepare our kit. As little as possible weight in our rucksacks but sufficient water and snacks. Water bottles need to be insulated or they will freeze. We need five layers on top (base layer, tee shirt, light fleece, warm jacket and then down jacket), two layers on hands (liner gloves plus heavy gloves) and three layers below (base layer, hiking pants, waterproof pants). We are encouraged to sleep until 12 midnight. I don’t really sleep. My mind is restless. Will I be physically able to make it up? Will all of the students be okay? Will Matthew and James be okay? How many are still sick? Will anyone succumb to severe altitude sickness? What will the conditions be like? I dose.
Day 8: Saturday 16th June: Trek Kosovo Vamp to Uhuru Peak and then down to Millenium Camp – expected hiking time of 14 to 15 hrs
James and Mike visit each tent at 12 midnight. We get dressed and assemble at the mess tent. I don’t feel like eating but force down porridge. As we sit around the mess tent Patrick Ashe indicates that his son John is sick and will not ascend and Patrick will not ascend
without him. I am so disappointed for him but John has been struggling with illness all week. We make final checks and re-checks. I am nervous. Benny is stoic, we can do this. Then some great news, James and Mike are convinced that John Ashe is still strong enough to try the ascent and he is willing to try. Patrick and John are back.
We depart at 1am. Head-torches on, trudging in a single line slowly upwards. It is at this point that we see the strength of our Tanzanian guides. They walk on either side of us outside of our torch light but we hear them. They sing, they encourage, they laugh, they swoop in to help anyone struggling, they are magnificent. It is steep, there is a lot of snow and I can feel the cold biting. I look upwards only once or twice. I can see the head-torches of some other groups further up the mountain, it looks an awful long way to go. I concentrate on stooping forward with my headlight lighting the feet ahead of me and simply matching the steps of the boots that I can see. One step at a time.
We break briefly every 45 mins to 1 hr. The stops are short so that we do not get too cold. It is clear that several students are in trouble. The guides and Earth’s Edge tend to those that are sick. The altitude is really impacting. We keep going. I think that I can see a glimmer of sun out of the corner of my eye. This means we must be nearing Stella Point which is on the Kilimanjaro crater. The last hour of climbing seems to be incredibly steep or maybe it is the altitude or maybe it is me. Just when I think I can’t go much further the steepness subsides and a blast of bitterly cold wind hits me. We have reached Stella Point. Sunrise is coming but the cold is intense. The guides have hot water to revive those who are struggling. We are
encouraged not to linger, we have at least another hour to reach the summit. I don’t see Matthew but hear that he has been very ill. I am worried. I find James. His hands are frozen and painful despite the gloves. I take his walking poles.
Walking around the crater and gradually ascending to the summit is painful but wonderful. I am exhausted but I know that I can make it and hopefully everyone else has also. Our group is very spread out and I am not sure who is in front and who is behind. The sun is creating a magnificent vista. The views are stunning as I glance sideways. Finally, finally I am at the top. I find Matthew and James who have summited a few minutes before me. We hug, highly unusual for teenagers and their father. I am relieved they are okay. I am delighted we have survived. I am thrilled that we have made the summit. We congratulate each other and the other students and parents. We try to take in the stunning view. We are on top of the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free standing mountain on the world.
We gather for photos.
I am delighted to see Benny at the top. He was critical to the trip happening and a constant source of positivity and encouragement.
I hope my boys appreciate this picture and what they have achieved in the future.
We probably spend less than 30 minutes on the summit. We have several hours hiking still to complete and the descent can be tricky. It is definitely demanding on the joints and knees in particular and there are some sections where I wonder how we managed to come up. The sun makes the compacted snow very slippy. As we carefully pick our footsteps down a glacier I see someone towards the head of our group fall and toboggan on his back down the glacier. I fear it is James but it is impossible to be sure as the bulky down jackets and hats make it difficult to distinguish who is who. The faller flails and scrabbles to slow his descent and after what must be 100m comes to a halt. He doesn’t move for some time and hikers further down the mountain slowly move towards him. Thankfully he is helped to sit up and eventually stand-up but it is not clear what injuries he has. We all proceed downwards with even more caution.
After three hours we reach Kosovo Camp and collapse in our tents. We exchange stories about the climb. The faller on the glacier was a parent, Mark Hasset. His hands have been shredded by the ice and he is naturally shaken from the near-miss but he seems to be otherwise okay. We relax for a couple of hours and then pack before a four hour trek to reach Millennium Camp, elevation 3,832m. The sun shines as we descend and I feel physically good, maybe it is the ever increasing oxygen.
We have a very pleasant evening in Millennium Camp, it is our last night in tents and the weather is good. Everyone is in good form. We collect the tips for our porters and guides. They are paid a salary for their work but the tips are an important and valued element of their compensation. Everyone is generous, we appreciate how important our Tanzanian team have been to the success of the climb.
Day 9: Sunday 17th June: Trek Millennium Camp to Mweka Gate and drive to Arusha
We are now accustomed to waking early and are up and about by 6am with breakfast at 7am. The tips are formally counted by the porter representatives and then presented. We have extended singing and dancing. Benny speaks to thank the Tanzanian team and Earth’s Edge on behalf of Glenstal. He does this really well.
We trek for about 6 hours. It is demanding as the descent is steep in places and we are dropping hundreds of meters. I am glad to see the finishing gate. We have no significant casualties and we have successfully climbed and descended Kilimanjaro.
We have the usual formalities at the gate, forms to fill and signatures. The boys negotiate with some local traders for Tanzanian football jerseys. Some are natural negotiators and some are not!
We load the bus and drive to a nearby restaurant for a buffet lunch. We have a brief scare when one of the students faints. His blood sugar seems to be low after the exertions of the previous days and adjusting to the lower altitude can be difficult for the body. Some of the boys also have minor nose bleeds, another hangover from the change in altitude. We have a 2 hr transfer to our hotel in Arusha and arrive in the late afternoon.
It is fantastic to have a hot shower and clean clothes. The boys immediately immerse themselves in the World Cup with the new luxury of TV.
Day 10: Monday 18th June: Safari
Most of the group elect to go on safari. We have a two hour drive to Tarangire National Park. We travel through the chaotic and crowded streets of Arusha into the wide plains and see the Masai adults and children with their herds of cattle and goats. As we come closer to the park we stop on the main road to view some wildebeest and zebra.
When we arrive at the park we have the usual formalities of forms to be filled. Unfortunately one of the students has not been well en route to the park and after a phone consultation with Earth’s Edge I have to immediately return to Arusha with the student as a precautionary measure.
The students and parents who were able to stay for the safari tell me that they saw an abundance of wildlife including lots of elephants.
Day 11: Tuesday 19th June: Community Project
Benny and I had agreed with Earth’s Edge that it was important to finish our time in Tanzania with a community project. The students had successfully fundraised enough money to purchase 15 laptops. Fr. John O’Callaghan had advised that we source the computers via Camara Education. Camara specialises in providing education in disadvantaged communities around the world and they use technology to deliver this goal. The computers were loaded with open-source software suitable to the needs of students in Africa. We arranged with Camara for a computer trainer to fly from Dar es Salaam (east coast of Tanzania) to Arusha.
Kaloleni Secondary School was a short drive from our hotel into Arusha. We arrived shortly after 9am. We were warmly welcomed by the headmaster, staff and students. They cater for over 1,000 boys and girls in very basic conditions. Classrooms are bare concrete walls with a corrugated roof. The students greeted us with a song.
James McManus, Earth’s Edge and Dr. Edel with the Kaloleni students
We paired our 15 students with 15 Kaloleni students and the Camara trainer talked the students through the various modules. It was fascinating to watch the initial cautious and quiet engagement evolve into a relaxed and interested exchange of knowledge. The Tanzanian students had excellent English and were keen to learn.
While the students were working with the computers the adults visited several of the classrooms to meet the students and teachers. Classes have 40 plus students. The students were keen to test their English and to ask lots of questions about Ireland. It was fascinating.
We finished at the school before lunchtime and returned to our hotel for some rest and relaxation. Some of the adults and students ventured out of the hotel to visit the local market (escorted by some of our guides) and others tried some of the local restaurants close to the hotel.
Day 12: Wednesday 20th June: Community Project
We had our second morning at Kaloleni School and the format was similar to the previous day. It was amazing how quickly the students progressed to being able to access the internet and set up email. It was not all plain sailing, we had a power-cut but fortunately this was brief.
At the end of the computer training the headmaster and students thanked Glenstal and Earth’s Edge for the donation of the computers and the establishment of the new relationship. I think they had been somewhat sceptical in advance as to whether we would actually arrive and whether we would deliver on the promises of computers.
Our final gift was a number of soccer and rugby balls. The students were not familiar with rugby but with the assistance of the internet they were able to watch clips of the Glenstal SCT winning the cup!
Our final activity was a game of soccer on a nearby dirt pitch. Our students certainly looked the part and towered over their Tanzanian opponents. A large crowd assembled to add some pressure to the occasion. It turns out that rugby bulk is no match for fleetness of foot and soccer skills as the local students ran rings around the Glenstal boys. Benny was refereeing and his primary task was to keep track of the Tanzanian scores, I stopped counting at 7! Our students did have to cope with aspects of African football that they weren’t used to including the heat and a car and motorbike driving across the pitch during the game. It was entertaining and enjoyable for all.
Earth’s Edge hosted a session beside the pool in the afternoon where the students were asked to reflect upon their highlights and lowlights and learnings from the experience. This was interesting and occasionally entertaining
Day 13: Thursday 21st June: Depart for Dublin
Our flight was not until the early evening so we had the morning to relax at the hotel and to pack. We left the hotel after lunch and drove to Kilimanjaro airport.
Day 14: Friday 22nd June: Arrive in Dublin
We had an uneventful return journey, stopping off in Addis Ababa before the long flight to Dublin. It was great to arrive to beautiful sunny weather and we came into the arrivals hall around 7am to be greeted by all of the families. Matthew, James and I were delighted to see Caoimhe as we had not expected to see her until Limerick. It was wonderful to handover all of the students to grateful Mums and Dads. What an experience we had.
Some notes of thanks:
Benny McEvoy: Glenstal Abbey School Director of Activities – a great leader and friend and key to the success of the trip.
James McManus, Mike Jones and Dr. Edel : Earth’s Edge – a fantastic team from start to finish. If I was ever brave or foolish enough to climb Kilimanjaro a second time I would want Earth’s Edge to be in charge of the expedition.
The parents who travelled: Marcus Breslin, Garret Hartigan, Patrick Ashe, Mark Fitzgerald, Mark Hassett, Chris Young. Benny and I very much appreciated your participation, company, humour and assistance. Given the arduous nature of the expedition we definitely needed and valued your participation. We hope the father and son experience lives long in the memory.
The students: Conor Hartigan, James Fitzgerald, Peter Fahy, Kai Burke Young, Christopher Burke Young, John Ashe, Tangui Roulet, Mark Breslin, Andrew Breslin, Tim Hyde, Mark Ryan, Padraic Hasset, Mike Twoney, Matthew Cannon, James Cannon. Without exception, you were a credit to yourselves and to your families.
The other parents: Thank you for being brave enough to give your son the opportunity to take on such a challenge and for trusting Benny and I and Earth’s Edge.
The Glenstal Kilmanjaro group arrived back in Ireland safe and sound after what by all accounts was the adventure of a lifetime.
Photos during the trip were taken by Padraig Hassett (3rd Year) and they can be found in the Multimedia section of the website. Padraig's photos wonderfully tell the story of this epic journey from start to finish.
Mark Breslin (6th Year) was in charge of videoing the trip and it will take some time until this is edited and ready. Once completed, it will be also be published on the website.
A more complete written account of the entire Glenstal Kilmanjaro expedition will be appear later on this website.
Three Delbarton students arrived in Shannon Airport to start their Exchange with three Glenstal families.
Delbarton is a Benedictine school in Morristown, New Jersey and the Exchange between both schools is now in its 25th year.
The Delbarton boys are Matthew Morfogen, Elio Rodriguez and Aidan Tompkins. They will be staying with Cillian O'Sullivan, Patrick Allen and Bryan Murphy.
We wish them a warm "cead mile failte".
They brought the good weather with them and hopefully it will last for their three week stay with us.
Three Glenstal students will travel to Delbarton in January 2019 to complete the Exchange.
Congratulations to Cian O'Farrell (5th Year) who is a member of the victorious Tipperary Minor Hurling Squad which won the Munster Minor Cup having defeated Limerick in the Final
2018 Munster Schools Senior Cup Champions and Munster Rugby School of the Year 2018