Climb and punishment continued

Last updated at 16:26 27 November 2002

The moon is full, which helps. Tosha is leading, Jim brings up the rear, five other guides are helping. It's daunting from the word go, and soon it's steep. Now we are walking over scree, and slipping backwards. Signs of distress are increasing: those who still haven't learned to match the pace of the guide are sick and dizzy, gasping for breath.

Three hours pass, four ... Behind Tosha, greyhound-thin Anya, 33, all-round athlete, has breath to spare and is boosting morale. The guides are keeping careful tabs on everyone.

Now we are clambering over huge boulders, and empty lungs are summoning up their final reserves. The summit seems no nearer, the dawn is not yet up. We've been climbing for more than five hours - how much longer? Please let it end soon.

Just as I am wondering whether to lie down and have a good sulk, Tosha finally bellows: "You're there!" Thank God! One by one, the first six collapse over the final boulder and into the tiny observation space of Gillman's Point (5,685 metres). Only Anya has energy to spare and her camera at the ready.

Mild hysteria sets in as the dawn rises. For those with strong enough legs there's a further goal - a three-hour round trip along the crater's rim to Kili's true peak at Uhuru Point. At - 20C it's too cold to dither. Tosha sets off with six in tow.

And here the landscape repays the final effort. Towering ice cliffs on either side of the crater blush as the sun hauls itself over the horizon. It's otherworldly, powerful, humbling - a film set by Eisenstein.

Hands linked, we approach the flimsy wooden sign that is everyone's goal. Moments later we are joined by three others, escorted by Jim. They tell us that all 15 - including - made it up to Gillman's Point and will thus get their certificate of achievement.

This is great news, because now there will be 100 per cent rejoicing, accompanied by a great deal of alcohol. We just have to get down first.

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