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Female student conquers Mt Kilimanjaro on a wheelchair

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The whole team together before the climb
The whole team together before the climb

On 3 September at 8am Tanzanian time, Michaela ‘Chaeli’ Mycroft became the first female quadriplegic to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.

After 2 years of planning and 9 months of in-depth preparation, Chaeli has accomplished what many people think would be impossible. She has joined the ranks of the few ambitious mountain climbers to have reached the top of the highest peak in Africa. It is also believed that she has become the first female quadriplegic to summit Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.

Chaeli has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user. She is also an ability activist, student, international award winner and co-founder of The Chaeli Campaign, a non-profit organisation that provides services to children with disabilities.

On 29 August, in the early hours of Saturday morning, Chaeli and seven incredible climbers – a group of unique individuals with a zest for a challenge and compelled by a cause – took the first steps towards making history when they started their ascent of Kilimanjaro.

Including Chaeli, the entire team supported this initiative by funding their own climb and helping to raise funds for The Chaeli Campaign’s Inclusive Education Programme and the Chaeli Cottage Inclusive Pre-school and Enrichment Centre. But beyond that, they aimed to show the world how important it is to work together to attain a seemingly impossible goal: to show that one’s physical disability places no limitations on what one is able to achieve.

For Chaeli, this moment had been a long time coming and the effort involved cannot be ignored. It is enough of a challenge for able-bodied individuals to attempt a climb of such epic proportions. Facing challenges such as the threat of Altitude Sickness, dealing with temperatures that fall below freezing, all with minimal movement as Chaeli would spend most of her time in a specially designed ‘mountain wheelchair’, the expedition was anything but easy.

Having reached the 3700m and 4750m marks respectively, 2 climbers had to be sent back down the mountain due to Altitude Sickness (they are now both recovering well). Nevertheless, the team prepared for the summit run and left Kibo camp.

“We all reached the summit at 0800 this morning. A very very long day. We are heading down to horombo camp and off tomorrow. Chaeli made it,” said tour leader, Carel Verhoef, from online travel agency Discover Africa.

“I need my bed very tired but really happy today. We made it!” exhaled Chaeli.

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