In October 2008, Aberdeen mother of two, Yasmeen Ali (35) travelled to Tanzania to embark on the challenge of a lifetime! Sponsored by Optical Express, Yasmeen set out to trek over the world’s tallest free standing mountain, Kilimanjaro, but her journey was far from a walk in the park.
Yasmeen decided to embark on this adventure in order to raise funds for the charity of her choice, Kidney Research UK. Having already completed the Inverness and Edinburgh marathon earlier this year as well as a practice trek over Ben Nevis in aid of Kidney Research UK, Yasmeen was ready to embark on her biggest challenge to date, Kilimanjaro.
As part of her preparation and training for the charity trek, Yasmeen underwent laser eye surgery with Optical Express just months before she was due to fly out. “I didn’t want to be fumbling around with glasses or contact lenses while trekking over Kilimanjaro,” Yasmeen explained, “so I decided to have laser eye treatment beforehand,” a decision which would later prove to be an essential part of her preparation.
Kilimanjaro is one of the most popular mountains to climb, because the route does not require special expertise or mountaineering equipment and essentially you can walk your way to the top. However, only about 50% of the 22,000 people who set out to trek over Kilimanjaro every year actually reach its summit.
Nearly all cases of failed summit attempts can be attributed to altitude sickness or AMS (acute mountain sickness). Susceptibility to the altitude sickness is random and fitness is no protection. In fact it’s thought that extremely fit young people are slightly more at risk to the sickness as they will able to climb the mountain much quicker and therefore not have time to acclimatise to the altitude. Conversely older people seem to be less prone to sickness as they tend to ascend more slowly.
Unfortunately for Yasmeen, her fitness got the better of her and she began to suffer from altitude sickness just 4,340 ft shy of the summit of Kilimanjaro. “I was hit with severe altitude sickness at about 15,000ft,” explained Yasmeen, “I began to get headaches and I felt really sick. I knew at this point I would be able to go no further.”
“I just kept thinking to myself how grateful I was that I didn’t have to worry about contact lenses when I began to get sick. I shudder to think what state I would have been in without having laser eye treatment before hand. It would have made my sickness ten times worse.” Yasmeen commented, “It was a very tough challenge but I wouldn’t change my experience for the world.”
“On my last day, before I flew back to the UK, I visited an orphanage called Light In Africa. It was an incredible place, the work they are doing is inspiring and I’ve now sponsored a little girl from the orphanage who I really bonded with,” Yasmeen explained, “I’m going back to Tanzania on the 30th December to volunteer at the orphanage for a week.”
“I am absolutely in love with the place now so I’ve got a few more trips back to the orphanage planned for 2009 and I’m going schedule a re-climb of Kilimanjaro for 2010,” Yasmeen remarked, “None of this would have been possible if it hadn’t been for Optical Express sponsoring my initial trek over Kilimanjaro for charity.”
“It’s amazing how you plan things and then something else happens and it gives you a completely new perspective.” Yasmeen commented, “I am so grateful to Optical Express for the amazing opportunity they gave me and for the eye opening experience I had visiting Tanzania, Kilimanjaro and the orphanage before my return.”