Read time – 3 minutes
In August 2015, Exodus became the first UK company to offer Mount Kilimanjaro group treks for families with children over 13. Sharon Biancalana and her 15-year-old son Dan share their story…
Sharon Biancalana and her son
Climbing Kili has been a lifelong goal for Sharon. “I wanted to do it last year for my 50th, but no one would take Dan at 14.” So when Exodus introduced a Kilimanjaro family climb for teenagers, the pair were first in line…
Kilimanjaro Family Trek
Day 1 – The route
Day 2 – Changing scenery
“Porridge and bacon before setting off. Gradually protea plants and volcanic soil replace forest. We see the peak of the mountain for the first time.” Dan
Day 3 – Amazing views
“Spurred on with the summit high above the clouds, we climbed Shira Cathedral, a site of animal sacrifices. In the camp the boys and porters play football.” SharonPlaying football in camp
Day 4 – Altitude issues
“Altitude is kicking in and seems to be affecting the adults’ memories of ’80s songs; they can’t get past two lines of anything. I got dehydrated but, with help from the guides, recovered.” Dan
Day 5 – Barranco Wall
“A bracing uphill kind of day fuelled by local chocolate. I walked with the lady porters, who are an inspiration. The first peak is close now. For the first time I think, with a little bit of PMA, we’re going to make this!” SharonFemale porters
Day 6 – Base camp
“Short morning walk to base camp, and carbs for lunch and dinner. Even though we need to rest, I’m too excited.” Dan
Day 7 – The summit
“We set off at midnight with a full moon lighting our way. The sky was breathtaking, but the terrain was steep with rocky twists, so progress was slow. I became overwhelmed with emotion. It was tough. Dan and I walked hand in hand for the final stretch, but we made it at 6.45 am! Yes!” Sharon
Day 8 – And back down
“Up early for our final descent. Monkeys greeted us in the forest. At Mweka Gate I bought a top. I always like to say, ‘Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.’” Dan
“Kilimanjaro was an ambition of mine since my 20s. It just took a while to find the perfect trek mate, my son!”
Sharon and Dan near the summit
Why did you go with Exodus?
“They use local guides and treat them well, which makes all the difference. The guides were happy and attentive, keeping a close eye on our welfare, and it is great being part of a group.”
How much training did you do?
“Dan rows at school and I run a half marathon every year, so we’re both fit. We’ve done treks before, including Kinabalu and the Inca Trail, so we knew what we were letting ourselves in for!”
Would you recommend it to other families?
“Completing such a challenge with my son was fantastic. We shared great moments and conversations, which can be rare with a teenage boy! We both had wobbly patches, but it was a wonderful feeling overcoming them together. But walking such distances is tough. You need to carry your own day pack, so you have to be fit and have a strong mental attitude. Altitude sickness can be an issue too.”Sharon and Dan on Kilimanjaro
If you want to follow in Sharon and Dan’s footsteps, browse our tours below.