“You can do anything if you set goals. You just have to push yourself.” – RJ Mitte
In December of 2021, mountaineer Tim Howell decided to embark upon the adventure of a lifetime. Whilst we were busy picking up turkey’s and pigs in blankets over the festive period, Tim was extensively prepping to base jump off the peak of the highest free-standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro.
Tackling Kilimanjaro to summit sounds like the pinnacle of adventure to most of us on its own, to get a glimpse of how things look from the top of the world, but not for Tim, he wanted to take things a step further, that’s why we’re shining the spotlight on Tim here and showcasing the absolute behemoth of a quest he’s decided to embark upon. This is climbing Kilimanjaro with Tim Howell.
A born and bred thrill seeker, Tim is a British former Royal Marine Commando who’s been on his journey to explore every corner of the planet since he finished his A-Levels. Leaving the UK not longer after turning 18, Tim found himself as a guide down at Kruger Park in South Africa, introducing clients to some of nature’s most majestic beasts including Lions, Rhinos, Elephants and Buffalos. It was here where Tim garnered the necessary skills to push himself further in the outdoors.
Tim’s next challenge was joining the Royal Marines, where he was able to develop the mental and physical strength that has pushed him to improve himself and get better at his sports outside of work. He now spends most of his time focusing on climbing and mountaineering, as well as taking on Wingsuit BASE jumping, like he didn’t have enough of a death wish already.
The full plan for Tim in short was to summit Kilimanjaro and base jump from the top off the Breach Wall, making him one of the first in the world to do so. But this wasn’t always the plan. We spoke to Tim about how he came up with the idea and this is what he had to say:
“The original plan was to climb Aconcagua via the Polish Glacier route. However, access to the mountain was forbidden this season because of covid, so we began to look at other options. After buying guidebooks for Kilimanjaro, I was inspired to see all the different route options.”
So, despite this being an absolute gargantuan of a challenge to take on, it was actually a Plan B in the end, which to me speaks volumes about Tim as a Character, refusing to let inconvenience get in the way of him and his goals. But now the plan was set, and the ball was rolling. Here’s how Tim went about his next steps:
“Although you do have to hire a guide on ascents of Mount Kilimanjaro, I always like to plan expeditions to the finest detail. My priorities were to find a route that was challenging, lesser known and one that we could accomplish with as little support as possible. So I did some research and found where water supplies were on the route and the locations of the campsite etc. to find some of these more infrequently climbed routes. I bought various guidebooks dating back to the 80’s, it was interesting to see how much the glacier has changed since then.”
With the idea firmly planted into Tim’s head and all signs pointing in the right direction, it was time to get the show on the road.
You can see Tim’s full journey up Kilimanjaro in the video below followed by a break down.
Umbwe Gate (1614m ASL) to Umbwe Cave (2899m ASL)
Umbwe Cave (2899m ASL) to Barranco Camp (3975m ASL)
Stopped and had lunch to then continue up to Arrow Glacier Camp (4860m ASL)
Acclimatization Day at Arrow Glacier Camp
Headed from Arrow Glacier Camp (4860m ASL) to Summit at 5895m ASL.
Summit Crater Camp sat at 5790m ASL.
Descent day. Via Barafu, Millennium, Mweka and leave through Mweka gate.
“We decided to opt for a slightly harder route, away from the crowds to take full advantage of our climbing experience and training. We tried to be as self-sufficient as possible, carrying our own gear and supplies, upwards of 25kg each. It was an incredible experience to go through the 5 different climate zones to reach the summit, and the Arrow glacier route we had chosen would give us an impressive view of the western breach wall. 200m cliffs with hanging ice and glaciers.
For expeditions like this I have to prioritize safety first whilst also prioritizing the goals. In this case, summiting was first, making the wingsuit jump the second goal. I never tell myself that I’m guaranteed to jump, so in the chance that I don’t get to, I never feel let down. I also won’t persuade myself to jump if the situation or conditions aren’t perfect for it. Big challenges like this often take 2 or 3 attempts before the conditions align up. A recce is never wasted, and I’ll be able to go back with the knowledge I’ve learnt from the first attempt and hopefully achieve my goal the second time around.
Day two was a huge day for us, with 2000m of vertical ascent. Throughout the trip we really wanted to test ourselves, and that became most apparent on the fifth day when, completely exhausted, we packed up camp and had to lead our friend suffering from altitude sickness down off the mountain one step at a time.
Our main objective of flying off the mountain is, unfortunately, not complete, but so much was learnt from this trip, we hope that when we return in the near future, it will be even smoother.”
When seeing someone embark upon such a challenging task, you may be curious, like I was myself, where do you even begin with any of this? How do you know what to take to guarantee the smoothest trip possible? That’s why we asked Tim to give us a breakdown of all the gear he took along with him to Kilimanjaro, so we could provide a full kit list for anyone out there who may be tempted to follow in Tim’s footsteps.
Here’s a quick gallery of some absolutely breath-taking photographs Tim captured on his climb up Kilimanjaro just to showcase some of the beautiful scenery.
That was climbing Kilimanjaro with Tim Howell. Hopefully you found Tim’s story just as fascinating as we did and maybe even found a little motivation to get yourself up a mountain some time soon? To see us out on this magnificent adventure we asked Tim for any final advice to those of you out there wanting to take on your own challenges.
“Don’t let excuses get in your way, be a doer, because if you really want to get something done, you WILL find a way.”