Trip report: Tango above the clouds, or how Angela Vorobeva made a Guinness record at 86
A Russian lady from Ulan-Ude, aged 86, established a new Guinness standard in high-altitude trekking, being the oldest person in the world to have reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro (5895 m). Her crew made it to the top on October 29, 2015 at 1:08 PM, UTC+3.
Altezza Travel was the first to know how it feels to be on ‘the roof of Africa’ and how to go on in the torrential monsoon rains. Here’s what she shared with us.
- Angela, congratulations on your achievement! We are happy to be a part of your success. By the way, as far as we know, it was your first high-altitude trekking experience. What do you think was the most difficult part?
- The first days of our expedition almost seemed a leisurely promenade. And then it started pouring with heavy rains. I thought they would never end. We would trek during days, and the nights our guides spent drying the clothes, so that I had something warm to wear in the morning. Fatigue seemed insurmountable, I was utterly drained of all energy by the summiting day which started in Barafu Camp (4600 meters above the sea level), and it was then when the most challenging part of my journey began - conquering Uhuru Peak which took us 13 strenuous hours.
- Your blood circulation parameters at an altitude of 4600 m were incredible: oxygen concentration was 89%, pulse – 70, which means that high-altitude acclimatization was not a big problem for you.
- My pulse and oxygen rate were indeed excellent. Daily medical examinations confirmed that. However, I was still exhausted to no end.
- Did it ever cross your mind to turn back?
- No, I never give up. The guide and I even danced a tango at 4000 m. At 5000 m we were lucky to see the sunrise above the clouds. It was spectacular! What else… I almost lost my voice and could hardly pronounce a word, but the idea of going back was the last thing on my mind.
- How much time did you spend on the top? What did you feel there at the top of the continent of Africa?
- We spent almost an hour at Uhuru Peak. Its irresistible beauty mesmerized me. I did not want to leave that place. And it wasn’t because of breathtaking sceneries. The date for conquering Kilimanjaro – October 29 - was chosen for a reason. I was aware of the rains this time of the year, but reaching the top on that very day was very important for me. Eighty years ago I gave a promise to my sister Lydia that I would be travelling for both of us. My beloved sister was six years older than me, born in 1923. She died of pneumonia when she was only twelve years and four days old. I loved her dearly. It was her birthday on my summiting day. I dedicate this climb to her.
- When you set off on your first journey, the Guinness World Records Book didn’t even exist yet. Now when your name has become its part, how do you feel about it?
- I had no idea I could become a record breaker until I was told so by the organizers of my expedition in September (laughing). Well, I would lie if I said I’m not keen on the idea to be mentioned in the Guinness Book.
- How did you decide to visit Africa and climb Kilimanjaro?
- I love mountains. They have always lured me. And I love Africa, especially its nature. Besides that, being the highest freestanding mount in the world, Kilimanjaro is not as tough as Elbrus or Everest, and the top is not ice capped, thus, it does not require any special mountaineering skills or equipment, so I decided to give it a try.
- So, here we come to your preparation. I’m sure people would like to know what steps you took to get ready for this adventure.
- My first intention was to hike the Inca Trail (from Cusco to Machu Picchu) in Peru. It‘s a 48 km trek at an altitude of 4000 m. I thought that if I could manage that challenge, my next endeavor would be Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately, Peru plans failed, and we decided to go straight to Tanzania. I walk a lot and rarely have problems with blood pressure. My every morning starts with exercising and a cold shower. I guess, that was my only preparation.
- Am I right in thinking that the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu will be the next chapter in your adventure book?
- Most definitely! Besides that, I have always dreamed of the Anadyr-Murmansk cruise, vising the Russian Arctic Islands and the North Pole. Not only is travelling the best way to learn the world, but it also helps to reveal your inner self, understand what you are really worthy of.
Angela’s companion during her Kilimanjaro adventures was her daughter Vera (62 y.o.). They started to plan this expedition in February of 2015. Their success depended on many things: the ladies’ overall physical condition, their stamina, and professional organization as well. Fourteen professional mountaineers comprised Angela’s climbing crew. Their well-coordinated and professional work made this climb safe and successful. The chief guides of the expedition – Mr. Elias Massawe and Mr. Shabani Swalehe have 15+ years of experience in climbing Kilimanjaro.
“Reaching Uhuru Peak at any cost was never our number one priority”, comments Aleksandr Andreichuk, the director of Altezza Travel. “The most important task was to ensure that this climb would be safe. All our expeditions include a similar set of safety measures: daily medical examinations, oxygen systems, high-calorie nutrition, and so on. Nevertheless, we have ‘customized’ the route and safety measures for Angela and her daughter. By the way, the conqueror of the African pinnacle needed neither medical kits, nor oxygen systems”.
A dedicated traveler, Angela has been to a lot of countries of the former USSR. However, she made her first international trip on the verge of her 80th anniversary. “Astounding safari in Botswana, the beautiful Victoria Falls in Zambia, captivating Cape Town. I can hardly believe I’ve seen all those wonders! I remember the Cape of Good Hope. I was sitting on the rock, and splashes of the giant waves were blending with tears on my cheeks…” This is how Angela describes her first meeting with Africa.
The majestic Kilimanjaro has become the next trophy in Angela’s collection, and her adventures are still far from the end. Her next destinations are South America and the North Pole. The countdown has commenced. We wish this unique, tireless Russian lady all the best in all her future adventures! Meanwhile, a well-deserved rest awaits Angela and Vera on the sunny beaches of Zanzibar, as well as fascinating Tanzania safari in the picturesque Tanzanian savannah.
You can see the current record on this link: Oldest woman to climb Mt Kilimanjaro