Gibraltarian climbs Kilimanjaro to stop children dying from malnutrition

  • Gibraltarian and mom of three, Genevieve (Genny) Proetta, had never climbed a mountain in her life. In the period of two weeks, she climbed La Concha (1,200m), El Veleta (3,400m) and Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895M), to support a humanitarian initiative called the 3 Million Club (www.3millionclub.com) whose ambitious objective is to eradicate children dying from malnutrition by 2020.

    It all started in June this year when Genny´s friends, Zoriana and Franck Benhamou, put together an expedition to Kilimanjaro to launch the 3 Million Club. Genny was excited by the project and wanted to join the team, but she was not sure she was fit enough. She took a fitness test and the results were disappointing. She decided not to join the expedition, but to get back in shape anyways…

    Five weeks later, just ten days before departure to Kilimanjaro, the expedition had an unfortunate happening when one of the team members had to pull out for health reasons. One spot in the team became vacant. Genny, who now felt stronger, did not hesitate to claim it!

    She first climbed La Concha on a Sunday and convinced herself (and the team) she was ready. On Monday, she got all her vaccines at once (yellow fever, typhoid, tetanus /diphtheria, hepatitis) in Gibraltar. On Tuesday, she bought her plane ticket. On Wednesday she joined the team in Sierra Nevada for a last training climb at night up El Veleta (3,400m). On Thursday, she bought all her gear and equipment for the expedition. It left her three days to organize all her domestic arrangements with the amazing support of her husband, Maxi, and dad, John Summerfield from Profield Contractors Ltd.

    By Monday, Genny flew to Amsterdam to meet the team and she landed at Kilimanjaro airport on Tuesday night. The seven-day hike via the Machame route (also known as the whisky route for its high altitude) started at 9am on Wednesday.

    The first few days, the expedition walked an average of 6 hours per day through diverse and beautiful natural environments. Temperature was cooler than expected, especially at night. Genny was adapting well. She felt a little dizzy when reaching 4,600m for the first time at Lava Tower, but recovered quickly. The team was strong, having a great time in anticipation of the sixth day scheduled for the attempt to reach the summit.

    The 3 Million Club team reached the Barafu base camp at 4,600m on August 25th around 2pm. After a light dinner and a short rest, the group started walking towards the summit at 11:30pm. The night was dark and cold (-10C). The blowing wind made the air even colder. August, a strong and experienced Tanzanian guide set the pace. It was a slow, but relentless pace up the mountain. Genny´s hands were completely frozen despite her two pairs of gloves. She had to dig to the limits of her mental strength in order not to give up, and to reach Stella Point at 5,685m after five and a half hours of climbing. She was exhausted. Uncontrolled tears were running her frozen cheeks. The team stopped for a quick cup of hot tea. There was still an hour left to Uhuru peak, the highest point in Africa. The tea made miracles. Genny got a second wind and ended up "running" to the top. The excitement of an amazing feat made everything easier. The expedition reached Uhuru peak as the sun rose, rendering the view of the glacier and the sky magical.

    After fifteen minutes of celebration and pictures with the 3 Million Club flag, it was time to rush down to avoid any altitude sickness. Another six hours of grueling descent for the back and knees were awaiting the group. Exhausted but in high spirits Genny and her friends reached Mweka camp at 3100m on August 26th in the afternoon.

    "The night of the ascent to the summit was very cold and brutal," Genny said, "Everybody suffered and used different mental techniques to keep going; from solely focusing on the boots of the person in front, to counting each step as a symbol of each child we are saving. I was just determined to make it and not let the mountain conquer me. It was hard but so worth it!"

    Congratulations to Genny from the 3 Million Club team for her efforts and support to raise awareness for an awesome initiative: No more children dying of malnutrition by 2020. Learn more about it by browsing the 3millionclub.com website.