Climbing for our Cause

July 17, 2019

In early July, Gabriel Keller and four other Bristol University students successfully reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in support of Solar Sister.

Kilimanjaro stands at 5,895 meters tall, making it the highest stand-alone peak in Africa. Reaching the top means battling your way through five climate zones and enduring frigid nights. Not only did Gabriel and his team summit Mount Kilimanjaro, they also raised over $3,000 for Solar Sister. Their efforts go directly to support female entrepreneurs and deliver clean energy to last-mile communities across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Alicia Oberholzer interviewed Gabriel about his team’s experience and motivations. 

Why climb Kilimanjaro and support Solar Sister?

My friend Sam and I wanted to challenge ourselves further than the usual traveling. So attempting to reach the roof of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, was too tempting to pass up! Three more students chose to join us. We thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to raise some money for a charity. We wanted to support three key areas: environment, sustainability and empowerment. A friend who had worked at the World Bank recommended a number of charities doing fantastic work in these fields. After further research, we agreed that Solar Sister ticked the most boxes. 

How did you plan and prepare?

We started preparations for the trip a few months prior. But juggling our final year of degrees with any training was challenging. As the time drew nearer, our excitement and anticipation grew. The start date creeped up on us very quickly. We all were fairly confident in our physical ability and level of fitness. Research shows it’s not endurance levels or strength that is the ultimate challenge. The challenge is much more mental in nature, so physical training was not at the forefront for most of us. 

What was the greatest challenge you faced?

The summit night was the hardest thing. Waking up at midnight, having slept very little, trekking up a ridiculously steep slope in the dark was a huge mental challenge. It was literally a case of putting one foot in front of the other and pigeon-stepping our way up the mountain, covering over 1,000 meters in six and a half hours. The sunrise that morning was spectacular and gave us perspective of how far we’d come. 

What was your favorite moment?

Everyone was in very high spirits throughout the week and the sunrises were particularly beautiful! Reaching the summit was an amazing feeling and the scenery along the way was unbelievable. When we reached the summit, it was a sense of elation. All our headaches seemed to be washed aside and we felt it was a very apt and momentous achievement that signified the culmination of our three years together at university. 

How did you ensure your climb was sustainable and left no trace?

Both ourselves and the company who took us up, Top Climbers, were committed to leaving no trace on the mountain. The company made sure that our campsites were left exactly as they were found and you could see the effect of the strict rules of the mountain in terms of keeping it clean. The idea of leaving only footprints on the mountain was prevalent throughout. 


We are incredibly grateful for Gabriel and his team and can’t wait to see what other great adventures they take on! 

Find out more here how you can support Solar Sister.