Ain’t no mountain high enough for Amirah, 9, who’s scaled Kilimanjaro
Amirah Peckham, who suffers from cerebral palsy, tells of how she took on Africa’s highest peak and won
It’s a daunting prospect for the fittest of people.
But when you are a nine year-old girl with cerebral palsy climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro is a massive challenge.
But that is exactly what Amirah Peckham, from Chepstow, did with a help from her 12 year-old brother, Ashraf, and parents Mike, 51, and Lizzie, 52.
It was on August 15 last year that Amirah, who is now 10, and her family reached the summit of Kilimanjaro after five days of hard walking and climbing.
Amirah did this despite having a condition that means one third of her brain does not function, one leg is longer than the other and her right side is weaker than her left and doesn’t work properly.
The family trained by walking in the Brecon Beacons and tackling peaks in Morocco and Borneo – Mount Toubkal at 4167m and Mt Kinabalu at 4095m.
On the Kilimanjaro climb, they would be on their feet with rucksacks for up to 10 miles a day facing cold, dust and decreasing oxygen levels that left them exhausted.
Amirah said: “In the Crater Camp at 5600m we all had headaches and felt really tired and exhausted.
“It is only since arriving back from Africa that we have realised what climbing Kilimanjaro means. I am really proud of what I and my brother have achieved.”
The Dell School pupil, who is a disabled gymnastics champion, had a serious attack at Camp Crater the night before their summit attempt which left her unable to breathe properly.
Her dad put her in a Gamow Bag – an inflatable, pressurised bag that is used to treat altitude sickness.
She said: “As you lie inside and your ears begin to scream, like on an aeroplane only worse. I managed to settle down and relax and began to feel better. I remember asking my mum please let me climb to the top of the mountain.”
The next day they reached the summit – and her brother even climbed up to the neighbouring Uhuru Peak.
She said: “Being able to look down on a sea of cloud was amazing and I did feel very excited and pleased. We did lots of hugging and took lots of photos on the summit.
“My mum was crying. She does that a lot!”
She added: “There were some other people on the summit who kept asking me and my brother how we were.
“It was fun to watch their reaction when I said I was nine years old and Ashraf 12 years old.”
Amirah said the trip down the mountain was much easier but she struggled with her balance and her brother held her hand.
Her dad said: “For Amirah it’s twice as hard as for other people to climb but she still gets on with it, as long as you hold her hand and tell her stories, but if the story is too exciting she will stop walking to listen.
“The children’s spirit was fantastic, they were never grumpy, and we didn’t do this to set a record. It’s about being together as a family and we’re so proud of them.”