Gordon Takes on Mount Kilimanjaro

by Ann Pletschke and Gordon Foot – 9th Oct 2023

view of the kilimanjaro
Photo by Antony Trivet on Pexels.com

I have decided to take on a challenge that doesn’t have anything to do with the sea! I have volunteered to trek to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro to support a charity very dear to my heart – Safer Waves.

For a great many reasons….

I am not 21 years old anymore so as a bucket list item it was better to trek now than leave it too much longer haha. But seriously it was a way of trying to raise money during what for a great many is a global financial crisis. All charities suffer from a lack of donations when times are hard and Safer Waves needs the maritime community support.

I am so happy that everyone rallied and the support I have received is absolutely fantastic. In the past, I had run 10K’s and marathons and raised money for my chosen local charities but never on this scale. To trek the highest mountain on the African continent at 5895m above sea level will be some endurance test and I think it has sparked everyone’s fascination as to why an ex-submariner and now merchant seafarer would want to put himself through such a challenge to be at that height. As challenges go, obviously the trek itself and the view will be awesome to undertake and no doubt many friends made along the way.

But the primary aim is not about me or what I do but to highlight the topic of bullying, harassment and sexual assault. For many years this subject has remained taboo. People pretend it does not exist or ignore the sometimes unhealthy and unwelcome crew interactions at sea.

“I do not sit on the fence and am an ally and proud to support those calling for an end to this stain on the maritime industry.”

My aim with this trek and the global message I have been raising throughout the maritime community with my fundraising is simply that it must be acknowledged, it must end and together we can make that happen. I do not sit on the fence and am an ally and proud to support those calling for an end to this stain on the maritime industry. I hope it encourages others to become an ally and for those afflicted to feel supported and strong enough to report such behaviours.

I would shout out ‘Do not sit on the fence’ – ‘Be that Ally’ – ‘We are Stronger Together’!

“In my leadership position, I have the power to act and have done so.”

Yes, both at sea and ashore. These events affected others and not me personally but as a shipmate, they obviously do affect me and who I am and what I stand for as a decent human being. In my leadership position, I have the power to act and have done so. As we know ships are an enclosed working environment and those who have the rank or power to intervene, support and report need to know what is happening/has happened AND need to act appropriately. This takes education, compassion but also courage.

Being an active bystander means being aware of when someone’s behaviour is inappropriate or threatening and choosing to challenge it. I have the personality, character and experience that comes with maturity to do this. It doesn’t mean it is easy it just means I have the courage to do this. If you do not feel comfortable doing this directly, then get someone to help you such as a friend or someone in authority.

I am sure there will be haha, maybe I could use this to raise even more funds !

I will be carrying personal equipment only as the Trek uses certified National Park guides and porters as part of sustainable trekking as it assists the local economy and provides training and fair wages to the locals. The Trek covers 5 ecological zones roughly every 1000m in altitude so it is like trekking from the equator to Antarctica in the short time of the 8-day trek on the Machame route.

I am a seafarer so in reality, the grub could be anything and I would still eat it haha.

I use one pair of socks. Years back in the military when I would do expeditions and field craft we were taught blister control and foot hygiene. You are on your feet the greater part of the day so they will be my number one concern throughout the trek. Dry feet in top-quality socks and broken-in boots that fit and provide ankle support.

Over eight days we ascend to the 5895m summit and this is completed in daily chunks of approximately 7-8km. To alleviate altitude sickness we ascend gradually and will actually descend slightly at night to camp.

I would say altitude sickness. It does not matter if you are an athlete or have average fitness it will be altitude sickness that will prevent you from achieving your aims. There is the same percentage of oxygen at altitude but because of the increase in pressure less oxygen enters your lungs with each breath. That is why it is a trek and not a race, more endurance really as side effects of altitude sickness are headaches, shortness of breath and fatigue.

Shower haha that will probably be a necessity! Then it will be to download my photos and send messages out to my sponsors and the supporting maritime community.

Thank my wife for tolerating me … not only my life as a seafarer but putting up with my mad fundraising ideas. After that I will enjoy hearing what the Safer Waves guys manage to achieve with the donations. I am sure it will be for research, keeping up the great work with the website and email support service and I hope means you can reach even more seafarers and be able to meet where the need is great in as many different ways possible.

You can support Gordon on his amazing adventure by donating on JUST GIVING