As a bunch of celebrities tackle Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief, two York women tell us what it's really like to climb Africa's highest mountain

ALTITUDE sickness, stomach bugs, sleep deprivation and vertigo were just some of the hurdles two York businesswomen overcame on a trek up Kilimanjaro which raised £30,000 for charity.

Tricia Sherriff and Hayley McAllister of She Loves York were among a group of nine Yorkshire businesswomen who climbed the 5,895-metre mountain last month in aid of several good causes including St Leonard's Hospice.

For Tricia and Hayley – the duo behind the popular She Loves York lifestyle membership discount card – it was a case of swapping stilettos for hiking boots, as they gave up their glamorous lifestyles for a gruelling week on the mountainside.

Tricia, who suffers from chronic fatigue as well as a fear of heights, said: "One of my biggest worries was about going to the loo – but it only took a day to get over that!"

Tricia admits she was very worried about falling ill during the climb; ironically, she was fine, but business partner Hayley was struck down, firstly by a tummy bug that swept through the camp, and then by altitude sickness.

Hayley said: "I felt sick and had a vice-like headache and my breathing felt tight. I just tried to relax and not think about it – otherwise that would make it worse."

Tricia added: "If anything, the illness slowed everyone down and helped us with the altitude because it gave us more time to acclimatise."

York Press:

AND THEY ARE OFF: Tricia and Hayley join seven other Yorkshire businesswoman to scale Kilimanjaro

Altitude sickness is a serious, debilitating condition that can be life-threatening. Most people who attempt to climb Kilimanjaro will encounter altitude sickness, as did most of the celebrities who scaled the mountain last week for Comic Relief.

Hayley and Tricia set off on their adventure at the end of January, joining a larger group attempting the ascent in an expedition organised by Action Challenge.

They spent six days on the climb and two days on the descent.

During the ascent, they went through various terrains, from rainforest to scrambling rock faces and barren landscapes. "It was like the moon – or Mars," adds Tricia.

One of the hardest parts of the climb for Tricia was coping with the Barranco Wall, which requires climbers to use their hands and feet to get to the top of the 257-metre-high rock face.

"I have vertigo and I am not very tall so I had a disadvantage," begins Tricia. "That was the worst bit for me – and it would be for anyone who was scared of heights. There was a 500-foot drop and I had to make a leap of faith. I just had to do it and when you have lots of people cheering you on, you do it! That was the most challenging physical part for me – for others, it was their favourite bit, because it was just like rock climbing."

For Hayley, living under canvas was one of the hardest parts. "I don't like camping," she says, firmly. But the toughest challenge came on the ascent day.

"That is definitely the most gruelling part," she adds. "They make you do it through the night because the odds of summiting are higher."

Tricia takes up the story: "We left at 11pm to begin the walk to the summit and I had a bit of a panic attack because I had seven layers on my top half due to it being minus-15."

York Press:

WORTH IT: Tricia and Hayley loved watching the sunrise during the ascent to the summit

However, as the last leg of the climb progressed, the walkers encountered a real treat.

Hayley said: "We got to see the sunrise, and it was stunning." Tricia added:" Yes, the last bit was just lovely, with the sun coming up."

They said it was "amazing" to reach the top after the six-day trek, but they couldn't enjoy it too much, because they were exhausted and still had to get back down. By this point, the major hurdle they faced was tiredness because the climbing schedule did not allow for a lot of sleep.

Now safely back at work in their office in York, the women reflect on their achievement and how much they have raised for good causes through the climb.

Tricia said: "It was the hardest thing I'd ever done. I spent the year before being scared stiff about it. But now I'll never ever say I can't do something again."

Hayley said: "When you get back, you feel invincible."

Kilimanjaro - fact file

Located in Tanzania, it is the highest mountain in Africa,

It stands 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) above sea level

A dormant volcano, it has three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira

The first people known to have reached the summit of the mountain were Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller in 1889.

The mountain is part of the Kilimanjaro National Park and is a major climbing destination.

There are seven official trekking routes by which to ascend and descend Kilimanjaro.

Some 35,000 people attempt to climb Kilimanjaro every year with 85 per cent of people managing to reach the summit.

One to watch...

A documentary following the nine celebrities (including Strictly Come Dancing head judge Shirley Ballas, former Labour MP Ed Balls, Love Island’s Dani Dyer, BBC Breakfasts’ Dan Walker and Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock) will be shown on Wednesday, March 13 at 9pm on BBC One. The total money raised by their efforts will be revealed during Red Nose Day on Friday, March 15.