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Climbing for a cause: Haileybury sisters summit Kilimanjaro

Embodying the values of Haileybury, sisters Ella and Lyla dedicated their winter break to supporting the conservation of Arabian Sea humpback whales by conquering the tallest mountain in Africa. 

Sisters Ella (Year 11, Lawrence) and Lyla (Year 9, Lawrence) took on the formidable challenge of Mount Kilimanjaro, not just for the thrill but for a cause close to their hearts. Their mission: to help save the endangered Arabian Sea humpback whales, leading them to raise over £10,000 for the Environment Society of Oman (ESO). 

Ella’s visit to Ras Al Jinz, Oman’s turtle beach is what sparked her passion for environmental sustainability and led the sisters to initially raise $5,000 USD for the ESO Turtle Research and Conservation efforts. Not only was witnessing an endangered species a catalyst for their sense of social responsibility, but both Haileyburians have long drawn inspiration from their paternal grandmother, who has dedicated her life to social work and welfare causes. This example of service is the reason Lyla has always donated her earnings and gifts to disadvantaged populations and why she received an award from the Near East South Asian Council for Overseas Schools (NESA) in 2022. 

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It was their many trips to Tanzania where Mount Kilimanjaro loomed in their sights that inspired the pupils to tackle the climb and seek sponsorship in support of humpback whale conservation. With their mother Jesal by their side, Ella and Lyla meticulously prepared for over two months, packing equipment for all eventualities, and mentally and physically preparing to embark on the 8-day Lemosho trail. 

“The biggest challenge was summit day. Waking up at 11pm and steep climbing for 6 and a half hours, functioning on a slice of toast, with less than 5 minute breaks every hour was hard. Ultimately, it was very rewarding. Though these challenges were difficult to overcome, physically and mentally, I am an explorer at heart and I love to take on challenges. I learned to never give up and that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and if you have a whole community supporting you.” – Ella

The journey unveiled the stunning terrains of Afromontane forests, glacial valleys, and alpine deserts, however, it was not without challenges. From rapidly changing weather conditions to the mentally testing nature of ‘pole, pole’ (meaning ‘slowly, slowly’ in Swahili), to ensure proper acclimatisation to altitude. It was hot and wet during the day, and very cold during at night, making sleeping on the mountain especially tough. every step they took was a testament of their determination to make an impact.

Evenings on the mountain brought enlightening talks with fellow trekkers about the impacts of climate change, emphasising their mission’s importance and further fuelling the family’s impressive feat.

“The climb taught me resilience and the value of perseverance. As we eye future challenges, this journey’s lessons stay with us,” Lyla shared. Ella and Lyla’s journey is far from over as they continue to explore, push themselves and look to climb the next summit for an equally meaningful cause.