David Price-Hughes
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David Price-Hughes - Other Outward Bound Centre, 1959

In1959 the government of Uganda invited employees to enrol as temporary instructors as the Outward Bound School at Loitokitok (Mount Kilimanjaro). There were three of us temporaries; myself, and RC priest called Peter, and the son of the Senior Minister in the Uganda government, surname Cartland.
I can’t remember how long the course lasted, but most of the days were spent on expeditions, assault course training, rock climbing with ropes and abseiling. As well as all of this we went swimming in fairly icy pools and spent a night al fresco, in which the instructors had the comfort of a rock cave, while the lads had to make their own shelters from any vegetation they could find. One lad, Johnson Githae, fashioned a complete set of furniture with identification labels. I was very grateful for this, as I went out after midnight to ensure that everyone was alright, got hopelessly lost and at last stumbles upon Johnson’s furniture which told me where I was!
These preliminary days were spent in order for everyone to become used to the altitude and I, for one, didn’t realise until the final assault on the mountain just how valuable this acclimatisation had been.
At last the final day came for the final assault on Kilimanjaro, which involved spending the night on the ground by the base camp hut. Hamilton warned us that the hut was meant to contain a stove and facilities for cooking an evening meal. However, that was often rifled, and indeed we found it that way. On my suggestion, we poured paraffin on to the buckets of sand and having lit it cooked our meal in a thick cloud of acrid smoke which lent a peculiar taste to the food.
We were not alone in the hut: the C.O. of the Marines on HSM Bulwark, in harbour at Mombasa, has decided it would be a good idea to do a trip up and down the mountain with a few of his officers. Unfortunately the altitude had defeated him and all but one of his officers, and they were in a sorry state in the hut when we arrived. Naturally the C.O. was concerned about the one officer who had continued to climb when the rest turned back, and was in contact with Bulwark by radio. He found the task so demanding that he handed the equipment to Hamilton and me to deal with the situation as we saw fit. We thus found ourselves in the exalted position of giving orders to one of Her Majesty’s warships.
At some unearthly hour, in order to be at the summit by sunrise we began the final climb equipped with ice-axes etc. Kilimanjaro is a walk, a very steep walk on loose scree – six steps forward, two steps sliding back. We climbed about 25 steps, stopped for a breather, another two lots of 25 steps then sat down for a minute for two. Naturally after each sit-down there were several who begged to be allowed to give up and go back. I was not feeling so good myself so the pointed end of my ice-axe was used, I’m afraid, as an instant persuader to continue, with the happy result that we all got to the top whereupon I was thanked and embraced by the ‘prodees’ for getting them there.
Having reached the summit, all the while keeping my eyes skinned for the missing Marines Officer, I spotted him asleep in a snow hole. He was not immediately grateful for my waking him and ordering him down to the hut using the authority invested in me by his C.O.
Going down was a very different business: running down steep scree is a pretty exciting and speedy experience – one or two minutes compared to the hours of climbing!
On our last night at Loitokitok all the instructors went for an India meal at the local duka (shop). Having served in the Indian Army during the war, I was still fairly fluent in Urdu and has asked the shopkeeper if he could provide a meal. It was a wonderful feast, cooked by his wife, and all of our efforts to pay were rejected – although we did insist on paying for the beer that we had drunk.