Teen reaches African summit

TOP OF AFRICA: Brendon and Max Bainbridge at the top of Kilimanjaro.
TOP OF AFRICA: Brendon and Max Bainbridge at the top of Kilimanjaro.

A 13-year-old Aucklander may have become the youngest Kiwi to climb Africa's highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro.

Waiheke Island resident Max Bainbridge was offered a trip of a lifetime for his 13th birthday by his father Brendon.

He picked Africa, hoping for a safari. His father agreed but added a twist. How did Max fancy climbing one of the world's seven highest peaks?

Max and his father had completed a few hikes but nothing on the scale of Mt Kilimanjaro, yet he still agreed.

They spent a night in Erbegan at the base of the mountain before starting the eight-day climb, on September 24, using guides and porters.

The wildlife and trees disappeared below them after three days.

"It looked like a lunar landscape," Max said.

The pair and fellow climbers used existing camps each night. They had a bowl of hot water to wash off the layers of dust, and a cup of Milo for breakfast, every morning.

Max said the ascent was hard "but in different ways than you might imagine".

"It was very cold and very high. On the fifth day we were like 'we can't do this' and for the last three days it was hard to breathe."

He vomited and suffered dehydration on the last push to the top.

"We went to bed at 5pm, started the final ascent at 10.30pm and got to the top about 8am. We were going so incredibly slowly you could crawl faster."

The peak wasn't quite how Max imagined it would be.

"I was looking forward to old wooden signs and was disappointed by the green ones."

Max said the achievement was "the biggest challenge of my life".

He has now applied to do the Duke of Edinburgh award at his school, Takapuna Grammar, and has other treks in his sights, including Peru's Machu Picchu.

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