Teenager conquers mountain

MOUNTAINEERS: Jan Arnold and her daughter, Sarah Arnold-Hall, are back from a trip to Africa, which included climbing  Mt Kilimanjaro.
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MOUNTAINEERS: Jan Arnold and her daughter, Sarah Arnold-Hall, are back from a trip to Africa, which included climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.

Sarah Arnold-Hall, 15, the daughter of New Zealand mountaineer Rob Hall, has climbed the highest peak in Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro, with her mother, Jan Arnold.

The mother and daughter took eight days to climb the 5895-metre peak as part of a three-week trip to Africa last month.

Speaking from their Richmond home, the pair said the climb had been hard work, but extremely rewarding.

Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world and every year an estimated 30,000 people make the arduous, but not technically challenging climb. By comparison, Mt Cook is 3754m.

Sarah, an engaging, confident year 10 student at Waimea College, said the last day of the climb where they climbed through the night was especially tiring and the altitude was tough.

She said she was glad of the help of her Tanzanian guide, Michael, who had sung to her to encourage her to keep going.

"I was very tired, I practically sleep-walked up. He was a really big help.

"Someone said the last day is like trying to climb three Empire State Buildings on a 16-degree angle, and on one lung," she said.

When she was 10 she visited Mt Everest's base camp at 5364m, but said she found the extra 500m altitude on Mt Kilimanjaro much harder.

Sarah's father died on Mt Everest nine weeks before she was born. An expedition leader, he was trapped 200m from the south summit of Mt Everest in a deadly storm with a client.

Eight climbers died in that storm and before he died Mr Hall called Dr Arnold in Christchurch via satellite phone telling her not too worry too much and to "sleep well, my sweetheart".

Sarah's father and his climbing partner, Gary Ball, also climbed Kilimanjaro in 1990 when they climbed the Seven Summits in seven months.

But, as Sarah and Dr Arnold gently imply, the fact she completed the climb is not a cue for reporters to write, as some have done in the past, that Sarah is following in her famous father's footsteps.

Dr Arnold, who climbed Mt Everest in 1993 with Mr Hall, is keen to continue climbing. But Sarah is up-front in that she doesn't necessarily share her parents' love of climbing.

She has her eyes on Paris as her next overseas destination, and among other things would like to see the Eiffel Tower.

"We could climb that," she suggests to her mum, laughing.

Sarah says she is interested in fashion and design, but at 15 is still unsure what career she wants to pursue.

"When I was younger I was really into making things. I always wanted to make robots, I used to make things out of cardboard."

Dr Arnold says Sarah's father was much more than a climber.

"He was a designer and entrepreneur and by age 23 he had 12 people working for him manufacturing tents and packs. He had quite another side to him."

The pair's three-week African trip had three distinct parts.

The first week was spent on safari where they had the thrill of seeing Africa's wild animals in their natural setting.

They spent the next eight days trekking on Mt Kilimanjaro, and a final "tacked on" week relaxing in Zanzibar.

They both agree they earned that week after climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever done," Sarah says. "It definitely was."

The Nelson Mail