Girl from Highgate Synagogue becomes youngest ever to climb Kilimanjaro

A 12-year-old from Highgate Synagogue has completed a five-day trek to become the youngest ever British female to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Antonia Salem climbed Africa’s highest mountain with her mum Lara instead of having a traditional Bat Mitzvah celebration.

Family and friends have donated money to charity rather than giving presents – helping Antonia to raise £7,500 for Epilepsy Action and the Amani Children’s Home.

But despite being the youngest in the climbing group, Antonia was often at the front of the pack during the trek up the 6,000-metre peak in Tanzania last month.

Antonia, who attends the Jewish Community Secondary School in New Barnet, said: “The first day was boiling hot and we were walking in the sun on a dirt track.

“I got so tired after four hours that I thought I couldn’t do it – but we carried on.

“I found it easier being at the front of the group because we got longer breaks while we waited for the rest of the group to catch up.

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“The scenery was amazing, especially on the way down. We saw the rainforest and walked through clouds.”

Due to the searing heat, the group climbed the final stretch during the night when temperatures dropped.

Mountain guides escorted the climbers and helped carry camping equipment and food along the way.

But many people who take on the climb suffer altitude sickness, including headaches and vomiting.

Luckily for Antonia and her mum, who live in Tivoli Road, Crouch End, neither experienced any sickness and powered on through to the very end – climbing a total of 5,895 metres.

“We had to get up at 11pm and climb to the top until 8am,” said Antonia. “Walking in the dark seemed like we were going nowhere – but the sunrise was amazing.”

To prepare, Antonia and her mum jogged around Kenwood Park and did plenty of skipping in the back garden to boost their fitness.

It was perhaps a little easier for Antonia, who regularly trains at Highgate Harriers running club and plays in her school netball team.

For mum Lara, it was her second time climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, having completed the gruelling trail 16 years ago.

She and her daughter made the decision to do the climb about a year ago. They chose to raise money for Epilepsy Action following the death of Lara’s brother-in-law from the condition.

“I thought Antonia would enjoy it – she likes a challenge,” said Lara. “I’m very proud of her for doing this. She did really well for mucking in and getting on with it.”

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