Eglinton businesswoman Julianna Ayton to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

A Derry woman is to fulfil a long held dream to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and raise money for a charity close to her heart.

Friday, 16th July 2021, 1:54 pm

Julianna Ayton, who runs two local cafes, has wanted to climb the African peak for more than a decade. 

However, the 29-year-old has had to do a huge amount of research and planning to take on the challenge of the world’s highest single free-standing mountain.

“I have Type 1 diabetes, so even though I have thought about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro many times, the thought of becoming unwell or taking a hypo on the mountain always put me off,” Julianna explained.

The Eglinton businesswoman was diagnosed with diabetes as a child and doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t insulin dependent.

She was initially inspired to take on Mount Kilimanjaro after watching celebrities take on the challenge for Comic Relief over a decade ago.

“At the time I was only a teenager. I have done a bit of mountain climbing, but thought there was no way in hell I could do it because of my diabetes.

“I had so many questions like whether my blood sugar sensor and monitor would work on the peak, as there is no mobile phone reception, or what would happen if I did become unwell and had to get back off the mountain.”

Julianna’s anxieties have been eased after researching and reading the accounts of other diabetics who have taken on the challenge.

“Every other year, I would go back to thinking about climbing the mountain and doing more research. I was driving myself insane, but I got the answers to what would happen if I became unwell and who would look after me.”

Julianna finally bit the bullet and booked the trip after watching a film called Sherpa.

“I just did it. I have been at death’s door more than once as a result of my diabetes and I am very much about taking every opportunity that comes along, because you don’t know how long you are going to be here.”

She added that the global pandemic of the last 18 months has made her more determined to ‘take every chance’.

Julianna, who owns Cloud 9 in Eglinton, has recently opened another cafe in Greencastle, Cafe Storm, and is planning to open an ice cream parlour and bakery in Eglinton in the near future.

“It has been a crazy, busy time and I struggle more with my diabetes now because I live a stressful, hectic life. I try to keep as healthy as I can, go to the gym everyday and eat a healthy diet.”

Julianna will be travelling to Mount Kilimanjaro with her boyfriend Matthew Norrby in October.

“It is not something Matthew ever wanted to do, but he knows how much it means to me and we will be doing it for a very worthy cause.”

The couple will be raising money for the chairty Rays of Sunshine, which grants wishes to children will terminal or life limiting illnesses.

“It is a charity I feel really connected to,” Julianna explains. “I lost my wee cousin Finlay Marriot to an inoperable brain tumour. He was just nine-years-old. He got a wish granted through another charity and played football with Manchester United and was able to meet footballers like David Beckham. It gave him a wee spark and I want any child who doesn’t have long left to have that experience.”

Julianna and Matthew are in the process of organising a huge raffle in aid of the charity and have set themselves a target of raising £20,000.

“The prizes include Louis Vuitton handbag, YSL handbag, a weekend for two in the Westbury hotel in Dublin, Apple watches and Air Pods, as well as a food hamper, skincare and hair hampers.”

The prize for the raffle, which will be launched next month, is worth £4,500 and tickets will cost £20 each.

In the meantime, Julianna and Matthew are training for their challenge by doing regular high intensity workouts and lots of walking to strengthen their legs and feet.

“Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro will put me completely out of my comfort zone,” Julianna said. “But, I spoke to a friend who climbed Everest and what he said keeps me going and will stay with me.

“He told me that it will be the best experience of my life and although it will be tough, once I reach the peak and come back down off the mountain there will be no feeling like it.”