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‘I thought my head was going to explode… I could not breathe’

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Robbie Savage

Robbie Savage was rushed to hospital as his attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro almost went tragically wrong.

The Wales star-turned football pundit was trying to climb the highest mountain in Africa to raise money for charity, but made it just 12,000ft up the 19,341ft peak in Tanzania.

Rescue workers scrambled to the scene after the former Leicester City star collapsed with "critically-low" oxygen levels in his bloodstream and fluid on his lungs after developing serious altitude sickness.

It took eight hours to get him off the mountain, but once he had returned to lower elevation the former Strictly Come Dancing contestant made a full recovery.

"I thought my head was going to explode, I felt dizzy and couldn't breathe," said Savage.

"There were no problems until we got to 3,000m (9,800ft), when I was sick and got a crunching headache.

"I didn't want to give up, so I pushed on to the next camp at 3,600m - but I crashed out with a headache and sickness.

"I tried to push on to the next camp at 4,300m, but I got worse.

"I was told if I had pushed on, I could have been seriously ill and died."

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world - i.e. the highest relative to the land around it - but is a favourite choice for charity climbs since its relatively gentle slopes make it ideal for novice mountaineers.

Yet despite the fact that it can be walked (as opposed to climbed), even seasoned mountaineers consider it a physically very tough challenge, which claims several lives each year.

Savage, whose climb was in aid of a gambling charity, was dismayed at falling victim to altitude sickness.

"I'm absolutely gutted I didn't make it to the top," he added, before explaining that even when he was on his way back down the mountain he was still in danger.

"On the descent down my guide said we have to be quick to miss the animal crossing of lions, buffalo and elephants which was not great news!" he chuckled.

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Mount Kilimanjaro

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