5th January 2016 was the day I reached the 5895m mark of Africa’s highest free standing mountain – Kilimanjaro. I still remember the day I told my parents what I had decided to take on as my challenge that year and their reaction was, “Are you sure? Its a mountain you’re talking about”. I thought “if others can do it why not me?” Although many share common, positive experiences about climbing Kilimanjaro, none fail to mention summit night being the hardest physical night they had to live through… It was!
It was a dark, clear, cold night (-20° to be exact) when our physical capabilities were put to the test. Until Barafu camp (4600m) all seemed good. We had just over 1000m to go. We set off just before midnight, for our 8-hour long trek. A trail of headlamps from hundreds of people slowly made their way up at a ‘’moon-walk’’ pace, disappearing at a distant. The altitude sickness – nausea, lightheadedness and tiredness, quickly set in, my backpack felt heavier than it did the past 7 days and, unfortunately, I had to leave my group earlier on in the trek when one of the guides decided it was best to move at a slower pace together.
The few moments I picture clearly from the night were the immense tiredness, not having the energy to unzip and access my water pipe to keep me hydrated and the strong winds, which my guide tried to help shield from me but could not continue doing as I kept sleep walking and losing him, due to the lack of oxygen and lightheadedness. Before being hit by a blizzard at Stella Point (5685m) a highlight I remember clearly is the sun rising up on the edge of the mountain and my team further ahead singing “Xemx” that gave me encouragement to keep pushing on. Although I was told to stop at Stella Point, after a short break and rehydrating, I continued my way to Uhuru Peak with the encouragement of my team and help of my guide. The last 100m took over half an hour to complete until I finally summited the highest point of Africa!
The biggest highlight of this experience to me was summiting with a group of 8 Americans with amputees who we spent our 8 daylong journey with and who taught me so much about persevering. Reaching the peak beats all other emotions of the climb as it was physically the toughest night and nothing I can share will truly prepare anyone for it because its a unique experience to everyone. After walking through four seasons of weather, as well as a variety of vegetation, I saw the most beautiful view I have ever seen. A perfect experience to connect with nature and disconnect with the world, it was a time to reflect and taught me to persevere despite life’s overwhelming obstacles.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWy262ngXIo – Cloudwalkers