I decided I was going to give climbing Mount Kilimanjaro a try. Never mind that I live at sea level or that I have never climbed a mountain. How hard could summiting the world’s 4th highest mountain be? I would soon find out.
My travel partner and I arrived in Moshi, Tanzania and walked around town hoping a tour agency would stand out among the many. We ended up going with a local tour operator, Nyange Tours. The tour owner, Praise, took us to a warehouse to pick out gear for the summit. The next morning we started our hike up Kilimanjaro’s Coca Cola route.
We were picked up from our hotel at around 9:30 am. It took about 1 hour to arrive at the park entrance. The first day’s hike was climbing from 2000 meters to 3000. Afterwards, we followed a slight uphill trail for 3-4 hours. Then we arrived at the first camp ground, Mandara Huts. We had tea time and shortly after a ridiculously large carbs filled dinner. The first night and we got our own hut, hooray! The night was uneventful aside from having to get up 4 times to pee. Btw prepare those calves for squat toilets and for going outside for any business you may have to do.
It takes 6-7 hours to get to the second hut, Hobori hut. The vegetation changes from forest to low bushes. The climb is a bit steeper than the first day but still comfortable enough that I didn’t feel tortured or sore the next morning. Once you approach the second camp you are now above the clouds. The second camp is much more crowded so you are likely to share a hut. We shared the hut with an Australian girl that said she did not summit because she got altitude sickness heading to the third camp, base camp. The second camp is very windy and the the huts shake from the wind hitting so hard. My advice is to sleep with warm clothing and enjoy the messages carved in the huts from your hiking ancestors.
This is our acclimatizing day on the mountain. We walk up to 4,000 meters, to the zebra rocks. We relax at zebra rocks for about 20 minutes and afterwards we head up a very steep trail to 4,150 meters. We can now see the summit trail from afar and the third and final campground. It feels closer than ever. We head down to camp again. Today is a relax day. We have tea and right after another immense dinner.
The hike is 7-8 hours today. The walk is long and uphill but not steep. It feels like it never ends. I feel exhausted, my feet are sore. The blisters on my heels are really hurting. It is cold, very cold, we are now in the desert. For over 2 hours you can see base camp but it seems you never get any closer.
Finally we make it. It is so cold, I am shaking violently. There are no longer huts but a stone building with several rooms. Each room has space for 12 people. Our room is full. 2 young Koreans are laying in their bunks in pain from altitude sickness. One Korean is rubbing his temples and has his head down, a sign that he has a terrible migraine. They have already decided they won’t attempt to summit. My travel partner also has been feeling the altitude. In bed I wear all my clothes yet I have never felt so
cold. Ever! I can’t sleep. My head is throbbing. At 11pm we are told to begin getting ready to summit. From our room we are the only two summiting. I put on every article of clothing I brought with me. I try to be positive. My partner’s nausea persists. We begin to ascend in complete darkness…
Day 5 THE SUMMIT
My guide holds my hand, romantic, I know, and we walk back to Gillman preparing to descend. It takes me 4 hours to get down including several falls. My legs barely function. I surf the sand down. My porters are waiting with a hug, apple juice and a CONGRATULATIONS. I feel good, happy, I did it. I summited!!! Back at camp we rest for an hour, eat lunch, which I devoured and start walking back to Hibori camp. This takes another four hours but we get to sleep from 7pm to 6am, the best sleep of my life.
Day 6 Final Day
FAREWELL DAY, Our team sings us the Kilimanjaro song, I practiced the song on my way up so I sing along