That was THE most physically and mentally challenging thing I have EVER done in my life!!! Ken also made it.. though the guides were placing bets he wasn’t going to make it. Not many people over the age of 50 attempt it. He did it..and just days away from his 55th birthday!
The first 3 & 1/2 days I thought were quite easy. We trekked uphill through forest, moorland and lava fields. I enjoyed some of the bouldering and scrambling. We were usually one of the first people to make it to camp each day. That all changed when the last part of the 4th day hit and we were climbing into 15,000 feet altitudes at 45 degree or steeper angles with 18 lbs day packs.
The climate went from me wearing shorts and a yoga top to long, hiking pants, multiple layers on top, a fleece sweater and a hat. I didn’t want to wear my winter coat until summit day. The temperature went down to the 30’s at night. We slept in a little gray tent and stayed warm inside our sleeping bags.
On Day 5 (Absolute HARDEST), Wednesday, we woke up a little after midnight and dressed in thermal leggings and tops, multiple layers of long sleeve shirts and our $20 Walmart sale, triple layer winter coats. We got our gear ready and left by 12:50am. It was snowing like crazy and windy. Very cold. My water line in my day pack’s hydration tube froze!! My new watch stopped registering the temperature half way up. Last reading was 20F degrees. It was a slow climb with very carefully placed, small steps to navigate around the narrow ledges and slippery snow covered rocks. It was pitch black, not many stars and we could only see 5 feet in front of us from the illumination of our headlamps. You didn’t want to look up to see how far ahead the other climbers were as it just reminded you of how much further you had to go. Instead I focused looking only at my guides feet shuttle up the mountain.
It was VERY hard to breath. My heart rate is normally 58-60 beats a minute at sea level. It went to 85 beats resting at 15,000 feet. When we started climbing the final 4,000 feet, it was at a constant 150 beats +. It took 5 hours and 40 minutes to climb the final 4+ miles and 4,000 feet to the Uhuru Peak, of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain peak on the continent of Africa. We made it in time for the sunrise and it was beautiful!!!! God we were exhausted and cold. Happy we made it. We took some pictures at the Uhuru Peak sign and lets just say, part of my mom will forever remain on the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro…in addition to inside one of the 7 Wonders of the World in Rome (some of you will know what I am talking about)…Anyway, we only stayed for 10 minutes at the top as we were physically exhausted and it was going to take another 2+ hours to get down the steep, 4 miles we just climbed…then we had another 8 miles to descend later that day to another camp. Long day!
Anyway, we finished yesterday and received our Gold Certificates for climbing. Apparently 1/3 of the climbers who were to summit that day didn’t make it to the top. Three even had to be taken down on stretchers. Can’t imagine how the porters managed that feat.
We got back to Arusha late in the afternoon yesterday. I wanted to email last night, but a storm came through and knocked out the Internet.
We are heading off to our trekking safari and will be out of reach until 2/23. I appreciate all the e-mails everyone is sending and wish I could reply to everyone. Internet is very slow and spotty.