Pre-Trip: There is no beautiful reason I decided to climb Kilimanjaro. I wish I could say I did this for a worthy cause, fulfilling a childhood dream or even to overcome some personal struggle, however, the truth is simple. I decided to attempt this climb because...why not? Too many things are overthought, overcomplicated and thus, never done.
Fast forward to me walking into the kitchen at home and announcing I was flying to Africa to climb a mountain. Naturally my parents swarmed me armed with hundreds of questions, most of them perfectly valid inquires about logistics and safety. However, to their disappointment, they were met with my automated response to any issue — "i'll figure it out."
Journey to Africa: I will be succinct and say I got MAD food poising on my flights out to Tanzania. Bodily fluids everywhere except in my body. My second flight was a 12-hour flight from Amsterdam to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and guess what? Turns out it IS physically possible to throw up 11 times within that 12-hour window. Talk about clutch timing. *champagne emoji*
Climbing Days 1-6: The climb up to the base of Kili took six full, 8-10 hour days. Luckily, this is a low grade climb when it comes to technical skill, but the challenge comes with dealing with the extremely high altitude. The summit of Kili clocks in at 19,341 feet. To give an example of the strain on your lungs at that altitude, here is a handy chart that shows how there is only 10.1% of effective oxygen located at the altitude.
continued... Anyways, the oxygen situation actually did not seem that bad in person. Figuring out I was adapting fairly well was a big breath of fresh air.
I was climbing with a group of climbers from Australia, Belgium, Mexico and the UK, so personalities were anything but boring. My tentmate, Andre, was a strong, Eastern European climber who has climbed K2 and is heading out to Everest next year..so yes, I felt under qualified.
There isn't too much to write about the actual approach climb, but an average day would be the following: (multiply this day by 6 and you have a pretty good picture of the journey.)
6 AM - Wake up, have tea, pack up the tents and bags.
8 AM - 5/6 PM - You guessed it! Climbing. Usually 3-4,000 ft a day.
6 PM - Dinner of potatoes, soup, and our altitude medications. During dinner is also when we would play cards and win money from a stock broker named Aiden who was climbing and categorically awful at card games.
8 PM - Straight snooze.
During these days though, I was provided with the ultimate time to reflect. The climb came at a good time, because I was deciding where to move and go to law school, so stress was my trusty sidekick during the lead up to this. However, this is exactly what I needed to really decide what direction I want my life to go, where to do it and who I want around me.
Not all my realizations were as substantial as that though. I also figured out that I had forgotten to take my anti-malaria medication throughout my time in Africa. #YOLO?
Summit Push: We were woken up at midnight to begin the 9+ hour push to the top of Kilimanjaro! Spoiler alert, this was the worst day of my life. Before the climb, I was really excited for the manly image of waking up at midnight in frigid, blustery winds and climbing into the heavens, but my God I take it back. Besides it being awful, I would also never take it back. It was one of the most surreal nights and I am sure that only a few experiences will ever come close to beating that in my future.
The logistics of the summit push were simple. Us climbers got in a line according to ability and literally just marched up the mountain until we got to the top. Simple, in theory. Well, around 4 AM, I just decided to stop and sit down in the middle of crag, because I had had enough climbing. It was less than 10 degrees, I was wearing seven layers and I couldn't see more than two feet in front of me. I was prepared to turn around and start making up excuses as to why I could not reach the top.
However, this is where my tentmate enters. Mr. Everest comes up and grabs my backpack straps and pulls me to my feet and yells, "What are you going to tell that beautiful girl back home? That you couldn't finish because you're not a man?!" Well, good point. I wasn't about to see that "beautiful girl" who I was trying to court at the time and say I didn't make it. [Sidenote: got to the top and got the girl.] With the proper motivation now in my head, I trudged to the summit without a second thought and me and my tentmate were the first team to summit.
Summited: I've seen beauty before. I've seen breathtaking landscapes. However, I have never worked so hard, for so long to see the sun lighting up the clouds while standing on a glacier. I am not sure if I will ever climb higher than this, but I can say that I am glad I did and I see how much better it is the closer you climb up to the heavens.