|Hiking||45.02 Miles|| 23 Hrs 12 Mns ||1.94 mph|
|14,670 ft AEG|
||no linked trail guides|
|(Note- I wasn't sure how to add the acclimatization hikes as they ran over the main track so I cut them out of the gpx and added the stats to the totals.)
Back in December ‘14 I had made the long journey to Tanzania in hopes of summiting Kilimanjaro. Through a combination of illness and bad food, my dreams were derailed even before I stepped foot on the mountain. On the morning the climb was to begin, I was in my hotel room throwing up - repeatedly. Needless to say, the guides would not let me go.
For the most part, I had moved on from it. I was annoyed that I had trained for so long to get ready and couldn’t even put myself to the test, but that is life sometimes; nothing is guaranteed. I went on my way to living life, putting this failure behind me, until JJ brought it up sometime last year. He asked if I wanted to go give it another whirl.
The journey over was long, 29 hours long. I had started shifting to Tanzanian time (10 hours ahead) about a week or so before we departed. We also planned a short safari for the 2nd day we were in country, so I was hoping that was enough to get the jet lag bugs out before the climb started on the 3rd day.
Driving to the Marangu Gate and registering I was amped ready to go. Only thing is that we still had a 2 hour drive to the Rongai Gate. After registering, and buying a Coke, we loaded back up into the bus and began the trek over to Rongai. Along the way we ate a packed lunch that consisted of chicken (kuku) and various other odds and ends. I am not a huge fan of kuku but this was quite tasty. So much so that I am going to have to dig some to find this recipe for it.
Arriving at the gate we disembarked from the bus and loaded ourselves up with water. Starting up the trail, even though the pace was incredibly slow, it felt so amazing to actually be on the mountain. We marched through potato fields and corn before arriving at our first campsite. Upon arrival at the campsite the porters all stopped what they were doing to greet us with a song. It was pretty amazing.
At dinner that evening we were encouraged to eat and eat and eat. I took it to heart and ate way too much. Soon after dinner, John and I retired to our tent. John froze that evening but it wasn’t THAT cold. Ok, it was pretty cold, but I am more accustomed to it. Plus, a warm bottle of water shoved into the bottom of your sleeping bag works wonders!
I woke up around 4:30 or so. I had to pee all night but you really don’t want to get out of your warm cocoon to go take care of business. I somehow managed to fall back asleep, without making my way out of the sleeping bag. I sprung up awake around 6:20 or so. We were due to be woken up at 6:30 by the porters. Instantly, I felt lightheaded and the world spinning. I managed to get my shoes on and stumble outside of the tent. The world was still spinning. tarzan swing. I sat down at a nearby picnic table while the porters fixed me a cup of tea. I took the tea and started walking around. I made it back over by the camp hut and sat on a bench and watched the most amazing sunrise take place before me. All I could keep thinking about, however, is how in the hell is this happening again!?
After several minutes of sitting there, I realized that I had to get my stuff packed up inside the tent. I made my way back to the tent, climbed inside and told John that I almost puked out there. Started shuffling around in the tent and oh boy, I ripped back open the tent door and started smiling at the ground, as the guides put it. I made my way to mess tent afterwards and could not make any headway into eating breakfast. I excused myself and headed for the toilets and spent some time there excavating my innards.
I am not sure what happened; nerves, meds, food, altitude, but by the time we started hiking for the day, I started to feel better and better. By the end of the day I felt pretty good.
The acclimatization hikes were my least favorite part of this excursion. They are a necessity, however, IMHO. We learned that not all outfits make them mandatory. It is not that the hikes were hard, it is just so incredibly boring; but then again, what else are we supposed to do with our time? Each acclimation hike was an extremely slow and easy crawl up the mountain for a little over an hour.
The day we made our way to Kibo Hut @ ~15,000 feet, was quite an accomplishment but also one of the most mentally demanding days I have ever had. First we started with a 3.5 mile hike from 3rd cave to Kibo, which took roughly 5 hours and gained almost 3,000 feet of elevation. We arrived at Kibo, ate lunch, and were instructed to rest for the remainder of the day until dinner time. John decided to go on an adventure with one of the guides. I had a slight twinge of pain in an ancient injury and decided to rest it. I also had a slight headache so I figured that was the best option.
I couldn’t sleep. I just stayed in the tent and wrote a bunch. When John got back we chatted about his hike and he was in better spirits, having been able to stretch his legs. Heading to dinner everyone was passively excited. Once dinner was finished, and the sun began to set, people hurried back to their tents and started throwing on their layers for the nights summit attempts. It was cold. The nerves were jumping, but thankfully, we both found a few hours of sleep.
We both awoke before the porters came to our tent to wake us. It was dark and cold in the tent and my head was pounding but I just started throwing on my last few layers. Even with the headache I was legitimately excited by the opportunity that was presented before us. We had made it this far and we were about to get a chance to test our mettle. Heading over to the mess tent it seemed like everyone was in a daze a bit. I mentioned that we should be excited for this chance, half trying to pull everyone together, half trying to build up my own nerve.
The start time of 11:10 came and we were on our way up the mountain. The pace was slow and deliberate. Pole pole as the saying goes. I have never been a fan of hiking when I should be sleeping and the nausea set in rather quickly for me. Within the first couple of minutes I had a gut check in that I had to make sure I didn’t upchuck. Thankfully, I was able to keep my stomach contents down. Thanks to the Sports Beans John had given me, I also started to get a bit of energy once the nausea settled. We walked for roughly an hour before stopping for a short break. Everyone still seemed good so we continued onwards.
During the next segment we had a particularly scary incident occur. A team member was led, hand in hand, from the rear of our line to near the front by a concerned guide. Apparently he had been struggling a bit. In a few short minutes it would become evident just how much he was struggling. The group pulled up and the guides huddled around the stricken teammate. They asked him a bunch of questions to which he had no reply. In the confusion the lead guide called John up front, thinking it was his friend. Turns out, the altitude had rendered him near the point of losing consciousness. He had no recollection of where he was, how many fingers were flashed before him, or who he was. It was scary. Thankfully, the guides made the quick determination to give him oxygen and then hightail it back down the mountain with him. As the guides got him taken care of and started down the path, Davis (the lead guide) summoned the rest of the team to continue forth into the darkness.
As we climbed higher and higher you fought the urge to look up. When you did, you caught a glimpse of a trail of head torches gleaming away, seemingly forever. I would stare off along what I thought was the horizon, and hence the end of this segment of our journey, and try to figure out if the speck of light I was focusing on was a star or torch. If it was a star, then hooray! We were much closer than I realized. Unfortunately, they were never stars as they invariably began to move.
The pace we maintained was slow; very, very slow. It made breathing easy enough, but maintaining body heat was tough for the team. People were starting to get cold and started questioning if they would be able to make it at this pace. These grumblings eventually made it up to the lead guide and we stopped moving to discuss breaking up into two groups. For myself at least, I was perfectly fine temperature wise. I was actually slightly too hot and had unzipped a few layers. I was happy with the pace as I was pretty sure I could keep it up all day long. The only concern that I did have was with how slow it was and thus how long we were spending at altitude. The group eventually decided to stick together. Team Simba was a team and we weren’t going to change that.
The rest of the climb to Gilman’s Point was uneventful. We had one teammate become ill and came up a few minutes after everyone, but the 8 of us remaining all made it. According to all the reading I had done, all the countless hours scouring people's blogs about the climb, once you reached the top of the crater, the real work was done. I was feeling downright jovial at this point. Holy hell, I had been redeemed from my previous failure!
We drank ginger tea, the guides drank some sort of non-alcoholic beer energy drink. Soon we were on our way. Our slow pace was still intact. We gawked at the views of the crater below us, we were downright jovial. It was only a little over a mile to Uhuru Peak and the Rooftop of Africa!
Upon pulling up to Stella Point, however, I felt a bit off. I started to develop a severe headache. It felt like someone had put a vice around my temples and began squeezing it, tighter and tighter. At Stella Point, I popped some pain meds to hopefully alleviate the pain. It did not work. Onward we went.
In all of that research I did, and the information I found about once you reach the crater rim the hard work is over, I never once stumbled across anything talking about the false summits. I lost count but there were several. And they sucked. I just kept my head down, Pole, Pole, and stopped when I had to stop. The team encouraged me to keep going. I had made it this far and was so very close. The pain was immense but there was no way I was going to stop.
When the famous sign came into view I became emotional. I couldn’t believe that it was right there in front of me. We had made it! Wow!
We spent several minutes up there taking pictures and congratulating one another. When it was finally time to descend I decided that I had enough of the elevation and started my way down like I was coming off of Flatiron. I knew that I had to get down lower to start feeling better. The guides called out but myself and a teammate were feeling it bad so we took off together. Eventually, a guide caught up to us around Stella Point.
Overall, my life will never be the same. This was a trip of lifetime. The culture, the pain, the friendships forged, the struggles, the triumphant; it was the most alive I have ever felt. I can not wait for the next adventure.