This week has been an account of my time climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, and while the first two days were recorded in excruciating details for you, the last 5 days were unfortunately not – sadly I guess I was too exhausted as the climbs became more difficult to keep a diary. So this is an overview of the best and the rest!
The moral of the story is that any-one can climb Mt Kilimanjaro. At 5,895 metres (or 19,341 feet) above sea level, while it’s the highest mountain in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world, the great thing about the climb is that it is non technical. It is suitable for any fit and able bodied person, and you can choose to climb with tour groups of varying fitness levels.
It’s more of a walk than a climb really – you’re moving at a snail’s pace which allows you to preserve energy, appreciate your surroundings and become acclimatized to the high altitudes. The guides emphasize walking “pole pole”, which translates from swahili into “slowly, slowly”. However while anyone can do the climb, you shouldn’t underestimate it.
The climb is hard. It requires a lot of stamina and a lot of hard work; however I firmly believe that it wasn’t fitness which got me to the top! Even though it’s a definite bonus to be physically fit before the climb – it was willpower which saw me reach the summit. Willpower and pride – for a start there was a 9 year old child who was climbing and doing better than the majority of adults (you have to be over 10 yrs of age to climb – unless you lie!), and secondly, I had been told by a large number of people at home that there was no realistic way I could reach the summit, even though it was a commendable goal. If there’s one thing you can say to me which will ensure I achieve something it’s that I wont.
Willpower and endurance are the two most important qualities you must possess to be successful in reaching the summit. You need to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other even though you might be extremely deprived of oxygen and energy. You need to be able to convince yourself that you CAN do this even as others around you might be failing. You need to believe in yourself, and you’ll be halfway there! If you can do that – persevere in both physically and emotionally demanding conditions – I guarantee you will reach the top, and some of the most spectacular views you have seen in your life will be waiting for you. As they say, the hardest journeys are the most worthwhile!
Summitting Kilimanjaro was the hardest thing I have done in my life, and it’s my most proudest moment. The climb was the most physically and emotionally challenging venture I have ever undertaken. While I wanted to jump off the mountain and just die during the more difficult parts of the climb, it was the most worthwhile experience I have had in my life, and by far my greatest accomplishment.
Only 4 out of the 7 of us in our group got to the top of the mountain. One had to turn back at 4,000 metres, another reaches base camp however didn’t attempt the summit, and the last got to 5,600 metres before having to turn back because she couldn’t breathe.
I bawled my eyes out when I got to the final plateau. I collapsed into a heap and cried my heart out. Not because I was physically wrecked – which I was – and not because I was an emotional wreck – which I was – but because I had achieved something so amazing, and persevered through hell to get there. Also it was nice to know I had proved everyone, and even myself, wrong. My tears were those which came with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment which I will never forget. It’s amazing to know that you’ve achieved something which so many people are intimidated to even try, and amazing to know that you really worked hard to finally be at the top. And you really are at the top! Nothing and no-one can ever take that feeling away from you.
Here is the email I sent home a few days after finishing the climb.
Just gotten back from climbing Killimanjaro and I’m absolutely shattered! I’m alive and I made it to the top of the summit – watching the sunset at 5895 metres above sea level above the clouds was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen – but I tell you what, climbing to the top was the hardest thing Ive ever done. While the first 3 days of the climb were quite long, they were quite easy and included some pretty full on scaling of cliff faces and rock climbing which was cool, but the final day, the summit attempt was absolute hell! It was the most physically and emotionally taxing challenge I’ve ever had to face – we set off for the summit at midnight and climbed straight up for 7 hours straight.
There was no track – it was sand and pebbles the whole way to the summit so steep that at certain points it was actually hard to stay standing up right. Only 4 out of the 7 of us in my group made it to the very top and I actually cried when I got there because I was so proud that Id actually done it and so physically and emotionally exhausted – with altitude sickness and physcial exhaustion there were quite a number of times where I didnt think I was actually going to make it – it was the biggest test and lesson in will power, motivation and determination ever and there were a lot of little mini pep talks in my head to myself…just had to put one foot in front of the other.
It literally was the biggest bitch of a climb (mind my language – there’s seriously no other way to describe it!), and while it was definately worth it and I’m so incredibly proud of myself for being able to make it to the top if I ever get to the point where I decide I want to do it again I hope some-one admits me into a psych ward because to want to attempt that again you’d have to be seriously mentally ill!! I’ll write up proper blogs because at the moment I’m very tired and exhausted still! Just thought Id quickly shoot you an email to say I’m alive though and had a blast – made it to the top, and tomorrow I take off on a safari through the Serengeti National Park! Also the internet connection is really bad again so will upload photos as soon as I can
Lol I guess feel free to pass on to every-one that I’m alive!…although knock on wood because apparently the safari starting tomorrow our tents are going to be literally in the middle of the national park with no boundaries between us and the hyenas and lions etc…there’ll be no late night toilet ventures from the tents for me!!
Love Megz xx
Preparing for Kilimanjaro
Like 35,000 odd others who make the climb each year, I trained quite extensively before hand, but honestly I doubt it made a difference. On reflection of the experience I would recommend swimming if you want to train for the climb, as the biggest obstacle which prevents people from reaching the top is the lack of oxygen once you hit certain heights. Ironically, being used a lack of oxygen in their lungs; the smokers in our tour were the ones who had the least amount of problems with conquering the mountain!
To climb Mt Kilimanjaro you must be accompanied by a licensed guide. All inclusive trips range from between $1,200 and $5,500 US, however you are then expected to pay tips to the guides, tours, cooks and porters who accompany you on the climb. I recommend booking directly through Zara Tours, who are a locally based Tanzania Adventure Company. I booked my climb through an Australian company who outsourced the climb to Zara Tours anyway, which meant I paid more than I should have, with a percentage going to the Australian third party company.