Why were you inspired to do this?
Kilimanjaro is located at an altitude of 5895 meters (or 19,344 ft for you imperialists). For a prairie girl who grew up among flat plains at sea level, this is freakin’ HIGH. So why cllimb at all? To know what Hemingway wrote about. To see the snows of Kilimanjaro before they are no longer. (It is estimated that by 2020 the glacier atop Mount Kilimanjaro might all but have disappeared.) To test my limits and really challenge myself physically and mentally. To experience a once-in-a-life time moment reaching 'the roof of Africa' as the sun rises.
What were 3 things you did to make this happen?
Perseverance: The final ascent. Let me just cut to the chase. The craziness that anyone contemplating Kilimanjaro should know (and that amazingly no one tells you). Your final ascent takes place at midnight on your last day. You trek slowly…starting at 5000+ meters…up a 65 degree incline……of sandy gravel…for 5 hours non-stop…in the dark…at -15degrees Celsius. Eventually you will get to 2 hours worth of boulders to climb up…switch-backing the whole way. The dust is so thick and your footing is uneven and on unstable ground. You are at an altitude that deprives you of 50% of your oxygen so for every one breath you might have taken at sea level you need two now. You are mostly an automaton trudging along until you have to stop to catch your breath…but there isn’t much. By the time you get to Gilman’s Point at 5685m you still have another 200 to go before reaching the summit. You may be sick…tired…weak…cold but you know you want to see that glacier. So you continue on…polepole. And you finally get there. Practically ready to fall over. You smile. Not because you are smug but because you SURVIVED.
Adaptability: You have the elements, elevation of various levels, culture, food, and a physical burden to contend with on your climb. It changes constantly. You must be able to adapt or you will struggle to get to the top. Many people suffer from altitude sickness, mental fatigue, physical exhaustion, dehydration, hunger, or just general stress.
Fitness: There is no doubt that you must be physically fit in order to climb up nearly 6000 metres in 4+ days. If a 2 hour hike on a relatively low incline is too much for you, you are probably going to have some trouble getting up the mountain. Prior to our climb, I was running at least 40 minutes per day on the treadmill at a significant incline. Incline is key.
How did you feel once you had accomplished this?
Exhausted. Exhilarated. Somewhat astonished. Extremely happy.
Additional notes and tips:
For more information on this and other adventures, visit: http://prairiegirlbyday.wordpress.com/category/adventures-in-africa/