‘It was excruciatingly spectacular’, she said. Her group had just ascended to the top – some made it, and some did not.
And EXCRUCIATING it was. Especially the last 100 or 200metres or so, when the goal post is in sight, so close, yet so far, and requiring you to squeeze every ounce of your will power. The challenge with the Kili is mostly on the night when you attempt the summit – depending on the route, you needed to climb at least 900m in altitude at a stretch to get to the top and none of the preceding days truly prepare you for it. The distance of 4Kms is one of the shortest distances on the trail, but ends up being the longest. You climb less than you think you have and there is more to go than you think should be. Physical endurance is key, but it is also very much a test of mental strength and will power to keep going. I recalled the girl saying, ‘you will think you can go no more, but push, and push. Crawl if you have to’.
When I got to the top, all I could think was, ‘the view is ok! but oh god, I still have a 2-3 hour descent in front of me’. Low oxygen and tiredness together can play havoc on your spirits. It was only a day later, when we were done with the whole trail, and seeing the outline of the Kilimanjaro against the evening sky, that it hit me – Yes, I had climbed the Kili!!! I had actually been to the top of that daunting, gigantic mountain!!! I couldn’t stop smiling silly for a long time.
The Kilimanjaro has 6 routes to get to the top of the mountain, which is a crater. Depending on the route, you will hit the top at Gilman’s point (5681m) or Stella’s point (5756m). Walking along the rim of the crater from these points, you can reach the highest point of Kilimajaro at Uhuru peak (5895m). Machame is considered one of the most scenic, but we had chosen Rongai as it is considered slightly easier.
Cold, runny-nosed (I was), and thoroughly exhausted, but we made it to Gilman’s at around 8AM in the morning. Getting all the way to Uhuru was a personal aspiration, but when I did get to the crater, I knew I wouldn’t be going forward. Just the thought of coming down alone seemed arduous and I just didn’t have the will to push myself. My friend A however, did plod on and made it to Uhuru.
Climbing Kili has been a fulfilling experience in a way I never expected it to be. Some times, when I need to push myself - may be for running the extra mile a day or even trying new interests, I find myself asking the question what’s the point of it all? (that is my excuse for laziness). WELL, may be the point is simply in the challenge and the thrill in accomplishing something beyond your existing abilities, rather than any larger than life revelation from the activity itself . I didn't set out on this trek as a way to challenge myself, but there was a satisfaction in pushing myself. And in all this, I’ve re-kindled some forgotten love and probably found new aspirations for the future too, and for that I am thankful!
A lot of people, after the trip ask you if will come back to climb the Kili again. It was hard to answer truthfully at that point (ha, ha I still was wondering what madness had possessed me to it), but I do hope I will sometime again, and may be this time will reach Uhuru too.
At Gilman's point
photo by Raven