30 May 2011

Seven Days To The Summit - Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Though I climbed Kili a few months ago, I only recently had time to write about it! This is the first of a 7-part series on my adventure to the top of the mountain. Enjoy!

Day 1: Where it all begins

We awake in our hotel rested, prepared, and ready to begin our climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. After a very big breakfast the bus is loaded up and we’re off. We won’t see hot water, indoor plumbing, or a real bed again for seven days. The slow and winding road to Rongai Gate - where we will begin our ascent - is lined with one-room homes made of corrugated metal. Barefoot children play while their mothers talk in earnest about events of the day. This journey offers an incredible reminder as to how fortunate we are to have the opportunity of climbing this very big mountain in support of an amazing charity.

Three hours later, we are at the gate. While our bags are weighed and distributed to porters (for each person that climbs Kili there is on average 4 more people that serve a supporting role in the form of guides, cooks, tent experts, and bag porters) we eat another large energy-high meal of bread, eggs, chicken, meat, salad, chips, and fresh fruit. You need all the energy you can muster to make it to the top. Lunch completed and our 3 liters of daily water stuffed into daypacks (you need 4 liters per day to stay hydrated at that elevation), we take a quick “before” photo and finally get on our way.

The day’s trekking winds through tall trees and forest land just slightly upward at all times. Our pace is set for us by the guides - something we are endlessly thankful for. “Pole Pole,” they will come to tell us regularly. “Slowly Slowly.” This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. The 25-degree heat slowly fades away as we climb higher and higher. Thankfully our first day of trekking is only three hours and we reach camp at 5:30pm just as the sun is coming down.

After signing in (a task that must be completed each evening) we find our already pitched tents, set up home, put on a few more layers, and ready for dinner. Each meal is taken in our mess tent - a large one-room space that quickly becomes synonymous with force-feeding (the guides make sure we eat every last bite), incredibly open conversations, and laughing until you cry. By 8pm we are all completely exhausted and retire to our tents for some much-desired sleep.

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