I have heard so many stories from friends about their experience climbing the Kilimanjaro Mountain, but I knew that the only way I would fully understand it all – the details of their stories, the beauty of this giant mountain, the fun experienced with other climbers, the hardships faced during the climb – was to set myself up for a Kili-Climb challenge.
From the day I convinced myself to go through with the challenge, my heart was filled with both excitement and anxiety. I was excited to see another level of God’s amazing creation and enjoy the experience that I knew I would forever cherish in my heart. My biggest anxiety had always been the cold and the altitude. I wondered, “How can one train their body to keep up with these two conditions if they are living in Dar es Salam where the lowest temperature in winter is 23 degrees Celsius?!”
I had a great time on the mountain and each day had its own highs and lows, and I am grateful that they all worked well to get our group to Uhuru Peak. I learned that “Pole, pole” (which means “slowly, slowly” in Swahili) is the magic word if you want make it to the next camp and enjoy your Kilimanjaro hike. I also discovered that the best recipe for making it to the summit is to remember this magic word every second, to follow the instructions from our well-experienced guides, to make sure each step and grip was well calculated (even when passing through the Kissing Rock) and watching out for porters carrying very heavy camping gear on their heads/shoulders. I still don’t understand how the porters go through the insane terrains on this mountain.
I count myself blessed to be a part of a hiking team that had a very wide age range – the youngest on our team was 11 years old and the oldest was 66. At the beginning I was not sure how this was going to look, considering that we also had energetic teenagers who thought they could face this giant mountain in a split second! But a few thoughts ran through my mind that made me conclude that our team had been tailor made by God Himself. Why? I felt like our oldest and youngest climbers acted as speed limits to keep the team within the right pace, so as to protect us from being hit by the crazy altitude sickness. I felt like God was taking us through the school of patience and cultivating the spirit teamwork. Our team leader Drew Voyles reminded us that “it’s easy to focus so much on reaching the summit and forget the process of climbing the mountain.” That included forgetting your team mates.
Our summit night started with a wake-up call at 11:00pm. Although it was a very cold night, I was thankful to God that my worst nightmare did not come to pass – there was no blizzard! I would say we had a perfect summit night. Our guides and potters did a great job of cheering us on, serving us with hot tea and checking up on us just to be sure we were all doing well as we headed up towards 19,340 feet elevation.
Just like in our daily lives, reaching the top has never been smooth or easy! The higher we climbed, the thinner the air became and the harder it was to breath. For a split second I felt like giving up because my chest and my throat were burning. But it quickly hit me that I had less than a mile to get to the summit, so I continued on. “Pole, pole” we climbed up all the way to Uhuru summit and we were so privileged to experience the most beautiful sunrise as we got closer to the peak – that was a big bonus and motivation for me to take another step forward.
My whole team made it to Uhuru Summit Peak and we all celebrated the memorable, beautiful, hard and crazy moments we experienced on Kilimanjaro Mountain over dinner.