The following is an excerpt from my Kilimanjaro travel journal, written June 11, 2010
Running on adrenaline and a late-night breakfast of porridge mixed with honey, our team set off for the summit at midnight sharp.
We started off bundled in four or five layers of clothing, but after about 30 minutes layers were shed. By 3 a.m., when the coldest temperatures of the night engulfed us, all layers were back on.
By the glow of our headlamps and with Joshua setting a “pole pole” pace, we made good time through the first two segments of the ascent route. Altitude sickness struck Zephan and a few others during the final stages, slowing our pace a bit but never deterring our plans of sending our entire group to the summit. At about 4 a.m., when we were about to tackle the steepest portion of the climb, our support staff helped us reenergize with some steaming hot ginger tea. It provided just enough of a boost to help us finish what we started.
Promptly at 6 a.m., we arrived at Stella Point on the crater rim. Our guides and support staff awarded us with snacks and Red Bull before trudging on for Uhuru Peak at 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) — the highest point in Africa.
By 7 a.m., the entire group was at Uhuru, smiling and posing for photographs. There were lots of high-fives, hugs and congratulations, but by 7:30 it was time to head back down.
The decent proved to be the most painful part. We stopped for a break at Gillman’s Point, and it was then that my body was sapped of any reserves and dehydration set in. Everyone was dragging.
The decent to the Kibo Huts took about three hours because we chose to glide down the scree slope rather than sticking to the trail. It was still hell on our knees, but it was a bit softer. By the time we arrived at Kibo Huts for lunch, everyone was exhausted and nobody was hungry. Solomon, our cook, was a bit disappointed at our lack of appetite, but he let us off the hook when we promised to scarf down extra dinner. After an hour-long break, we trudged the final 9.5 kilometers to Horombo for the night. I thought my left knee was going to buckle, and I wasn’t the only one finding it painful to walk.
By dinnertime at 6 p.m., we were all still exhausted and moving slowly, but spirits were high as everyone was in a bit of a celebratory mood at our accomplishment. At the same time, there were some introspective moments — as adventures like this tend to invoke — with thoughts of appreciation for the route we took, how fortunate we were that it wasn’t windy during our ascent, and how blessed we were to have support staff such as Richard, my porter on this trip, a waiter for the group, and a member of our summit team who carried Jonathan’s pack down the mountain when he was too fatigued to do so.
We all knew this journey would be tough, but we have a much greater appreciation for it now that we’ve been to the summit and back.