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We climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro!

Jun 21, 2012

This week last year, I turned 30 and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro!  I wrote a long, rambling and poorly punctuated recap for my family in a dusty internet cafe in Tanzania and they loved it, so I am sharing it here 

hello from moshi town!  we made it!!! day 1 was easy, just a 3 hour walk through the jungle/ rainforest, then the rest of the day to relax at camp.

day 2 was maybe 5 hours of hiking, i felt a little sick at lunchtime and worried it was the altitude.

day 3 another couple hours of hiking, but this time we started with a very steep climb up a cliff wall, and this day we also had our first view of the kili peak, which look awfully far away, it was hard to imagine we’d be up there in another day. felt good.

day 4: BIG day. started early, 7am so it was COLD.  this day we hiked up to the Base Camp, it took about 7 hours. this was a tough hike for me.. my breathing was very labored, i had to think about every breath. and the air was so dry i couldn’t breathe through my nose. got to base camp around 2pm, now we’re real high up, i think 16,000 feet.  our tent and bags have not arrived yet. it’s windy. they give us an empty tent to rest in on the hard earth, and i’m like ‘this is fine, i’m sure i’ll stuff will be here in half an hour.’  hours go by, there’s loud music playing on a radio just outside our tent, i walk 1 minute to the outhouse and i’m completely winded because it’s so rocky and hard to breathe. finally our tents arrive.  there are 150 people at base camp and some are getting altitude sickness and getting medical treatment.  i start crying because i’m getting nervous .. feeling like i’m in way over my head. then we sleep for a few hours.

day 5.. midnight.. SUMMIT TIME.  now it’s midnight and after sleeping about 2-3 hours, we put on every single layer of all our warmest clothes. i’m wearing: 2 pairs long underwear, pants, thick socks with handwarmers in my hiking boots, 2 thermal shirts, 1 warm jacket, winter coat, neckwarmer, hat, gloves with handwarmers (thanks dad!). we put on our headlamps and head out at 12:50am.. middle of the night. our group is me, karan, our guide paul and assistant guide Baba, this sweet old man with 1 tooth.  karan has been consistently faster than me but for the summit we’ll all stick together.  you can’t see a thing except for what’s immediately in front of you with the headlamp, so it’s just one step at a time, slowly slowly.  the climb to the summit is supposed to take us 5 hours.  my breathing was surprisingly very good, i had no headache, i felt good.  so one step at a time, up up up.  you can’t stop for long breaks because it’s too cold, but we stop once for water, twice for hot tea from the thermos.  oh, and for the summit, Paul is carrying my day pack to make things just that tiny bit easier for me.  up up up, we see other groups ahead of us just by the light of their headlamps, like little ants.  then we pass a group, and another and another.  (most groups left at 12 pm, while we left at 12:50 and it feels like we’re crawling yet we’re still passing them). passing a group of hikers takes a tremendous effort because you have to accelerate, yet we did it over and over, until Paul told me there were only 3 groups ahead of us. we pass the other 3 groups and are first to reach the summit!  (not that it matters at all.. it’s not a race and some other dudes from philly left at 2:30 am and got there at 6 am so they were way faster but it was still exciting).  it was pitch black, FREEZING, couldn’t feel my fingers or toes.  we celebrated and then the sun started to rise, very beautiful.  now we can see what we’ve done!  and we can see all the amazing glaciers atop of Kili.  we have sun, moon and stars all in the sky at one point.

the descent was very hard, because you’re so tired, you had all this adrenaline to get to the top and didn’t save any energy to get back down.  plus the terrain is very sandy/ crumbly/ rocky/ slippery.  back down to base camp took about 3 hours, then we slept 2 hours at base camp, then hit the road again.

getting off Kili was very tough, a long, rocky dusty way down.  most everyone takes 2 days and we did it all in one day.  it took from 12pm to 5 pm to get down which doesn’t even sound that bad when i type it but i was so exhausted, i fell twice, burst into tears once, but we made it!  everyone was very impressed, especially with Karan.. he was only the 3rd indian to climb the Machame route in 10 years.  we got a nice hotel last night and it took 2 showers to fully remove the 5 days of dirt and grime but now we’re clean and well-rested and happy.

big hugs to coconut.

love, kerry

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