Although it may sound like I’m describing something you see in a Nyquil induced slumber, this was actually what I got to enjoy every day of my seven day journey of climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. In September of 2011, I was lucky enough to join my father, Robin Mountain, on his third trek up the mountain. I wasn’t sure if it was pride or just pure insanity that led him to the mountain every time, but once I felt the magic of the mountain, I understood that it was the innate desire for an experience that is bigger than us. Our group followed the Machame route; taking five days to reach the base camp, a full 24 hours to summit and reach our last camp, and half a day to get the hell out of there.
The first day, filled with nervous excitement, was also filled with a lot of waiting. After getting our paper approved, our guides and crew all set, and our personal gear situated, we eagerly launched up the mountain. For the first day of the trip, we were surrounded by what closely resembled the flora and fauna of a tropical rainforest. But as we started making our way into the second day, the greenery soon disappeared and was replaced by scenes of towering rocks and a desert landscape. The route meandered up and down the mountain for the first couple of days because it was designed to give hikers plenty of time to acclimatize to the lack of atmospheric oxygen. Although it was frustrating for me as an eager 16 year old lass, the fickleness of the route gave us some absolutely stunning views of the mountain and the area surrounding it (when we weren’t immersed in the clouds or could see over them).
Just like the ups and downs of the route we traveled, however, the camping experience had many ups and downs that came with the package too. As a rule of thumb I typically don’t put up with waking up to use the bathroom twice every night (a side effect of diamox, an altitude sickness medicine), and the horrific state of the restroom facilities (a hut with a long drop), along with the hundreds of other small discomforts that I could complain about. But while it is still fun to joke about the primitive hygiene and the small things that somehow drive you mad, it would be an incredible shame to let it overshadow the magnanimous beauty of the mountain. I’m sure that everyone chooses to climb Kilimanjaro for different reasons, whether it is pride, enthusiasm for the outdoors, or any of the thousands of other things that motivate us. But I would like to think that everyone who climbs the mountain gains something they would be unable to be replicate with any other experience in life. The mountain has a lot of magic about it and for those who accept the pain and anguish it can impose upon them; their lives will forever be changed.
This Destination Was Explored By: Catherine