Summit day. 3am wake-up. We were a mixture of nervous and excited as we talked quietly over some warm oatmeal. It was very cold and pitch black dark. We had 4,000 ft left and 7 hours to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Step by step we were making progress up the mountain. It was very hard to see except for a few feet in front of you. I was breathing pretty heavy and intently focused on my steps. All the while wondering would I make to the top? Would my body adjust to the steady altitude increase? With my attention on the ground and in my thoughts, I almost forgot to look up. When I finally did I saw the sunrise to my left.
I was so focused on getting to the top that I almost missed it. The beauty of the mountain had slowed me down, and I began reflecting on why I was on this climb. I was surprised a few moments later when I started experiencing some pretty strong emotions. I remembered all the people who had been part of “the climb” to get here – but also in my life.
I thought about my grandfather who passed away six years ago. He was the one who inspired me to be more active and live a healthier lifestyle. I thought about my family, close friends and colleagues who encouraged me to go on this trip when I struggled to make a decision. I thought about the clients and the work I care so much for. They were part of this journey with me. I was climbing for them.
I felt connected to my most important values…living with purpose, connecting with people, stretching my limits and feeling energized by possibility. I was able to do this with an awesome group of people that included some of my best friends from school. In just six days, we had also formed some special friendships with our amazing Tanzanian guides and the porters (the guys who helped carry our stuff up the mountain).
When we reached our last stop before the Summit at Gilman’s Point (18,562 ft), the taste of salty Pringles was amazing. I ate some more sour patch kids, and we all fueled up for the coldest part of the climb and our first snow.
For the first time the skies became very cloudy, and I was worried that we may not have a view at the Summit. Then as we made the ascent up the last few hundred feet, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. The air was cold, I was out of breath and my heart was pounding – I was feeling more alive that I had been in awhile.
As we walked up the last few feet to Uhuru Peak, I marveled at the sight of something I had never seen or felt before. 19,341 ft and the highest peak in Africa. For the first time in my life I could see across an entire continent. It was a special moment, and I smiled once again thinking about all the people who made the climb so memorable for me.
Below are some of my favorite highlights from the trip.
Getting some air at the top!
Our friend Jeff proposing at the summit to Angela…she said yes!
Our crew on the first day
Some kids I wanted to steal on the way up
With our lead guide Joshua…this guy was amazing!
Giving my boots to Felix after the trip…after seeing his ripped up shoes I figured he needed them much more than me
Our whole crew (7 of us, 26 porters and 3 guides)
“If you want to fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb
Dancing with our porters on the first morning…it seems everyone speaks Michael Jackson
“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.” Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia founder)