Kilimanjaro Summit Trek- Day 7 & 8

Preparing for Kilimanjaro Summit Trek

Sleep was intermittent, interrupted by the nightly bathroom run, chilled body, and anxiety as the early morning approached.  Morning coffee delivery to the tent came early, 1 am. Preparations for the Kilimanjaro Summit hike ensued. Layer stacking began. Thermal wear that was worn to bed was topped by a mid layer, then thicker layer, and finished with the down coat and windproof pants. For the head and throat, a neck warmer, hat, fleece hood, and coat hood, head lamp fastened on top of everything. Single layer of the warmest socks. Hand warmers went inside the lightest gloves, covered by the heavy duty mittens. 

To help prevent freezing, warm water was prepared by the crew, and placed in our camelbaks and water bottles. A small breakfast. The final check of oxygen levels. Six days of trekking and anticipation behind us, it was time to begin the ascent towards the summit.

Slow, Steady and Steep Towards Kilimanjaro Summit

Our team was one of the last to start the ascent, headlights speckled across the dark mountain ahead. We began slowly, engulfed in the vast, seemingly close, beauty of the stars. Led intentionally by our  guides, we trekked one small step after another. Breathing was heavy. A narrow beam of light provided by the headlamp provided restricted vision. The incline was steep, some of the steepest of the journey thus far. Our bodies heated quickly, requiring us to shed layers early into the climb. 

For hours, our guides led us slowly towards Kilimanjaro summit while singing and chanting native songs filled with encouragement, uplifting our drained body and spirit. 

Breaks were quick, as the body cooled rapidly at the freezing temperatures, often it was barely enough time to relieve yourself. For some the elevation triggered intense diarrhea, making the rest period evoke further exhaustion. Those more fortunate perched on nearby rocks, breathing deeply and enjoying frozen energy chews. Hydration through frozen camelbak straws proved ineffective. Waterbottles hidden in the backs remained unfrozen.  

Break for Summit at Sunrise at Stella Point

Our team was steady in the ascent, within about 5 and ½ hours, as the sun began to rise, we reached Stella Point. Exhausted, yet relieved. The sun was beginning to gain strength, giving refreshed hope in accessing the Kilimanjaro summit. A quick cup of warm tea, transported by the amazing guides, and it was time to continue the upward climb. Just an hour more until we would be standing on the Kilimanjaro summit .

Final Push Towards the Peak

Crossing between the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers, the incline was gradual, and the air felt thin. Though only an hour until the summit, time felt as though it had slowed completely. Thoughts were slow, the body heavy and sluggish with each creeping step. Everything lethargic but the breath, which grew more labored as we ascended. Cloud layered softly beneath us in all directions, the roof of Africa, so very close.  Conversations were few (besides my 14 year daughter who was able to converse fully during this portion! Ha!), the entire team staggering slowly, each founding their own pace as we moved upward.

The Kilimanjaro Summit

Then it happened. The Kilimanjaro Summit. Sluggish and slow, the mind and body feeling very foggy, we joined the others gathering around the summit sign. Our three pack (my partner, daughter and I) embraced. Tears filling our eyes, a combination of emotional exhaustion and sheer delight. Together, with our unbelievable guiding crew, we stood on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

All the planning, hiking, preparations, and investing, and we made it. Together we celebrated the success. The accomplishment of not only the past 7 days, or the last year of preparation, but the victory of several years of healing, growing and dreaming BIG as a family. Relishing at the summit was short, as our bodies are not meant to chill at 19,341 feet for long periods of time! After photos and a few moments to enjoy the moment, it was time to descend.

Descent from Kilimanjaro Summit

We headed down to Kosovo camp, a fast trip. 2 hours of sliding in rock scree was energized with the energy of the summit victory. Layers were shedding quickly, as the sun began to provide more warmth with each cascading step. The welcome at Kosovo camp was exquisite, excitement and warmth extending from the entire guiding team. Hugs and shared gratitude swept throughout the entire camp. 

Though all our bodies craved sleep and rest, to ensure our bodies regained the proper oxygen levels, immediate descent was mandatory. Change of clothes, a warm meal, gear packing, then off toward Mweka camp. We needed to sleep at 5,400 feet to prevent any post ascent medical conditions. 

The Descent of Both Body and Mind

For hours we continued down. Breaks were few. It was here, during this portion of the trek that my body began to revolt. Pain stung deeply with each step. The bunions screaming, the knees shouting. Exhaustion, pain and irritability intensified as we continued descending, hour after hour. Eventually I stopped. My mental energy was failing. I took an extra long restroom break in the woods, shed some frustration tears, and acknowledged that my journey to the final base camp would have to slow. 

Blissed out on the top of the roof of Africa one minute, beaten down by the descent in the next. The reality of the trail. The reality of life. Knowing when to push through discomfort, and when to listen to what your body and mind need. Leaning into the continuous balance of when to hold on, and when to let go. I asked for help. Edes, one of our dear guides, took my pack. Encouraged by my partner with his steady strong spirit and my daughter’s upbeat joyful banter, we slowed our pace and continued downward. 

Several long hours later, we arrived at Mweka camp. The camp was full of energy, and warmth. Surrounded by the comforts of the lush rainforests, our tents welcomed our exhausted bodies. A warm basin of water for washing, snacks, dinner, smiles, laughter and bed.   

Gratitude for a Kilimanjaro Summit

Rest proved to be the antidote for sore bodies and strung out minds. Last morning tent coffee delivery by Innocent. Final morning breakfast tent-side with our fellow summit patrons. Gear packed up and hauled down at rapid speeds, the porters and guides excited to finish their journey and head home to their families. Each of us is eager to find the comforts of a shower and soft bed. 

Traveling through mysterious lush jungle, the descent was more gradual, less arduous on my body. The reality of the previous day’s accomplishments and struggles blending into beautiful appreciation. 

Gratitude filled every crevice of my being.  Extending out to everyone who made this journey possible. Our exuberant team of guides and porters that sweat and toiled up the mountain, the office folks at Climb Kili who helped with all the planning details, our family back home who took care of the details of everyday life while we were away, and my little three-pack, who brought laughter into every moment of the journey. So much gratitude, descending with abundant appreciation. 

Now, if I could just hold onto these feelings forever, let them propel me indefinitely.  Enjoying life as much as possible each day, full of overflowing gratitude. 

The journey continues. Practicing small bits of movement and meditation daily, leading me to a life full of gratitude, connected to calm, and dreaming BIG! 

Sending light and love to each of you on your journey too!

Heal and dream BIG! 

What are some of your big dreams you’ve let slip away due to the chaotic nature of life?

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