“It’s only 139 meters up” I tell myself. I’ve made it to Stella Point by physical strength and with only 40 minutes of work, I rationalise to myself that I can get to Uhuru Peak on my own, just as I gotten to this point.
After all, Kilimanjaro might be an experience where you climb in groups or with friends, but like I said earlier, only you can get you up the mountain.
So with that frame of time, I leave Stella Point on the way to Uhuru Peak. Christina is progressing at a good clip and I have no doubt she’ll hit Uhuru Peak in under 40 minutes. I however, am I different story.
The journey starts off well, but after 20 minutes I am quite simply out of energy. After 30 minutes of walking I am covered only about half of the distance needed (whereas I should be at the end of my journey). I can see the sign for Uhuru Peak, but it starts to look too far away. All I know is that I must keep moving. Inertia! If I as an object rest then I know that is the end of my journey. I won’t have enough strength to make it to what seems the really short distance to the peak.
And then humbling moment #1 happens.
Ashard (our guide) took my hiking poles, had me hold on to the straps of his backpack, and litterally for about 200 meters pulled me along, forcing me to take bigger steps so that I would get to the summit sooner. I hadn’t asked for help, but it was clear that I needed it. And besides already carrying my backpack within his own backpack, he literally pulled me along until I could take big steps on my own.
And within 15 minutes I am back to my slow pace. The tank is empty. The peak is visible, but I really don’t know if I can make it. Rather, I think I can make it, but although the Peak is only a 10 minutes walk away, I figure I will need about 20-25 minutes since I am back to taking small steps as that is all of the energy I have.
And then humbling moment #2 happens.
Christina, seeing how I am struggling to keep a good pace, comes to me, puts my arm around her shower, says “come on Kili Buddy, we are almost there”, and helps me by walking with me until we are almost the peak area. Christina had her own issues (a sore ankle) and could have made it to the peak and been taking photos whilst I was still on the way there. But she decided to help a friend first.
It was then that the realisation came to me that the journey to the peak had never been in isolation. There were people on the trek with me who believed in me and wanted me to succeed as much as I wanted to.
And sometimes, when the goal seems far away, all you need is a little help from a friend. Whilst the most important event of the trip was to reach Uhuru Peak, the best moment of the trip for me is captured in the picture with Christina.
Eventually, I got to the Uhuru Peak! I feeling of relief and happiness washes over me.
Finally, I sit down and give inertia a much needed rest. After 5 minutes or so to collect myself, we take pictures of the amazing views and I even find the energy to post a new video.
What goes up must come down
So after a successful summit (!) which took around 8 hours, we must begin the descent down first to Barafu Camp for a short nap and quick lunch, and then continuing down to Mweka Camp. So basically we need to descend 2800m today.
Contrary to popular thoughts, going down a mountain is not as easy as it looks. It too takes energy. Energy which I had found as a result of reaching the summit. So I was on my way down and only lost focus for a moment when…
CRASH. I stumble and hit my knee against a pointy rock. It wasn’t bleeding and nothing seemed broken, but there was significant stiffness and swelling. It hurt to walk downwards as it applied pressure on my knee. Stupid idiot me! After being so very careful, to be so careless on the descent. The terrain we are descending down to reach Barafu Camp is steep in some places (good for knee), and rocky gravel and downward sloping in other places (very bad for knee). After a while it became apparent that my knee was agitated enough that I would have difficulty to get down the gravel parts. It wasn’t an emergency requiring evacuation or anything, but it certainly was inconvenient for the group. We should have been able to manage the descent to Barafu Camp in about 3-4 hours. But with my knee it took my 5-6 hours to hit Barafu Camp. At some points on the slippery gavel, Ashard and Frankie had to hold me up by my shoulders and we slid down the gravel. Hurt. Like. Hell. But it was necessary. We eventually made it back to Barafu Camp where I took a much needed nap and I could elevate my knee and apply a heat/pain patch to it. I also got some painkillers which worked wonders to reduce the inflammation and stiffness to help with the descent from Barafu to Mweka.
Christina’s sore ankle. My busted up knee, dry hacking cough due to the dust I had to eat, and tiredness were a small price to pay to make it to the summit.
We got to Mweke camp feeling excited and proud of ourselves (the journey down was scenic and we ran into Dino, Paul, and friends on the way down as they were doing the 6 day hike so we converged again). We had dinner, our evening briefing, and then literally we each went to our tents and passed out. It was sleep well earned.
And my final video blog featuring me.