Miracles on Mount Kilimanjaro Summit Night

Hardest and craziest thing I’ve ever done…

Warning! This post is more gritty than my Kili Part 1 Mountain Climbers Breakfast post (check it out here if you missed it) but worth the read, I assure you. It was written right after my summit climb when I got back to base camp. I didn’t want to forget any of the details of how it felt at the time. Hope you enjoy it!

Woke up at 10:45pm after getting only about an hour of sleep.  I had thrown out my old contacts and had a new pair ready to go.  Really hard to get them in my eyes, sitting in total darkness in my tent with a headlamp as my source of light. I was slow getting to the food tent for “breakfast”.  Then I realized something wasn’t quite right and turns out I didn’t have my left contact in.  Must have lost it.  Luckily I had another spare so went back into the tent to put it in.  Dammit, I dropped it and couldn’t find it.  Finally found it, but it had a small rip in it.  Oh well… I’m going to wear it anyways because it’s better that wearing glasses that will fog up and get in my way and be uncomfortable under my balaclava.  So ripped contact it is….

“Breakfast” was tea and tiny little chocolate cookies.  Aren’t I going to need a more substantial meal to climb to the top of a mountain?  So I ate a few tiny cookies (probably too many looking back now) and packed an energy bar in my pocket. My guide Dickson said that if you’re going to eat on the climb up, just eat a small bite and chew very slowly or you’re going to get sick. Is that like the pole, pole kind of slowly that I was supposed to be doing for the past 4 days, but pushed it just a little (ok, a lot!) and was totally fine?  Better than fine, I was kicking some Kili ass!  We will see how it goes but my mountain climbing appetite is insane and I’m going to be hungry really soon.

Started the climb at 11:30pm in good spirits, thinking this won’t be so bad, it’s kinda cool seeing a trail of headlamps both behind and in front, lighting up the night like candles.  Hunger was setting in so I ate three quarters of my energy bar.

Then about an hour and a half in, the altitude and exhaustion I guess hit me like a brick wall! I felt nauseous and a little light headed and dizzy , like a really bad hangover. Ok, like the worst hangover ever! Maybe Dickson was right and I shouldn’t have eaten that much.  And tired, so tired just all of a sudden. I was almost falling asleep while hiking. Which I realize doesn’t make any sense because you’re exerting so much energy just to walk at this altitude.  When we stopped for breaks my stomach felt a little better momentarily but I thought I was going to pass out I was so tired. All I wanted was a glass of ginger ale, a Gravol and my comfy bed at home and to be able to sleep for hours and hours; my hangover cure… Wondering why I was even doing this.

This went on for a few more hours (yes, hours!) while hiking up steep gravel paths and climbing rocks and feeling like total shit. Really rough terrain. I looked up at the summit a few times but it seemed so far away, and made me dizzy. I just had to focus on my feet in front of me so I wouldn’t fall over. I kept telling myself that I am strong and can do it and it will be worth it.

Superwoman, strong like Simba like my guides called me.  I climbed the Lava Tower dammit, I can do this!   I certainly do not feel like Superwoman now, but repeated this mantra in my mind to get through the gruelling climb.  “I’m strong like Simba and will soon be at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.  I’m strong like Simba and will soon be at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro….” Over and over like a broken record.

Miracles happen every day. Expect them and they will find you when you need them most.

My miracle number one…

Just as I was thinking this, a guide from another group that was trekking close to our group passed by and recognized me. Hey, Superwoman he called out to me with a wave as he walked by. I guess he could tell I was struggling because then he added, “you can do this. You’re strong!” Wow, just motivation I needed to keep going.

Looked up a few times and there was the full moon with a halo around it and one bright star between the moon and the halo.  I specifically planned this trip around a full moon summit so wanted to enjoy it.  Very pretty actually, but I couldn’t fully appreciate it at the time because looking up made me feel worse, like I was going to barf! Pole, pole, I can make it.  Trying to keep those thoughts of my bed back home out of my head.  I am strong like Simba and will soon be at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro…

The moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment right before a miracle happens. DON’T GIVE UP!

And then finally after what seemed like forever, all of the sudden there was the top of the crater, Stella Point!  It’s hard to describe and really took me by surprise it was so beautiful and just hit me that I was at the top of the mountain. I felt so happy and elated.

Miracle number two…

My sickness instantly went away and I felt fine, like MAGIC! Seeing huge glaciers on the left and this massive crater with the full moon on the right, totally beautiful and insane. And the sky was a really cool shade of sunrise orange in the distance. I got really emotional and started to cry as I hugged my friend Carl.  We made it!!!

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Then the guides quickly scurried us away to stay with the group for the 45 minute walk to the actual summit point. When we got there it was pretty anti-climactic actually. They only let you stay for a few minutes barely enough time to get a picture in front of the sign. It’s like a factory assembly line the way they rush lines of people in and out of there.  But got my picture and a few of our group.  Wish I had time to appreciate it more and let it sink in.  Took more pictures on the way back to Stella Point and still feeling fine.

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Then the 3 hour walk downhill to our base camp. I think that was worse than the way up if you can believe it! My nausea came back, although not as strong, and so tired! It’s mostly this rocky, dusty “scree” that you have to kind of ski down and it’s really slippery. Sound kind of fun? Not at all, it’s brutal! I only managed to fall flat on my ass once. It was so hot now as the sun was out and I was dressed for -30 degrees Celcius with 500 hundred layers of clothing on.  Ok, it was 4 layers of pants and 5 layers on top, but felt like 500 🙂 Took off my top 2 layers on top, but still super hot and dehydrated with the taste of dry moon dust in my mouth.

And I didn’t have any water because one of the guides took my pack a while back and he was with a group at the back. He was with me to start the trek down but then he got a call on his cell phone if you can believe it!! I was NOT waiting around.  I was not thinking clearly. All I wanted to do was get back to base camp as quickly as I could so that I could take off some layers of pants and have a drink of water and rest. I hadn’t really had anything to drink since early on the climb up before the guide took my bag.  At the summit I went to drink from my water bottle but the lid was frozen shut and I couldn’t open it.  And there was such so much going on that it wasn’t a priority at that moment.  But by now I desperately needed a drink and my guide was nowhere to be found.  Carl was kind enough to give me a small cup of tea from his thermos, which was fantastic!  But I was still so thirsty.

Finally arrived back at Moon Camp.  I’m back in my tent, sitting here stripped down to my underwear, typing before I forget how this day really felt. And in another hour we have to hike 16km more downhill after all that. F**K! It’s almost 10am now and in the past two days alone I’ve hiked 27km up a mountain with only an hour of sleep. I have never in my life been more exhausted!

Was it worth it? Ask me in a couple of days when all this sinks in, but hell yeah, absolutely!!!

You can do accomplish anything you set your mind on. Push yourself beyond your limits. Go out in the world and climb your mountain!

What’s one of your greatest accomplishments and how did it make you feel? Please share in the comments below.

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Thanks so much for reading and feel free to share the love on social media. I’d be super grateful 🙂

Leanne

xox

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