Saturday, April 9, 2016

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Success/failure...?...well, the course of this adventure was certainly not the way I had planned it... but I'm going to put it in the category of success none the less. I guess that is the way I will interpret my ascent up Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet) two days ago. My plan had been to take the Umbwe route up to the top in three days, going slowly to get used to the altitude. Then on day four head back down the mountain to the starting point at Umbwe gate (about 5,000 feet above sea level) and then do a speed ascent/descent on the fifth day. That all changed on the third day when snow and freezing rain made the going extremely dangerous. After camping at 17,000 feet at the Lava Tower we (my guides Julius, Jonas and myself) started our ascent up the dangerous Western Breach. We only made it approximately 2 kilometers when we hit an impasse on a ridge with 30 foot drop-offs to each side. It was just too treacherous to continue up and trying to make steps with the ice axe was of no help due to the loose shale rock beneath the snow. We

had no choice but to head back down the mountain. I knew at this point that a speed attempt would not happen. With rain and snow for five days straight this, the beginning of the rainy season in Tanzania, was not the optimal time to try a speed ascent.

After descending to about 14,000 feet we spent the night at Barranco camp. On day four we headed back up to 17,000 feet to Barafu where we camped and from where we would try again to reach Uhuru peak, the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, on the morning of day five.

Julius and I started our ascent at 1 a.m. It was cold and the trail was snow covered the whole way. Not too long into the ascent I became extremely ill with altitude sickness throwing up numerous times. The nausea never let up and it was tough going. We reached Uhuru peak just before sunrise. Freezing cold at 20 degrees and with extreme nausea I couldn't enjoy the view and headed back down off the mountain after only 5
View from the top of Africa
minutes at the top of Africa. I just had to get down to a lower altitude and breath some air again.

I will certainly never forget this adventure up Mount Kilimanjaro. I would love to try for a speed attempt again someday but I'm still nauseous two days later so it is hard for me to make that commitment right now. I'm just happy to have made it to the top. My advice for anyone wanting to tackle this amazing mountain is to NOT try in the rainy season. The altitude is a problem no matter what season but by not having to deal with snow and ice your odds of success will improve greatly. So, what ever your next dream...dream big, I always do. Don't be afraid to try...and don't be afraid to fail. The more failures you rack up in your life just means the more things you have tried...and that is awesome in and of itself. Most of all, enjoy what ever you do. Onward!
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