I have just reached Gillman’s point: the point on Kibo’s crater which is the sacred aim of most trekkers who attempt Kilimanjaro: being there means you have already climbed the mountain.
But, there is another point, 200m higher and one and a half hours further that represents the real summit of Kilimanjaro.
After five hours of long boring walking in the dark with the only light coming from your head torch and the moon above, the rest of the second group and I (we were divided into two groups so that everyone could have a better chance of reaching the summit) stopped at 5,681 meters with a cup of hot tea, served by our beloved and irreplaceable guides. The question was only one: who has enough power to continue further?
So here I am, five o’clock in the morning, walking on the rim of a crater, somewhere near the equator, approaching a moon like landscape which becomes vital with the first sun rays.
Were those my eyes seeing the crater hole on the left with the lava stones, the Kibo huts in the distance down there on the right, the massive pile of ice left from the famous Snows of Kilimanjaro in front of me and the dawn, sneaking behind my back? It was so unreal and so real in the same time: because you don’t believe what the eyes see but you could take another breath, you could hear your pulse and feel the blowing wind around.
I saw the sign 100 meters in front of me. I accelerated my steps. And the tears in my eyes started although I was smiling with my whole mouth and heart. I was there, at the highest point of a continent and the whole of Africa was below me: Uhuru peak, 5895 meters- the highest point I have ever reached in my life so far!
This was an emotional moment.
First day back at work and so much to tell. Everyone is asking: How was it? Was it hard? Could you breathe up there?
Well, I must admit, it was an easy climb for me. I trained a lot for this and I knew how to keep myself safe up on the mountain. Everyone from the group started to call me “the hardcore girl’’ or “the machine “, but actually I was doing the thing I love the most: being in the mountains. I didn’t get any symptoms of altitude sickness or even a slight headache nor even did I feel breathless above 5000 meters where the oxygen level is reduced to 50%. I was able to sleep, eat and walk all the way up and down, full of energy, taking pictures all around.
But I was really amazed by the motivation all my tent mates showed, especially on summit night.
I saw their struggle with circumstances that were so unusual for them, they were moving automatically one foot in front of the other with the inner determination to reach the top of that mountain.
Some people needed to turn back and go down. From my experience so far I know that this is the hardest decision to make being so close to the summit. But mountains are stronger than humans. We need to respect that and when the mountain says: you need to go down, now, you go down and this is the hardest, but the best decision to make.
As one Chinese proverb says: “The view from the mountain is always the same, but there are different paths to the top”. We all went our own paths up to the Snows of Kilimanjaro. I know that everyone now has a memory of a life time, a memory of something extraordinary, something that was so far away from the comfort zone we all live in- and we all learned something more about ourselves.
Well done, team!