Sunday, October 18, 2009
Climbing Kilimanjaro took me through a full range of emotions over the course of the six day hike -- excitement, love, hate, cold and exhaustion:-)
We climbed the Rongai route, a "relatively easier route" according to the company we booked through, but I'm pretty certain I wouldn't have made it up the mountain on any more difficult route -- let's just say I got a headache on Day 1 of the hike and we were only at 8500 feet above sea level at the first camp. Here is a detailed description of the Rongai route.
I give our guides, Mussa and James, all the credit for our summit. They were the best guides we could have ever imagined, especially since we had heard some horror stories about Kili guides before we left. First, it's worth noting that the African Walking Company runs an incredibly professional and well-organized operation from start to finish. Mussa (pronounced "moose-aa"), our head guide, was the quieter, more serious guide and his 10+ years of experience and focus on safety gave me a lot of comfort that we were in good hands. James, our assistant guide, aka "DJ Bush Baby" was the more gregarious of the team and kept us laughing all the way up the mountain. We had so much fun with them over the course of the hike and couldn't recommend them more highly to anyone considering climbing.
On the day of the summit ascent, Mussa and James brought a third member of the team (Ernest, our favorite porter) along with us so we had 1-to-1 coverage to help us up the mountain. We started at midnight and within a couple of hours Mussa was already carrying my day-pack (clearly he noticed I was having a tough time already). Ernest probably amazed us most though -- he served us tea at 11:30pm before suiting up to climb with us, carried hot tea up the mountain for us to drink at Gillman's Point (18,600 feet), walked me down from the summit to camp, and then served us lunch at base camp, before heading to the next camp at double our speed to prepare dinner before our arrival. Seriously, these are the hardest working guys ever.
It was an incredible week, and one I can appreciate significantly more now that I'm off the mountain, clean and well-rested. We took lots of photos along the way and the slideshow above includes some of the highlights. You can clearly see us getting progressively dirtier and more tired, but we're still smiling the whole way!