This blog post is by AWR collaborator Sarah Martens. Sarah and her husband Ted are currently traveling around the world in search of adventure and, along the way, sampling some of AWR’s great trips and looking for new destinations.
Though common sense and sound advice tells you to prepare yourself as much as possible before a physical undertaking as demanding as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, my recommendation is that a little ignorance can be a good thing.
Before our climb, my husband reached out to a few friends that had climbed Kili to ask them about the hike and to hear their experiences. He got a few intimidating responses ranging from miserable altitude headaches to incredibly grueling hard work. He (thankfully!) decided that there was no good reason to share this information with me and off we went with me none the wiser.
I’m telling you this story not to discourage you but to remind you that every climber will have their own unique experience so there is no reason to obsess over the good, the bad and the ugly of any climber tales before you.
Kilimanjaro is a gigantic mountain that deserves a lot of respect but I’m confident we made it to the top not because we were in the best shape of our lives (we weren’t), or because it has been a lifelong dream of ours (it hasn’t) but because we really wanted to get up there and because we never imagined that we wouldn’t do so.
There is a lot of emphasis on summit day and getting to the top (my previous paragraphs included) but the 4 days of hiking leading up to summit day are more-than-incredible in their own right: walking through lush rainforests, seeing silhouette views of nearby Mt. Meru at sunset, camping on cliff edges overlooking spectacular valleys, walking through clouds and catching rewarding glimpses of Kili all along the way. The hiking alone is world class and THEN you get the opportunity to really challenge and reward yourself.
You may not want to get up at midnight to start your summit attempt – you may get cold, or a little dizzy or even wonder why you paid money to do this – but you just keep walking, putting one foot ahead of the other. And just when you want to turn around or sit down or be done with the whole thing, you can see the top in the early dawn light. The end is in sight. The pink sky is just the encouragement you need to finish what you started and get to the top. When you see the crescent of first sunlight on the horizon from the roof of Africa, everything at that moment gets a whole lot better, and man does it feel good!