My ten months stint for Stefanutti Stocks R&E in Kenya was coming to a close, and I decided that I would most likely not be this close to being able to tick off one of my bucket-list items again, and so decided to climb Kilimanjaro before heading back to South Africa.
As a keen runner I thought the hike and climb would be a walk in the park - and it was… for the first two days. I was with a guided group made up of all shapes, sizes and ages and we climbed about 1 000 metres a day. I recall noticing an elderly Russian gentleman limping up the path and quietly thinking to myself that he didn’t stand a chance - an opinion I had to humbly review a few days later.
The night before the summit was spent at 4 800 metres and I was shocked by how bad I felt. In freezing weather we lay hyperventilating to get sufficient oxygen into our blood. I had a headache, hadn’t eaten all day due to altitude sickness, couldn’t sleep and wondered how this could be classified as a recreational activity.
At around midnight the sleep deprived group departed camp and I joined the trek. Hours later, and about twenty metres from the top, the Russian gent drew level with me, and we ended up reaching the summit together… It didn’t matter what shape, age or size you were - the minus twenty degree temperature and the 5895m altitude completely levelled the playing fields. As long as you could hang onto your guide, Slowly Slowly (“Pole Pole” in Swahili) you would make it.
On reaching the summit, I’ve never before grappled with so many mixed emotions. I was extremely cold and couldn’t feel most of my body. I was under-nourished and utterly spent while at the same time feeling on top of the world, but simply did not have enough air to release the tears of joy. I drank my whisky, posed for the photograph and headed down as fast as possible to the sea of air waiting for me below.
Would I do it again? Of course!