To the ends of the earth…and back!

Uhuru Peak! 19,340 Feet

Around 11PM we awoke and got ourselves ready for the enduring seven hours that lay ahead.

I placed hand warmers in my gloves and foot warmers in my boots as added measures to keep my chill-ridden body warm. Unfortunately the nausea I’d had since about day 4 was still annoying me.

The headlamps strapped to each of our foreheads provided the only light for us until about 2AM when the moon was fully in the sky. Our group was incredibly silent, with the exception of Mark’s sporadic bursts of song (he was listening to his iPod). This fact helped us to continue for I think we all were quite exhausted. At one point my blinking even seemed labored. It was so cold and all we were doing was climbing up and up and up. Note: We would learn once we were off the mountain that our guide was climbing too quickly with us–some thought as a means of competing with another group, though I do not know for certain. This too added to our silence.

It was incredibly difficult to notice the terrain upon which we climbed, as the stars and moons provided some light, but not nearly enough for us to focus. I recall just watching the backpack of the person in front of me as well as their feet–at times it was Cal, or Dave, Chris, or Mark–actually I was pretty much all over the place so I think I followed just about everyone at one point or another.

As we met the Leomoshu group, congratulatory words were exchanged, tears and some high fives, but we couldn’t really muster much more. I wrote in my journal that as we passed them, (again thank you crazy guide man Tom) and told them we’d see them on Uhuru, it seemed we had to scale rocks again, just like at Barranco wall. There was a lot of sliding that night for it was quite difficult to get a foothold whilst being exhausted and climbing in the dark. Nevertheless, we managed to continue on all the while with the guides being of superb assistance. Shortly after this, we stopped for a brief, very brief water break. For the 2-3 minutes we were there, we had some water/gatorade and kept our fingers and toes moving as much as possible to deter frostbite from setting in. Even under the 5 layers of clothing I was wearing, I was still cold. I took some more advil for my headache and the group continued on with the town of Moshi and its bright lights dancing over our shoulders.

We could tell we were getting closer to the top because the sky was continuing to get lighter. We stopped again around 4AM to have some more water and just take a breather. It was at this time that the lovely Stan insisted he take my pack and carry it for me. I think my exhaustion was pretty obvious at this point! Oddly enough, I couldn’t feel much difference between having the pack removed from my back, though I am positive that it truly helped me be able to continue climbing. For the remainder of the climb, Stan remained right by my side, always asking how I was doing and sharing some words of encouragement. What a doll!

Just around 6AM, we could see Uhuru peak! The sun was just beginning to rise yet somehow the exhaustion subsided for a bit as our adrenaline kicked it! Our group exchanged shouts of elation as we hugged each other and celebrated being so close. I stayed at the rear with Stan as we pressed forward.

Good morning!!


En route to Uhuru…so close!


19,340 Feet holding the banner with all the names of family/friends for whom I climbed

There were many people trying to take a photo with the UHURU sign to celebrate their climb so we had to wait in a line. It seemed to take forever but as I waited, I snapped some photos of the glaciers that filled my view. Never before had I seen such incredible beauty. I also managed to do a short booty slap dance which I am known to do depending upon the occasion. Tom recorded me on Uhuru doing this and I even managed to convince the other Tom, our guide, to partake in the fun!*I’ll find this clip and upload it for the enjoyment of all soon. Mark and Stan headed down to one of the glaciers for a closer look. Apologies that I didn’t get any photos of that side adventure, though I know they had a good time.

Even Wonder man made it!!

After about 20 minutes of elation, Rick looked at me and said, “Climb down right now.” Dave and I headed back down and while doing so, we met Sheri and Brad and some of our Leomoshu friends! Everyone looked great (albeit a bit exhausted) and we encouraged them to keep climbing for a few more minutes. There were so close to Uhuru.

Starting our descent…

This was the first time I could actually see the terrain from the previous night. It was indeed, all rocks, so I prepared to “surf” down them to get to our camp. Soon, some of the other Regulators caught up to me as I was going pretty slow. Carroll, Chris and Mark floated down the rocks. I actually stopped at one point to just watch them! They were going so fast!

Surfing down rocks

After several hours of climbing, we stopped at Barafu for some food and to change, as well as to catch a few zzz’s. I didn’t eat much, yet did manage to change and rest a bit. Apparently, once we started the descent to the final camp on Kilimanjaro, my body decided it had had enough and revolted! For the next 24 hours, I was quite sick, taking breaks about every hour to step off the trail and vomit. Sheri and Brad stayed with me almost the whole way down, as well as our guide Tom. Without the three of them, I’d probably still be wandering on Kilimanjaro; lost, but still pretty 🙂

I don’t remember much of our last camp or that day’s climb down, but I certainly remember the line at the little duka (shop) at that final camp. Not only could we sign our names to register at the camp, but we could also purchase cold beer and cola, a luxury that many of the climbers enjoyed! I opted for a coke and let it lose some of its fizz before attempting a sip. We were again reunited with the Leomoshu group and everyone exchanged stories of their climb, photos, laughs and tears.

That night, Esther (an MD), stayed with me in my tent to monitor my breathing and sickness, and was consequently deemed “Tent Doctor”. She was a Godsend and made sure I was OK.

Sun rise

Rainbow that greeted us shortly before we began climbing down back to normal altitudes!

After breakfast, we headed out in various groups. Before reaching the bottom there was one more little point where we could sign a check-in book. Several more hours later, we were greeted by some of the porters and guides singing beautiful songs of celebration as each climber received an official certificate of completion.We had made it!

Many thanks for joining me on this journey!

If merely reading about my journey wasn’t enough for you, I have great news for…







One response

  1. Paul Artruc

    Thanks for the wonderful memory-jarring recount of our incredible journey. I loved hearing the viewpoint of the Macheme crew and the minor differences in our experiences yet it put me right back on the mountain. Having you become a part of it all was truly one of the highlights of my trip.
    And thanks for being pretty!

    06/03/2011 at 08:47

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