I enjoy walking up hills. I enjoy being up high and overlooking beautiful views (call it a Napoleonic complex, if you must) but most of all, I like the sense of achievement you feel at the summit of any mountain.
As I watched the Kilimanjaro IMAX movie (one of my first dates with Andy), I never would have guessed that 9 years later, I'd be sleeping in those exact tents and making a journey from the gigantic ferns of the rain forest to the famous glaciers that stand at the "Roof of Africa." I'll add, I have been sitting next to the Kili sales person in our office for 4 years (repeated phone conversations describing the mountain and the climb have been quite a tease, like dangling the carrot in front of the mule kind of thing). Let's just say that Kilimanjaro has been a long time coming for me.
I climbed the most challenging route Kilimanjaro offers, the Umbwe Route. It has the steepest ascent with an aggressive trekking schedule of 5 days up and 1 day down. Rule of thumb, the more days you take to get up, the better your body will acclimatize to the altitude - you can't train for altitude and really never know how it's going to affect you.
I loved climbing Kilimanjaro and my trekking group of 10 was awesome - we had great laughs, even before we got to the mountain - and provided much needed support for one another as we made our way up. I was pleased to discover that Jersey was well-represented on the trek (2 NJ and 2 NYC trekkers) so there was a pleasant mix of familiar sarcasm sprinkled throughout the week.
I was physically well-prepared for the trek (and super psyched) and felt great everyday except the morning of our summit push. We were to leave our camp at 12:00 AM and I woke up with a bad case of altitude sickness. Trekking through the darkness that morning became a surreal, vertiginous, emotional 10 hour challenge for me...but there was no way I was coming home without having stood next to that damn sign at the summit. I tapped into my crazy determination/mental strength that I haven't really needed since my gymnastics days and thought about how badly I wanted to succeed and it worked! I made it! It was so worth the effort!
As Bono said - It's not a hill, it's a mountain, as you start out the climb, listen for me, I'll be shouting, we're gonna make it all the way to the light...
Click here for photos of my trek to The Roof of Africa!