Day 4 was literally a matter of climbing the walls, but we were well on our way to the next camp after a scramble up the rocks. At this point, both Sylvester and I were feeling good, and we decided that a five-day summit was best for our team and that we would not need the full seven days to complete this trip. Talk about making time!
We arrived at basecamp in the afternoon, where we were all smiles at Elv. 15,300, as well as super ready for a power nap, since we were preparing for a midnight departure to the summit. As I lay in my tent, it started to rain very hard; rain quickly turned into heavy snow, but I was instructed that we would depart as scheduled, rain or shine. The show had to go on.
Day 5 began at midnight, set within a chilly darkness punctuated by the many headlamps. We threw on our layers for warmth and then proceeded to follow the trail of light up the mountain and towards the summit. Pro Tip: Always bring layers of clothing as the weather is unpredictable.
We climbed so steadily that we passed the train of people ahead of us, eventually making our way to Stella Point. It was very windy and nearing 0 degrees, so it was of course time to break out the down jacket and big gloves. By then, the summit was 45 minutes away, but those minutes were brisker than we imagined: suddenly, it occurred to us: “WOW, the summit is here!”
It was only 5:15 a.m. — still dark, windy and snowing hard. Unfortunately, these conditions made it almost impossible to capture a summit photo. The sun rose quickly, so we hung around and finally got some sunlight and a few victory photos as well, but the cameras were frozen. We could only hope they would work!
After a momentous occasion on the summit, we enjoyed the rest of the sunrise while making our way back down. After a meal and a short nap, we headed out to basecamp at around elv. 10,000. Yes, that’s a 9000 ft. descent in one stretch! The ensuing 12 hours of rain called for a remedy of several card games, as well as cooking up great food. Once the rain let up, we enjoyed a short hike back down through the rainforest, and finally, right back to where we started our journey.
What can I say? What a great time and a fantastic summit! Throughout the expedition, I diligently checked the status of my diabetes, fortunately without any concerns. Thank you to all who helped make this possible: I can now officially record elv. 19,341 as the highest I have climbed, and it feels great!
Special thanks go to Sylvester and the team, who were awesome and crucial to making this journey to Kilimanjaro a successful climb.