We arranged ourselves into a single-file line, having to remember who was in front and behind us. I was at the back positioned behind JD wearing his pink unicorn onesie. The air was still and the temperatures warmer that I had expected. With only our headlamps illuminating the path, we set off from camp and began our trek.
Slowly, step-by-step with hiking poles in hand, we made our way to our first challenge; a rock-face that had us precariously traversing the inclined-terrain. About 20 minutes into the climb I was starting to get really hot. Here I had been worrying about being too cold that now I was overheating under all my layers. I took off my gloves and unzipped about 3 layers to let the air cool me down.
After the rock-face, the trail became a repetitive switchback route up the mountain. Back and forth we zig-zagged our way higher and higher. It was steep, a good 45-60 degree gradient. I could only manage the smallest of steps but thankfully the pace set by our lead guide was slow.
I could see little orbs of light further ahead on the trail, bobbing in rhythm to the steps of trekkers high above us. Overhead the stars were twinkling brightly and off in the distance I could make out the city lights of Moshi. We kept on trudging along, my headlamp pointed ahead and my eyes following the swaying motion of JD’s unicorn tail.
About 2 hours into the climb I had to stop. I was feeling exhausted already and the repetitive nature was already mind-numbly taking its toll. I also realized I hadn’t been eating enough food during our breaks and my energy levels were sinking fast. At the next break, our guide Daniel took everything from my pack and placed it in his, leaving me only with my water. The guides also decided that I would move to the front of the line so I would set the pace for the group.
At first I felt a bit defeated, thinking I was the weakest link in the group. But a funny thing happened once I was at the front. With the whole group behind me, I felt as if I could keep on moving as if they were carrying me along. They were encouraging me to keep doing what I was doing and that I was doing a great job. Those simple motivating comments kept my spirits up and my feet moving forward.
As we continued to climb it felt like we were making our way to the stars. An unattainable goal that seemed impossible to reach. The temperatures started to drop the higher we went, especially once we were more exposed and the wind took over. My hands and toes were freezing.
We were averaging about a break per hour, which actually seemed like a really long time on the trail. By the 4th hour, I was gassed. I said to Richard, who was our guide leading the team, that I needed to sit down. He took my hand and led me along but showed no signs of stopping. I broke away from his grasp and just collapsed on the trail. I felt winded, tired, my body aching, not wanting to continue. I thought about turning around. Richard asked what was wrong. Our other guide Rhiannon came over and I could see some concerned faces from the group looking on. I burst into tears. Exhaustion had made me weepy.
I wasn’t feeling any effects from the altitude and when Rhiannon heard this she gave me a bit of tough love. She said that since I wasn’t suffering from the effects of the altitude that there was no reason why I couldn’t summit. She was right. I was told that we were so close to the crater rim, but to me it wasn’t close enough. But I wiped away my tears, took in some energy salts, regrouped, and continued trudging along.
It was grueling, painful, and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t know how I managed to continue climbing for another 2 hours. So much for “we’re so close”. Around 6am, someone pointed out that the sun was beginning to rise and it began to lift my spirits and my energy level. The sunrise was beautiful especially from this vantage point. It was like we were literally on the top of the world.
We reached Stella Point (the crater rim) shortly there after and took a longer break to warm up with some hot tea. We rested for a bit and ate some food. We weren’t finished yet. We still had another 45-minute climb to the actual summit point and boy were those 45 minutes the hardest yet. I could see the infamous sign further up the path but it still seemed like miles away.
From up here we could see the glaciers framing the crater ridge and the deep valley of the crater itself. The golden sunshine created a beautiful glow over everything. I had to remind myself to take it all in.
As we neared the sign signaling our finishing point, a wave of excitement and relief washed over me. I had done it. As much as I wanted to give up I kept on going and I owe it all to the support of my team and the guides because I was ready to throw in the towel there. The best part was that the entire team made it. All 17 of us including the guides! It was a bit surreal standing there next to the sign realizing that I had actually summitted. 19,341 feet baby!
We didn’t stay up on top very long, maybe around 15-20minutes in total. But enough time to take a group shot and some individual shots. We started the descent. At this point it was all about getting down as quickly as possible. With the sun now up, I could see just how steep our path had been, and holy crap was it ever steep!
The terrain underfoot was made up of very loose rock called sleet. We essentially ‘skied’ down the mountain. But you had to be careful not to twist an ankle or worse, trip and start tumbling down. Coming down was very tough on the knees, thighs and calves.
We rolled back into camp just after 10am! But our day wasn’t finished yet. We rested in our tents for about 2 hours before packing up, eating some lunch, and then continuing for another 2-3 hours to our next and final camp of the trail.
We arrived in Millenium Camp around 3pm. It was a great feeling knowing that we could totally unwind and relax. I was also relishing the fact that this was our final night in a tent and a warm shower was hours away.
Have any questions about Day 7 on Kilimanjaro’s Lemosho Route? Let me know in the comments below!
Come back again next week for Episode 8 of my Kilimanjaro video series and the final day on the mountain!
Want to read more about Kilimanjaro? Check out these posts:
- 10 Tips for Climbing Kilimanjaro
- Climbing Kilimanajro – Lemosho Route
- Video: Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route – Day 1
- Video: Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route – Day 2
- Video: Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route – Day 3
- Video: Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route – Day 4
- Video: Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route – Day 5
- Video: Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route – Day 6
- Epic Montage Kilimanjaro Video