Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro attracts a lot of visitors every year but what makes it worth traveling from the U.S. all the way to Tanzania? Especially when traveling from the U.S. can mean a lot of time on a plane. When I booked my trip, I wanted to see the beauty of the mountain and to challenge myself to reach the top. After successfully summiting Kili, I know the value of the trip is much greater than just the view from Uhuru Peak. Summiting Kili is an adventure in exploring who you are as much as it is in exploring the world.
The first time I saw Kili, I was landing at Kilimanjaro airport. The sheer size of the mountain dominates the landscape. Seeing the mountain from the sky was both thrilling and intimidating. I was excited to climb it at the same time I questioned what made me think that I - a 36-year-old, not so fit, office worker - could possibly climb such a high peak. Eventually, the excitement beats out the questioning.
Hiking with Kili in the background is a beautiful sight especially after you are hike above the clouds and you have an unobstructed view of the peak. And after I was done looking at Kili in awe, I turned around to look down at the tops of the clouds. It was an amazing view where the clouds looked like a floor of pillows as far as I could see. Everything you see along the way is nothing short of amazing. Equal to the beauty of nature is how Kili helps you to explore who you are.
On summit day, I faced both humbling and inspiring events. It was the hardest day of the entire trip. I had to push past discomfort of hiking at midnight against cold, heavy winds and the strong desire to turn around and go back to bed. I began feeling the altitude and felt short of breath. My fingers and toes were cold and I consciously wiggled them to keep them warm. I remember thinking through what I could tell people if I didn't make it to the top: "It was a great experience even though I didn't make it to the top," and "Most people don't even try and I grew a lot by just giving it a shot." Then I remembered, everyone I spoke to who made it to the top said it was worth it. I told my brain to shut up and focus on one foot in front of the other. In the final stretch of the climb, I passed numerous people returning from the peak who encouraged me to keep going. "You're almost there. It's so worth it!" they'd say. Still, I was focused on one step at a time. When I slowly walked towards the summit, I finally understood that they were right. Because when you stand on Uhuru peak, you're on the top of Africa with a view that cannot be adequately described with words or seen in pictures. I took some pictures and spent some time just taking in the view. Eventually, I began heading back down to camp amazed by what I had just experienced.
Each person faces the mountain in their own way and takes away something unique from their experience. I know that I learned a lot about Tanzania, Kilimanjaro, and myself while on the mountain and I would go back in a heartbeat.
Corey: How do you say Uhuru?
Greg: I pronounced it Oo HOO roo which seemed as close as I'd get to the local pronunciation.
Corey: Did you use any porter’s, as I have heard that was customary?
Greg: I had a guide, a cook and 4 porters. They require a team just to summit but I had some extra help to take my camera gear up. But those folks were a huge part of getting me up there and so excited when they heard I made it. One of the things I learned on the mountain is that who you have around you is crucial to your success (in getting to the top as well as in life in general).
Corey: What was the temperature at the top, I see you had a beanie and a puffy jacket.
Greg: It was cold at night but once the sun came up it warmed up a bit. I had 4 layers on with the top being a ski suit. When I started summiting it was probably around -20 (at midnight) - the tube to my water bladder froze - but it warmed up a fair amount once the sun came up (still breezy and cold though)
Corey: Wow -20, I guess that’s why the glacier is at the top
Greg: For Sure
Corey: How long did your climb take?
Greg: I hiked for 6 days, and summited on the 5th day. The first 4 were only half days of hiking, and the other half meant to help acclimatize. The whole trip was 14 days. I did Kili, rested a day then did Safari for four days, Coffee excursion for 1 day and then just hung out in Moshi the rest of the time to explore the city.
Corey: Greg, this trip is awesome! Thanks for sharing your trip!
Follow this link to see Greg's Awesome Kili Pictures do yourself a favor and look at these with a large screen and not your phone.
I met Greg, several years ago in Cleveland, Ohio at CTown CrossFit. While I was in Cleveland we share many memories from CrossFit Events to dinners with our gym family.
Many of the follow up questions took place via I.M. If you have any questions about going to Kilimanjaro that you would like to ask Greg, shoot me an email and I will help get you in touch.
The link above contains several of his photos from his Kili trip that he has shared with us at MST Adventures for this article; they are also his personal property. If you like them and would like to have a copy for yourself, shoot me an email and I will help you get in touch with Greg. They are after all his person property. Thanks for reading.