Date: October 2012 | Location: Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
I was a freshman in university and had just joined AIESEC when I found out that my LC (Local Chapter) was planning a hike to Mt. Kilimanjaro as a campaign to raise funds for children living with AIDS. I registered immediately – even before finding out all the details – I had always wanted to hike up the tallest free standing mountain in the world. There were about a hundred people that registered for the trip.
One week before the actual trip however, only three people had confirmed that they would be going – myself included – and, oh, and I was the only girl. When my LCP asked me if I was still comfortable going for the trip despite of the high number of drop-outs I did not hesitate. I had been training for months plus I had already invested heavily in mountain gear. Even if I was the only person that showed up I would still go.
The next day I met the rest of the gang and we set out for (what would be) the adventure of a lifetime. We took a shuttle from Nairobi to Moshi, spent the night at a hotel and then took a private car from Moshi to the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. A Spanish man spotted our gigantic backpacks on the bus (Nairobi – Moshi) and asked if we were spontaneous enough to initiate a total stranger into our gang. Of course we were. So the three hikers became four. He later told us that he had come to Kenya for a friend’s wedding and could not go back to Spain until he had summited Kilimanjaro – he was definitely more spontaneous than we were.
After registering ourselves at the gate, the journey began. I remember two hours into the hike we met two climbers who were just about to finish their journey. That’s pretty normal except that this couple were in their 90’s. I thought they were crazy and inspirational at the same time. This couple became my motivation a few days later when my body and mind were on the edge of quitting and turning back.
Our first stop, Mandara at 2700 meters above sea level (asl). The hike was very gentle and therefore comfortable. The weather was very warm and humid. The mountain terrain was densely forested and we appreciated the new species of flora and fauna we were being exposed to. Everyone was in high spirits throughout the entire hike, chatty and very confident. The cottages had electricity and showers (although the water was straight from the melted glaciers).
Inside the cottages were spacious, clean and very well maintained. All our meals were lovingly prepared by our porters who did an excellent job at making sure we ate a well balanced diet and were hydrated at all times.
Our second stop was Horombo at 3720 meters above sea level. This was also a pretty gentle ascent although we had already witnessed one of our comrades suffer from mild mountain sickness. He recovered quite fast and we continued our hike.
In order to acclimatize our bodies to the altitude, we went for an evening hike on a nearby hill. Acclimation is extremely crucial during mountain climbing because it allows your body to adjust to the new altitude by producing more red blood cells as a response to the reduction in oxygen.
Los Cuatro Mosqueteros (The Four Musketeers) – on our way to Kibo hut (the last camp base before the ascent to the snow peaks).