Dave's adventure to the roof of Africa
09.05.2009 - 09.11.2009 40 °F
I arrived in Moshi, Tanzania, to meet my guide and porters to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, rising 15,100 feet from it's base. I also met a group of eight Argentinians, all who spoke little English, that I would be hiking with for the next week. I figured it would be a good time to practice my Spanish before we head back to South America at the end of the year. I was excited for the walk, but a bit apprehensive since I heard many stories of climbing difficulties.
To break the ice with the Argentinians, I introduced myself to Gustavo. Gustavo then introduced me to another member of their group, "This is Miguel. Miguel is a gay in Argentina." I asked him to try again in Spanish and learned that Miguel is actually a professional mountain guide in Argentina. We had a good laugh when I explained what he had said! Miguel claimed it was only one time.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a bonding experience. The Argentinians were a warm, wonderful and fun group to be with on the climb, which helped ease my apprehension. Elizabeth and I plan to visit them in Cordoba to do some hiking in December with their mountaineering company Alto Rumbo.
After three long days of climbing from 4000 feet up to 15,000 feet and back down to 12,000 feet to help acclimatize, we were ready to get to the summit. Our guide's instructions were 1) if you feel dizzy it's normal, look down for a minute or so, 2) if you feel like you want to vomit it's normal, force yourself to vomit and 3) if you are losing your balance it's normal, I'll give you a Red Bull and you will feel better. These instructions didn't settle our nerves much.
The summit day seemed like the longest day of my life. It was certainly the most physically demanding thing I've ever done. We left at 7 a.m. on day four, climbed to 15,000 feet, arriving at 3 p.m. We ate and slept for a few hours, and then left for the summit at 10:30 p.m. after forcing down some popcorn and cookies. We all felt some dizziness from the altitude and breathing got more difficult as we climbed higher. A couple people in my group also felt nauseous, but overall we were "un grupo fuerte (a strong group)." We saw several other people being rushed down the mountain with altitude sickness.
Eight out of nine of us from our group (unfortunately, one stayed back with altitude sickness) reached the Uhuru peak summit at 19,340 feet just after sunrise on day five around 7 a.m. Everyone was emotional at the top. We all felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, and the view was amazing! I also felt very lucky to have experienced this with new Argentinian friends.
PS. For those of you considering to climb Kilimanjaro let me know. I'd be happy to share my research on routes and guides. I had a great experience with Juma and his crew.
Note: Miguel did a great job capturing the entire climb. You can see his photos at Expedicion al Kilimanjaro