MT KILIMANJARO : The highest mountain in Africa 
5895 metres
Yes, I climbed – and summitted it along with good friends in August 1999!
As you can see, we made the cover of National Geographic, and if you read the blurb on the cover, you will see why! KILIMANJARO
We planned this event as a celebration of the turn of the 20th century. Susan and Frederic, good friends on the rhs of the picture, came from the States, I am in the middle, George and Vonn on the lhs.
It was an event not without its dramas. I was training like mad prior to leaving Johannesburg. My left leg packed up several weeks before and I could barely walk let alone train. But an injection into my butt two days before departure took away the pain (it was a miracle) and off we flew to Tanzania.
The first day of our climb we hit MUD, my back pack was way too heavy and I thought this was the end of me. The mud was like the nigredo to me – being fully in the blackness of despair. Susan and I talked of death – when we could talk. My sleeping bag went astray the first night and the second night but George had an extra one, bless his thermal socks.
Wilson, our leader, was like a good father to us, encouraging us to go ‘pole pole’, Swahili for ‘slowly slowly’ so as to acclimatise to the ever increasing thinness of the air. He said many times to us when we were in despair, ‘if it’s not difficult it’s not worth it’, a mantra in the moment that kept us going.
The Barranco Wall on the 3rd day – no, surely not! Not possible to climb over THAT! Surely now was the time to shed my mortal coil. But somehow, my body made unbelievable contortions to get over it.
Luckily none of us in our group had succumbed to `altitude mountain sickness’ which, if it happens, it’s off the mountain immediately. We met a few highly trained younger men from Cape Town with their own physician, who had succumbed and they had to get off. If AMS gets you it gets you. No fault no blame.
Long story short: at 11 p.m. on the 5th night we left Barafu camp to begin the final ascent.  My water bottle froze, my headlights gave up. Julius, one of the porters, my guide, my shadow, wordlessly pushing, guiding, encouraging, pole pole.
The sun rose several hours later; we reached Stella Point, 200 meters below Uhuru. Glaciers as far as the eye could see. Gigantic, imposing, awesome! Uhuru was in sight!
We reached Uhuru at 7.45 a.m. We all promptly burst into tears and hugged each other and cried some more. We were ecstatic. WE’D MADE IT! Feeling is believing! UHURU – like a lion roar!
The descent off the mountain was another story. Only later did it hit me that once you get up you have to get down – as above so below. It was a re-visited nightmare, hitting primordial thick sloppy sludgy mud, AGAIN!
In summary, each of us was going into the unknown, stretching ourselves out of our comfort zones. I am sure that our attitude to this was just about right  – do your best, be aware, be attentive, be yourself, be grateful to the Fates, fellow travellers, guides –
We spent 2 nights thereafter at Maji Moto and 2 nights at the Ngogorogoro Crater Lodge, safari lodges in this beautiful part of Africa, where the wildlife is abundant. Rhino, elephant, lion, wildebeest, flamingo … o my … no words –
O, incidentally, Susan and Frederic had the cover of the National Geographic especially made!

30 Comments on K : KILIMANJARO

  1. I can see the Lilith energy in motion now that you mention it Susan! It HAD to be done so therefore it was done. All the way to the top, and all the way to the bottom of the Red Sea .. yes, I can surely see it that way! It was a step into the unknown which we all took consciously albeit with a great deal of trepidation.

    Thank you so much dear Susan for your valuable and enlarging comment.

  2. Is it the Lilith energy set to defy and to be that helped make it up and down Kilimanjaro. after all, she did know what it was to descend to the bottom of the red sea. You knew you had to defy and do it. We each had a have to and did it. Recognizing the unknown and unexpected is part of that venture and part of what gets us into and through our selves.And, it was totally cool.

  3. Wow, that’s amazing! I don’t think I could ever do something like that. I tend to be more interested in climbing the mountains of invention than physical mountains. I just can’t even imagine what it would be like for someone who enjoys climbing. From my perspective, it would be impossible. So, congrats for reaching the impossible! 🙂

    • Ha Ha Kristen! Your mountains of invention are just as terrifying! Nothing ‘safe’ there! 🙂

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting – I appreciate this!

  4. Wow! What an adventure! It is amazing what the body will do when you speak to it, albeit rather firmly at times. Congratulations of pushing through and reaping the rewards.

  5. And you resisted the urge to plug your book! I thought it was an amazing story then and I’m glad you chose it now, one of those achievements shared with so few that just meeting someone else who has done it must be an instant bond.

    • Wow, thank you! I had no idea that you have my book and already read the Kili story! Yes it is lovely to meet others (not zillions obviously 🙂 ) who have done it and to share in that experience. Such different experiences …

  6. Amazing story. What a great way to celebrate the turn of the millennium leaving you with such great memories as you move through the new one. I’m not surprised you cried at reaching the summit.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! I love your A-Z blog theme and have stopped by and left comments. Awaiting your ‘L’ with interest!

  7. I read about your climb in your book. What an awesome story! I’m so impressed that you kept pushing onward and upward instead of giving in! You truly are in inspiration. Now… will you teach me!! 😉

  8. Nicely done on getting the cover on the magazine on there ma. Kiff! Also, amazing achievement with Kili. Really awesome.

  9. What an accomplishment! Well done!
    I don’t mind climbing up but I personally fear walking downhill.

    What a lovely and unforgettable experience – thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. Congratulations my dear! What a magnificent feat you have accomplished and I am proud of you. I have never climbed that high, but I have climbed one of the mountains in Italy. It was also my first time climbing so high and when I reached my goal, I was in tears.

    Isn’t it amazing how we rejoice when we have accomplished something that we thought we couldn’t do? It shows that we are much stronger than we think.


    • thanks Patricia – yes that was exactly the feeling that we were all a lot stronger than we thought! an interesting life-lesson.

      And well done you for climbing a mountain in Italy! It is emotional isn’t it.



    • O Good! We used Wild Frontiers here in South Africa – you can google them! Let me know when you go .. I can give you plenty information!

  11. What a wonderful exhilerating adventure. The cover is so cool! Life and nature are so rewarding in their bounties. No sleeping bag! Holy moly – I cannot imagine being you and discovering I had no sleeping bag. lol The cover is so cool!

  12. Wow! You know, movies always show how people climb mountains, but they never show the descent, which I’m sure is just as hard, right? But anyway, what do I know 😀

    Okay, for you… Which one is harder: the climb up or the climb down?

    • Thanks Ria!

      Funny how the descent is overlooked, even in real life. I’m not sure how to answer you as to which was the harder; all that I know is that the focus was on getting to the TOP, and NO attention was given to the descent – until we had to do it. The others seemed to find it easier than I – I seemed to have no balance left in me and the mud was a terrible nightmare that I thought I had left behind. Perhaps the descent was the hardest!

Comments are closed.