K = Kilimanjaro

Last year I wrote a post about climbing Kilimanjaro in celebration of the 5th anniversary of our adventure.  In it I talked specifically about Barranco Wall … a  difficult challenge on day 3 of our adventure – both physically and psychologically – when the high altitude started to affect us.

K

This time I’m going to focus on the night – after 2 more days of climbing – when we made the summit of the highest mountain in Africa.

We had completed a full day of climbing into the deepening fog before we made camp.  We would be able to sleep for a few hours and then be awakened around 11 pm to start the midnight climb. The idea was to hike all night and reach the summit as the sun was starting to rise.

Kilimanjaro

Me – in the lime-green jacket – bringing up the rear. Always bringing up the rear!

We awoke to several inches of snow on our tent and the surrounding ground.  We were experiencing the famous snows of Kilimanjaro!!

I REALLY did not want to do this final climb.  At 16,500 feet, the altitude was already more than I thought I could bear, but I was *promised* I could turn around any time it became unbearable.  I knew our guides were lying shamelessly to me.  Their job was to get us to the summit and they were prepared to do whatever it would take to get us there.

An assistant guide was assigned to help me through the long night to the summit.  Mario sang songs to me for what seemed like hours and finally he simply chanted 1 – 2.  My shuffle upwards matched the rhythm of his voice.

At one point, I wanted to lie down and just go to sleep forever.  I understand now how easy it is to simply give up, lie down, and want to die … but Mario kept me going, one foot in front of the other.

We didn’t make it to the summit for sunrise.  We were still over 90 minutes away when the first rays of sun reached us on the side of Kili.  I remember thinking the sunrise was THE . MOST . BEAUTIFUL thing I had ever seen.

Kilimanjaro 2

Sunrise on Kili …. this photo has NOT been colour adjusted.

The final kilometer to the summit took 45 minutes to climb.  At 19,340 feet / 5,895 metres, the lack of oxygen was seriously affecting all of us.

At the summit I burst into tears and sobbed …. and then we gathered with huge smiles for silly pictures while panting for air.

Kilimanjaro 3

Our group – Gilles & I on the left – with our guides to the summit

… and then began the 2 day journey back down from the summit.

Kilimanjaro 4

There are big holes in my memory of the climb on Kilimanjaro.  The oxygen deprivation and physical effort do strange things to your mind.  There are however some moments that are so crystal clear, it’s like it happened yesterday.  That includes the mixed feelings of jubilation and achievement, combined with bone-deep despair, that will be with me forever.

Without question, it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

K

April A to Z Challenge 2015

Thank you for visiting today.  Please help yourself to some Key Lime Tarts.

key-lime-pie-cookie-cup

Image from shaketogetherlife.com

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in A-Z Challenge - 2015, Active Lifestyle, Adventure, Nature and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

84 Responses to K = Kilimanjaro

  1. Pingback: And So It Begins Again | My Life Lived Full

  2. Your adventures never fail to amaze me! The way you challenge yourself is so impressive – you’re one of my heroes…

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  3. Alex Hurst says:

    Truly awesome, in the oldest sense of the word. I can not imagine doing it… your fortitude is amazing, and it really paid off! How wonderful. Thanks for sharing that sunrise with us.

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    • joannesisco says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the adventure. I can’t imagine doing something like that again!! Here we were all friends in our 50s and 60s – clearly the oldest people on the mountain attempting the climb at that particular time. We all suffered! … but we all survived 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! You should be so proud of yourself. ( can’t even make it to the gym.) What an amazing experience!!

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  5. Sammy D. says:

    My God, you are a courageous, tenacious trooper. That rocky terrain looks like very tough pathway even if altitude wasn’t an issue.

    PS i think the guides are supposed to get you to the summit AND safely down again. I read far too many stories about those fir whom the summit is the Holy Grail but they falter on the roundtrip!!

    Good job.

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  6. bulldog says:

    Oh wow, what an achievement… more than I would ever think of tackling…. I know a few people from SA that have tackled it, a lot younger than me, who never made it to the top, it was just too much for them… and these were young and fit lads… so you can be proud of what you achieved… well done, what an experience…

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    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Bulldog. I also know someone who attempted and failed – twice.
      Kili is not considered a difficult climb from a hiking perspective – the issue is the increasingly thinner air. We chose a longer route up for a 5 day climb and 2 day descent to improve our acclimatization to the thin air. Many people try to rush it with a 3 day climb. I think the success rate on the longer climb is higher but I don’t remember by how much.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I admire anyone who takes on the challenge. What a memory and an accomplishment.

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  8. Mrs. P says:

    What an incredible journey! I have much admiration for you…I don’t think I could have ever made that challenge.

    I am enjoying these a-z challenges and peeking into your world.

    Like

  9. Ok, so my brother did a three week white-water rafting trip deep, deep into the Grand Canyon. It’s one of those trips where you literally have to win a lottery in order to go. And it’s deadly serious. Once you get to a certain point, no cell phones, no communication with the outside world, no nothing. If you get hurt and it’s bad enough, they’ll use a satellite phone to airlift you out. And we won’t even talk about the toilet accommodations, always my chief concern when traveling. What resonates so much with me in your post, Joanne, is your breaking down into tears at the top. My brother couldn’t get through his phone call to me without weeping upon his return. He was so emotional over what he had faced and what he had overcome. Deep, deep terror and danger and thrill and exhaustion and just everything you’ve described here. I’ve never experienced anything like this first-hand but I was so moved at my big tough-guy brother’s emotional reaction to his trip that I totally understand yours upon reaching that summit. And what a photograph of the sunrise. My God. What a sensation that must have been.

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    • joannesisco says:

      Wow – after I read this, I sat here for quite a while at a total loss for words.

      When we are challenged far beyond what we think we are capable of handling, some people break, others discover something inside of themselves they didn’t know they had. Either way, the experience changes you. I think that’s what the outpouring of emotion is – it’s the outcome of a fundamental change having occurred.

      I’ve heard about the Grand Canyon rafting adventure and for a very long time it was on my list of things I really wanted to do one day. Now I’m a lot more realistic about what I can physically handle 🙂

      Like

  10. Norm 2.0 says:

    Wow, good for you and congrats on pushing on and making it to the summit. These are memories you’ll carry with your forever.

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  11. Corina says:

    What an amazing accomplishment! Not many can say they even attempted Kilimanjaro; you actually conquered it! Brava!!!

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  12. WOW! Just WOW! You’ve left me speechless, Joanne! You’re such an inspiring influence in my life! 🙂

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  13. Sue Slaght says:

    Fantastic! Such an impressive accomplishment Joanne and one that you can always compare other challenging adventures to. If you are like me it would sound something like this in my head ” Well this isn’t as hard as Kilimanjaro so I can do it!” Bravo to you and to your angel Mario.

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  14. OMGosh! You came back. You came back a.l.i.v.e. Wow. Aren’t you something, Joanna. Woo hoo. Congratulations. ❤ ❤ ❤ You're a real trooper.

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  15. Wow! That sounds like an intense experience. Way to go!

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  16. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

    How amazing and inspiring! Well done!

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  17. Wow! Amazing, well done. You don’t kid around when you say you’re going to live life to the full, do you. Inspiring! (and thanks for the Key Lime tarts, yum.)

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  18. NancyTex says:

    I have declined an invitation to climb Kili with the hiking guide/manager from the BLR resort two years in a row. I desperately wanted to a year ago Jan, but $$ was an issue as I had been on ‘sabattical’ for 2 years at that point. Then this past Jan, I was just new into my most recent role so timing didn’t work. One of these days.

    We also back-burnered my Maccu Picchu plans of last fall (Ed’s 50th) because of our house-selling adventures. So now there’s Maccu Picchu AND Kili to fit in. Too many to-dos, but now that money is no longer an issue, there is not enough TIME. Sigh.

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  19. Ruth says:

    Wow! Well done! 🙂

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  20. Oh goodness, sounds seriously traumatic but maybe in a good way. You are truly an adventuress. I don’t think I would have fared well at all. There is a hiking trail in Hollywood that goes pretty high up and the altitude seriously affects my breathing. I’m sure I would have been breathless in no time.

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    • joannesisco says:

      Marissa – I just found your comment in my spam folder. How rude is that?!! I’ve been having some big issues with my new computer and Windows 8. In case you’re wondering, it’s shit and I’m going to blame Win8. That’s my official position.
      Happy Memorial Weekend 🙂

      Like

  21. aleksawal says:

    This climb is a dream for me…thanks for the inspiration 🙂

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  22. Lynn says:

    What an incredible achievement Joanne. The pictures are amazing! I have never climbed a mountain but I suspect it is very hard work!

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    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Lynn. Kili is not a technical climb … there are many sections on the Bruce Trail that are much harder than any point on Kili … but the altitude starts to take its toll. You lose your appetite and stop eating and EVERYTHING takes so much effort.

      Like

  23. Joe says:

    What an awesome achievement Joanne congratulations 🙂 If I would have attempted this climb they would have had to Medivac me off the mountain with a helicopter 🙂

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    • joannesisco says:

      One thing we learned in Tanzania is that you have to suspend your expectations of what is reasonable in North America.
      One of our questions prior to the start was about emergency evacuation. We were told there are only 2 ways off the mountain – you walk out, or you are carried out.
      I think of climbing Kili as my brush with insanity.

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  24. lovetotrav says:

    Wow! Congratulations.That will be an experience you will never forget. Cheryl

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  25. … I bow to you.

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  26. M-R says:

    Obviously a wonderful thing you will never forget.
    How come these groups are allowed to be formed ? – they’re so bloody dangerous.
    That’s it for the grumpy old lady bit.

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    • joannesisco says:

      You mean climbing groups?

      Kili is not like Everest. In fact the summit of Kili is only about the same as base camp on Everest … which in itself gives me a whole new appreciation for climbing Everest. It is definitely not on my list of things to do!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • M-R says:

        It may well not be the same, JS; but the fact that you (and I’m sure some of the others) were so affected is not a scenario I believe should be encouraged.
        But I’m VERY glad it didn’t give you a taste for anything more … demanding – not that it was likely to !!!
        :/

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  27. I did my first trek in Peru in 2009 and I have been desperate to do another ever since. I am key lime green with envy that you have climbed Kili. Well done on reaching the summit. It’s tough going in high altitude. Our Peru trek only went to 4700m and I was fortunate not to suffer at all from the altitude – a reason I am so desperate to repeat the mountain experience, I’m sure – but I still remember having to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
    My all time biggest number one item on my bucket list? This: http://www.worldexpeditions.com/au/index.php?section=countries&id=250491

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  28. mickscogs says:

    Impressive effort. 5895 m! As a youngster I climbed our little hills a lot, but not so these days.

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    • joannesisco says:

      I never had any inclination to climb a mountain let alone Kili. It was on a friend’s bucket list and he talked a bunch of us into it one night over a few bottles of wine.
      Beware the commitments made over wine 😉

      Like

  29. Wow. Joanne, you must have one of the most amazing life resumes I’ve ever heard! Mountain climber? You are such an amazing woman…..I had no idea when I met you that just finding 52 new things to do this year would be quite so difficult because obviously just finding things you haven’t done yet has to be tough!

    Love these pix! And don’t beat yourself up over bringing up the rear…..you’re out there living it first, middle, or last! Most impressive!

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      That’s a really nice way of saying it – my life resume! Yes – I think I’ve been very lucky indeed! … although I could also argue that one has to be prepared to grab – or create – an opportunity when it comes along!

      The problem is we are always comparing ourselves to the company we keep – not the general population. Keeping company with high achieving people means that I”m always bringing up the rear and struggling to keep up. I tend to forget I’m trying to do something most people will never do – especially at my age 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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