Non-Climbers Guide to Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t really up there in terms of a romantic getaway. But this is exactly what my significant half Stuart and I decided to do for our honeymoon.

Stuart grew up near the Wales and spent his childhood on his bike having adventures with friends and climbing up things. To sum him up he’s outdoorsy. I, on the other hand grew up in the flattest part of England and spent my weekends in my dads shop (we’re Indian you see) stacking sweet shelves.

That in mind it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out whose idea Kilimanjaro was. But, having been promised a safari and a trip to Zanzibar too I signed on the dotted line.

Mount Kilimanjaro is the largest free-standing mountain in the world, the highest mountain in Africa and temperatures plummet to minus 20. For a girl who walks around the office with a hot water bottle this was, let’s say, a disaster.

Arriving at Kilimanjaro we began our mild ascent. Unfortunately in the pit of my stomach I knew this was going to get a lot harder. The couple of days that followed were a blur, involving interesting bowel movements and mild altitude sickness.

Now, I have never gone for a tinkle anywhere but in a normal toilet. Here I was presented with a wooden hut with a hole in the ground. I squatted down and forgive me dear reader, I know this must not be easy reading, but I had to balance myself up (ideally without touching the sides of the hut or the floor) and aim for the hole whilst not breathing in the stench that would have surely knocked a small person out. I had more toilet and bowel related issues throughout my trip, but I sense that I should leave this information out.

Through these mangled days of walking, one saving grace was night-time. Not just so you could stop and recharge dwindling batteries, but to stand outside and look up at the night sky. I had never seen anything quite as beautiful as seeing a million bright stars all shining down on you. A blanket of twinkling lights, wrapping you up in the unfamiliar land and comforting you like an LED snuggie.

Leaving for the summit we began our final ascent. Everyone was going through their own battles in their heads. ‘Damn it Cheryl Cole did it’ ran repeatedly through mine. On the way up, people had started to come down. Unfortunately these people were in a bad way, sometimes on a stretcher and always with oxygen.

I don’t know how, but somehow we made it to Gilmans Point. This is the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, but still not the highest peak which is Uhuru. I fell into a heap on the floor and cried my heart out. The sun was now rising and exactly just what I had achieved sunk in.

Walking along the crater rim (did I mention it is the highest mountain in all of Africa), I chanted my mantra ‘don’t look down, don’t look down’. We passed people who had already summated, one guy encouragingly said ‘keep going, you’re about 10 minutes away’. So 10 minutes later, we passed more people ‘keep going you’re about 25 minutes away’. My face dropped, my energy was zero, I barely knew what my own name was but at that point I think I could have conjured up enough strength to run back down the mountain to find Mr 10 Minutes and give him a punch.

About an hour later we made it to Uhuru! Looking down at the African plains and then up at elated faces, I knew it had been worth it.

Coming down, much to my dismay wasn’t exactly a breeze either, what was frozen on the way up was now deep scree, I had to be careful not to face-plant it all the way back down to Kibo.
A couple of days later rocking up at the entrance gate, frozen sick in my hair, eyes barely open, staggering around and generally looking like I had had one too many Baracrdi Breezers I graciously accepted my certificate with an around of applause.

I vowed to Stuart that I would never do anything like this again. So here we are ‘looking forward’ to doing Everest Base Camp in October.

S Jackson

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