We woke up at 12:00am Thursday morning to start our trek to the summit. To begin with, I was really excited and for the first hour or so it was great! The stars were incredible! The only time I've seen that many stars before was when we climbed Mt. Sinai in Egypt. It gave me that same amazing reminder of how great our God is. It was hard to take my eyes off the stars, but when I would trip on a rock and hurt my toe or ankle, it would remind me that I needed to keep my headlamp on the trail to see where I was going. After the first couple of hours, we were getting really cold. Lilli, Sarah, and I didn't really come to Africa prepared to climb a mountain...we came prepared to play with babies in the hot African sun... so we just had layers of scarfs on, African fabric, socks on our hands, hoods, capri pants over leggings and socks, khakis, etc...we looked pretty funny. The rest of our team from Australia looked extremely hard core with their fancy gear, not to mention our guides who looked like they were about to climb Everest (minus the crampons, ice-axes, and ropes, of course) We were a motley crew. As we got higher, the three of us were starting to get super cold. The hiking movement was not enough to keep us warm and the wind would just bite right through my layers. During the first two days I was thinking to myself that since this was so great, I should climb every mountain in the world! My thoughts during the freezing night hiking to the summit were quite the opposite, though. I was beginning to wonder why anyone would ever have the desire to climb any mountain and put themselves through this torture. The climb seemed to be straight up a lot of the time and we were just this long, shuffling train moving inch by inch in the dark. When it wasn't straight up, we had to give our poles to our guides and sort of rock climb sideways. This was difficult since our fingers were numb and our sock gloves were extremely inefficient. It was hard to find steady hand holds and places for your feet. It was probably good that we could not see how high up we were or see the drop offs on either side. It was a very long 6 hours. (I am probably making it sound more dramatic than it really was...) As soon we we could see the horizon, though, we realized it was worth it. The view was spectacular and we hadn't even reached the summit yet. The picture above is Kilimanjaro with the sun starting to peak out and say good morning. Sarah was feeling very tired and nauseous due to the elevation and I was so cold I had lost motivation. Our fingers were swollen, fat, and red and I could barely take my camera out to take this picture. This is when Samson came to the rescue. He pushed and dragged Sarah and I up to the top for which we were very grateful! The view was spectacular! We signed the book that is kept in a metal case up there, took pictures, and started the dreaded descent. (I was dreading it because I figured if I could barely get up, then there was no way I would be able to get down...) BUT the descent turned out to be the best part of the whole trip! The wind was still blowing, but the sun was getting warmer by the second. So warm, in fact, that we had to take layers off! The view changed with every step/slide and it was truly breath-taking. It was really fun and it was also a big blessing to experience hiking with such an incredible view of God's creation all around us. I don't think the hike up to the summit was actually as bad as I made it out to be...I was just cold and tired. I have re-organized my thoughts again and decided I definitely want to climb more mountains, but not every single one in the world...and not Everest.
The sun is rising! Facing it, the rocks are beginning to have a warm, golden glow!
Sarah taking a breather
Mt. Meru's shadow over Arusha
Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance
Champion Lilli with her sock-gloves
View from the summit
Ibrahim, one of our guides
We made it!
Sarah leaving her mark in the summit book
I love these girls!
Our ranger on the descent
ash cone left over from the volcano
With legs like jelly and with blistered feet, we arrived back at camp. After a quick lunch, we packed on our backpacks and spent the rest of the day hiking back down to the bottom!