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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Climb and Punishment


Well, its finally here, Hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro!!! I am writing this portion the day before I am leaving. Everything is packed, and I hope I don’t leave anything! It took about 45min to an hour to pack everything in my pack, double check I have it all, and then STUFF it in the duffle and pray its 30 pounds! I am so excited to leave its not even funny! I’m pretty sure I have had this feeling for, oh, about 4 weeks now so for this to be actually be happening is unreal!!

So, in my preparation for the mountain, besides packing, I am to start taking Diamox, which is a drug that helps your acclimate, and help with altitude sickness. This is very important because if you get sick, you can’t hike to the top, you will die due to lack of oxygen. So, I took mine the day before I left like the doctor said to..and through out the day I started to feel funny, but I just thought it was anxiety, but then my fingers started to tingle and go numb…then my arms started to go numb..and that’s when I started to worry a little bit. So I looked up side effects of Diamox. It read common side effects, and then seek a doctor side effects, then the last one said seek immediate medical attention side effects….can you guess where my symptoms were?? SEEK IMMIATE MEDIACAL ATTENTION!!! Panic ensued. I leave in less than 24 hours to hike one of the tallest mountains in the world. I called my mom (she is a nurse) and she calmed me down and said ok call the doctor as soon as it opens, your still breathing so you are fine, but do some more research before you head to the hospital. So I looked up what causes tingling from Diamox…..It says do not take this drug if you are allergic to Sulfa, guess what the ONE thing I am allergic too is, SULFA!!!!!!! HOW DO YOU MISS THAT!? My mom didn’t know that’s what it contained, and my doctor prescribed it to me AFTER he asked what I was allergic to.. hmm not cool UAB Travel Doctor. This was quite a stressful ordeal to go though, but I am tying this right now as my fingers and arms are numb, so it’s not THAT bad…but I got news..If I don’t make it to the top because I can’t acclimate well, I am suing that doctor!! Kidding….but not really.

Ok, all that dramatic talk..I called the travel doctor and all is fine J It’s actually a natural thing that happens, but if you are allergic to sulfa, it just comes out a little bit more…. All is well, and on to hike! I will just have a tingling feeling in my limbs for a few days, but I will gladly have that over being sick all the way up the “hill”

Day one of the Hike
We flew in to Moshi the day before, and I felt like such a Bad*** because we had all out hiking gear on, and huge bags, we were clearly going to hike Kilimanjaro. People were looking at us (prob thinking we were crazy) but I was very proud to say that I was about to go conquer this beast! AAAND the fact it was 4 ladies men. That was pretty cool too! (not knocking men, I love men, but a ladies trip up the kili was pretty awesome!)
So we met out Guide whose name was Safiel. I asked him how many times he has summited Kili, he said over 100 times. I then said perfect…lets make 101! He laughed and we were on our way to the gate.

We took the Machame route, which is the second hardest route to take, but has the highest success rate, and best chance to acclimate. We met our porters, signed in at the ranger station, filled our camel backs and took off! Today was not super hard. We just hiked for about 4 hours and the trail was well maintained. We walked through rainforest the whole day. We stopped and hand lunch (table cloth and everything) and then continued up to our first nights camp.

By the time we got to the first night of camp, we were already adding layers of clothes. The temp dropped with in 4 hours. We hiked up about 6.7 miles, and rose in elevation about 4,000 feet. It was a long day and a lot of hiking but I’m not complaining, especially about how wonderful it felt to put on layers of clothes after having all of this Africa heat!

Through out the whole trip, our meals were fantastic! We had a different kind of soup each day, a veggies of some sort, lots of carbs, and fruit. I’m not sure if the food was really as good as I thought it was, or I was just so hungry at each meal that I didn’t care what it tasted like, I would eat it anything!

One thing I have to mention, and I wish I had a picture of were the stars. They were UNREAL!! I have been camping, and hunting and out late at night, but I have never seen the starts look like this before. They covered the sky like little diamonds (I know I know it’s a song, but for real that’s what it looked like!!) We could see the milky way, shooting stars and planet even a satellite in orbit. I stood outside in awe and wonder of what was before me. I felt so small. It reminded me of how truly wonderful our creator. All I could say was Glory to God, He makes all things beautiful!

Day 2
Today, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise and a clear view of the mountain. It was wonderful and got us really excited for the day and the week ahead of us! We only hiked 3.5 miles, but the elevation was greater than the day before, so it took us longer to hike so we could get used to the altitude. I was the only one who got sick, but it was not bad, just a nasty headache, nothing Advil couldn’t fix!

The terrain today was WAY different than the first day. It was alot steeper, and the trail was not as mantianed as the first day. We were basically climbing over boulders and rocks. We had to use our hands and knees a lot, but it was SO much fun! We actually all agreed that this was our favorite day because of the terrain as well as the views. We started to get above the cloud line and could tell that we were actually getting somewhere. Here are a few pictures of today J this camp had the best views so far…or at least the best sunset!

Day 3.
This was the toughest day so far (nothing like the summit night, but I will get there) we hike for about 7 hours total. We hiked up to about 15,000feet at the Lava Tower, and then descended down to sleep at about 13,500ft. 


This day was especially hard because we were hiking for so long, straight up, and it got really cold this day. I had on about 3 layers top and bottom. This was also the day that my head was about to explode, so I was having a hard time. After lunch we headed down to our camp, which took about 4 hours, but here is the SNOWED on us! We had to put on all our rain gear because it was snowing so hard. It was awesome…for about an hour.haha then it got really annoying. I’m just saying, it is hard enough to walk down hill, but when you have a flowing river bed as your trail…its REALLY hard. Lets just say, this was not our favorite day, a few choice words were said and tears were shed, but we are still having a blast! The view once we reached the camp made it all worth it. We were sleeping RIGHT under Uhuru peak. It was such a beautiful sight. Once we peed, got some warm soup and dried off, we were all back to our happy selves J

our camp, happy again :)

Day 4.  The Wall.
So everyone had told me that hiking Kilimanjaro was just like a walk, or a simple hike… Got news, ITS NOT! Well at least our route it was not haha. Today we were going to be hiking up the Barranco Wall. It was basically rock climbing with out ropes. If you are afraid of heights, don’t take this route. 
We were actually excited about doing this because it was a challenge and something different! I was a little nervous, but I ended up being like a spider monkey on those rocks. I was jumping and climbing like a champ. It was so much fun! 

After conquering the wall, it got more difficult. It was not as long of a hike as the other days had been, just more taxing on our bodies. We hiked up three peaks to help get acclimated.  So on our last peak, it started to snow again, but then turned to rain. Again, I was say it…it is really not fun to hike down in the rain or up hill up for that matter. It was a really hard day on our bodies and our spirits. Once we arrived to camp I took off all my wet clothes, and crawled into my sleeping bag, and did not move for like 3 hours. It was nice. But once we at some food and dried off, our good fun selves came back and all was well. 

Day 5.
After a long night of raining and snow, it finally stopped in just enough time for us to get ready and go hiking. I think I laid awake for a good portion of the night praying that it did not rain on our summit night and we would have good weather for the rest of the trip. 

This is the day we hike up to base camp….THE basecamp. It is a short hike only about 2 miles, but we are hiking up to 18,000ft, so it takes about 3 hours to reach camp.
Once we arrived at camp, we ran into some friends that we had made along the way. They were from Georgia, and Oregon. They were supposed to summit the night before we did…they did not make it. They had to be turned around due to weather. The wind was blowing at about 100 miles and snowing. They only made it half way before it became unsafe to be on the mountain. We were shocked! They were so upset, and I was too. I felt so bad for them! We kind of got discouraged because it looked cloudy and we had already had 3 days of rain, so the odds were not in our favor . We all began to pray. Hard.
We ate lunch and headed to our tents to sleep. We were going to be summiting Kilimanjaro in just a few hours.
I slept that afternoon just fine, but after dinner it started to rain and snow…and there was a terrible thunderstorm that kept me awake worrying! Not to mention the fact that I’m not a huge fan of thunderstorms in the first place…ESPECIALLY when I am in a tent on a mountain and I am the closet thing to the lightning. Lets just say I did not sleep at all.

We were woken up at 11:30 to start getting ready to hike up. We asked our guide why we hiked at night…his response was “so you don’t see how far you have to go, or what’s around you”. I like his honesty, and it made totall since once we started hiking.

I had on 4 layers on my bottoms, 5 on my top, a full head and neck cover, three pairs of socks, and two pairs of gloves. I looked like a marshmallow, but I was warm! The only things that go cold were my fingers and toes. I was armed and ready to conquer this mountain. I had hot hands in my gloves, and in all my pockets in my jacket. I have energy jellybeans, energy chews and nuts to keep me going, and my iPod equipped with all of my music that would motivate me. I was ready baby!

I can honestly say that this hike was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Physically and mentally that is…and borderline emotionally too. It took every once of energy and will power to get me up that mountain. It was -10 degrees and the wind starting to pick up. At one point, it was blowing at a constant 30 miles per hour. I am not a light skinny girl by any means, but the wind was so strong that it blew me off the trial a few times. You had to make sure you had good footing, otherwise you would be knocked down. About half way up, my line to my camel back froze solid, so I didn’t have any water. (I had it in my coat, but it still froze)  and my iPod died on me. I was alone with my thoughts and the sound of wind and snow whipping around me. I now understand why we hike at night..if you could see what was in front of you, or what was on either side, you would turn around and come back.  It was so steep and there were parts where if you took one wrong step, you would fall off the mountain. Quite nerve racking. I was so happy to be hiking in the dark!

So since my iPod died, I did everything I could to get my mind off what my body was doing. I thought about the week, my family, and friends. I thought about conversations I wanted to have with people when I got home, past relationships, what I wanted to eat when I got off the mountain….etc. etc., you name it, I thought about it. At one point in the climb, I started chanting “just keep climbing, just keep climbing” like Dory did in “Finding Nemo” about swimming. Yup, I went there. I was desperate!

We could only take 1 minuet breaks along the way because if we did anymore than that, we would get to cold and freeze. So each break you had enough time to do one thing, either drink, eat, wipe your nose or cry. I think we took only 4 breaks the whole time, so I managed to get in all four  J 

Stella point was our marker that told us we were almost there and I thought we would never reach Stella point. This is also the point where most people turn around because they cannot make it any further, and I see why. As soon as we got there. I busted into tears, but I was not going to give up.. no matter what.  I was tired, cold, wet, and could hardly breathe….tears and all, I kept going. That last 200 meters were the longest steps of my life. I started to believe that the peak did not exsist. Then all of the sudden there it was..the beautiful green sign that said we had made it... we finally made it to Uhuru Peak!! The tallest point in all of Africa. 

We made it there just as the sun was rising, it was breathtaking. I literally felt like I was on top of the world. I cried again, not out of pain or misery, but out of shear joy. I did it, I actually summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. I CANT BELIEVE I DID IT!!!! We made it in 6 hours and 20 minuets, but the crazy thing was we only hiked 3.5 miles. That just goes to show how difficult it really was. 
                                               Yes... I "tebowed" on top of Kilimanjaro

We sat down to have a warm cup of tea (that our sweet guides carried for us) and then took pictures. You are only allowed 15 mins on the top because it is so high and the lack of oxygen will start to kill you and or make you go crazy. We had written down all the pictures we wanted to take at the top so we would not forget. The only thing we did not get was video from the top. So enjoy these summit pictures!

                                                 Its like we were on top of the world!

I totally thought that going up was the hard part. False. It was coming down. I had given EVERY inch of energy and will power to get up, that coming down, my body crashed, literally. I probably fell about 100, so much so that at one point I just sat down and started scooting on my butt. The guide had to hold one side of me up just to get down the mountain. It took up 4 hours to get down to base camp, but I made it down in once piece. I think the fact I did not sleep had a lot to do with it. So if you hike the mountain, word from the wise….sleep the night before. Its not fun if you don’t.

At base camp everyone congratulated us, even our sweet crew! We were able to sleep for one hour and have lunch, the we were on our way again. Down hill. We hiked for another 4 hours to our last camp. At this point I’m not even going to lie to you, I hated my life and this mountain. In total, I hike 14 hours in one day.  That is just insane. I did sleep like a BABY that night that night though and I woke up totally refreshed, but SO ready to get off the dang mountain!
                                                                     Our 12 man crew :)

Day 7
We just had a short 3 hour hike down to the gate..easy right? Not so much, our legs hurt so bad and it just had rained so it made things very difficult. We had managed to all stay well and in once piece the whole trip…except the last day. We were an hour and a half from the gate, and Betsy (my cousin) slipped and fell..and broke her arm in half. Yup, in half. She wins the super trooper award because she still had to hike the rest of the way down! She handled like a champ, and all is well now. She did have to be medivacted to South Africa for emergency surgery! Two screws and a plate later, and she is all healed up.

So despite all the tears, cuss words and broken bones…Hiking Kilimanjaro was the coolest thing I have ever done in my entire life. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.  I am in the small percentile of people that can say they have summited one of the tallest mountains in the world. I have to say it…I feel really bad ass

I have a few special people to thank for their help in this endevor:

Michael P. Thank you so much for being such a sweet friend and sending me your personal hiking gear. I must say you are one amazing man! Someone very special is going to be the luckiest girl in the world to have a man like you. Thanks again

Callie L. Seriously girl you saved our lives with all of you knowledge and gear!! Thank you so much for helping prepare us for what was in store, and all of your encouragment. It totally was worth it! Im so glad we have gotten to be friends these past few months! Cant wait to see you in China!
Townsend and Melissa. I met them three days before I left and they were sweet enough to lend me their hiking poles!! They were our lucky charm. That was their 5th successful summit to Kili (the poles that is). Thanks guys!!
My Dad. Thank you for stocking us up with toilet paper. We needed it..bad. And thanks for sending me all your warm hunting gear!! I Love you.

My Mom. Thank you for buying all the energy candy and shipping me all the things that I forgot in the states! I for real have the best parents in the world.

And to all my friends and family who encouraged me and supported me in my crazy adventures. I love you all!

Here are some more pictures form the hike!

Sorority girl pose.

Looking at the mountain on day 2

 Hiking up to base camp, day 5


 These were two other cousins that we ran into!

 The last bathroom on the trail :)

This really was the coolest thing I have ever done. I feel so blessed to be able to even have this oppertuinty. It makes me want to travel even more, what else is out there for me to explore?!
I will leve you with a quote of my favorite song by NEEDTOBREATHE
"If you never leave home, never let go, you will never make it to the great unknown. Open up your eyes. Keep you eyes open"

Much love,