Hiking a mountain of this measure along the seven-day Machame route is a task that requires both proper equipment and understanding. Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the “seven peaks”; a group of difficult summits that continue to intrigue, inspire and challenge adventurers. In order of elevation, the seven peaks are: Everest, Aconcagua, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, and Carstensz Pyramid.
I felt a well-rounded understanding of the hike would allow me the best idea of how to physically train and mentally prepare. I took my own personal experience with hiking around Colorado’s 14ers and other difficult terrain in order to assess where I might fall on the spectrum of experiences others have documented. The moment I saw the peak of this insane mountain over the clouds from the plane I felt a weight of ignorance – how much did I really know about the challenge I was about to face? I didn’t.
What made you want to hike Kilimanjaro?
Simply, I wanted to challenge myself. As a teenager I canoed the Boundary Waters from Minnesota to Canada – it would prove to be the most mentally and physically arduous two weeks of my life up to that point. I got to thinking - that expedition had a profound positive change on my life and in the six-or-so years since, I have grown from lessons learned on the water. I figured Kilimanjaro would be the perfect way to evaluate how far I have come and serve as a milestone on my growth continuum.
How do you feel – are you nervous about the challenge?
I have come to realize a few things; one is that I tend to not fear those things that others do. The other is that I wish to not fear – anything.
When it comes to the situations or circumstances I possess the ability to control, or in some manner affect, I do not become fearful. In those moments I cannot control or in some manner affect, I remind myself that what I can do is control my reaction to it. I also do not easily accept defeat; failing to summit was not an option.
It was a spontaneous decision to hike Kilimanjaro; once it was decided, I became dedicated. This is how I have always worked – I am so open and desire to part take in exciting experiences that I embrace them first and plan after. Prior to Kilimanjaro, I had never backpacked – I had hiked plenty, and pushed myself to become a more skilled outdoor adventurer. I would argue that while this provides a foundation of understanding, does not sufficiently account for the intense physical strain five days of mountain hiking places on you.
We all have things that cause us pause, working to move past these things is what helps us grow.
A common reply I would receive always rang something like “wow, I could never do that.” Yes, you can!
What about packing?
I need to preface this section with the following advisory: I am the absolute worst at packing. I have taken my fair share of dynamic domestic and international adventures yet am always find myself thinking "if I had just remembered…" or "I chose this over that?"
Knowing this about myself, I attempted to meticulously plan each item in a series of lists broken into categories; Toiletries (on and off mountain), Clothing, Electronic Equipment (headlamp, earbuds; on and off mountain), Important Gear (micro spikes, hiking poles), SNACKS! I used the list provided by the company I traveled with as a starting point – the breakdown of lists into categories was truly to ease my mind.
I could not wait for June to arrive; I had been gathering equipment and preparing since November. As if the packing itself weren’t enough to spark stress, the timeline of my year’s events made it even more difficult.
My insane month of travel...
I planned to move in to my parents’ home in Southern California prior to the hike. Meaning I would leave out of Los Angeles for Tanzania and . That was until a change of plans led me to stay in Colorado awhile longer. This change meant that I could spend a few days at home after the trip and book a return ticket to Denver after the jet lag settled.
This was all great until my boyfriend and I decided to run off to Cuba a week prior to the climb. For the first time since we started dating he and I have the same week off and could go somewhere new! We were so excited, but it completely changed my travel itinerary for what would culminate in a month-long adventure.
With only a day between each new place, and the widely different needs per adventure, I was stressed.
Denver to New York. New York to Cuba. Cuba to Denver. Denver to California.
California to Chicago. Chicago to Doha. Doha to Tanzania.
Tanzania to Sweden. Sweden to Los Angeles. Los Angeles to Denver.
Back in Colorado from a whirlwind adventure around Cuba, there was no time to settle into being home. I began washing, packing, planning and fretting over every piece of gear I needed for Kilimanjaro. The next afternoon, getting dropped off at the airport was the last time I would see my boyfriend.
Arriving to California with a warm embrace from a great friend was a tender welcome home. My parents were traveling Eastern Europe at the time, so he was my ride for anything I needed to accomplish. He was my shoulder to cry on when packing or life felt too heavy that day. He's the one that got me to the airport the next day and wished me the best of luck.