As I searched for ways to escape the lockdown blues, the idea of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro sparked my curiosity. Luckily, I had the opportunity to connect with Saray Khumalo, the first black African woman to summit Mount Everest, who offered to guide me to the summit of Africa’s tallest peak. Along the way, we were supported by an incredible team of female porters and chefs. Join me as I share my experience of overcoming challenges, pushing beyond my limits, and ultimately reaching the peak of Africa’s tallest mountain.
Trekking through lush rainforests
We were introduced to our experienced guides and porters at Rongai Gate on day one before setting out on our journey. As we made our way through the lush rainforests, we were treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Although I had brought all the necessary rain gear, I still felt a twinge of anxiety when the rain began to pour down during lunchtime.
The hike lasted for 3-5 hours, covering a distance of 8km, and was of low difficulty. The habitat of the area was a rainforest.
Four Seasons in a Day
On Day 2, We woke up to a beautiful morning at the Simba camp, with the sun shining warmly. After breakfast, we started hiking toward the Second Cave, where we planned to have lunch. While walking, the weather suddenly changed, and it began to drizzle, becoming humid and foggy. However, we continued hiking slowly and found a fantastic cave fitting our group. We snapped a group picture and continued our trek.
Eventually, we made it to the Second Cave, had a delicious lunch, and continued our short hike to the campsite, where we would spend the night. Despite being showered with rain during the walk, we finally arrived at the camp in high spirits and ready for bedtime.
Don’t forget to bring good sunglasses on this trip, as it’s essential to have a pair that won’t fog up and obstruct the stunning views.
Experiencing an awe-inspiring sunrise
On Day 3, we witnessed a breathtaking sunrise above the clouds at 6:20 am. The warm and clear sky provided an otherworldly view. The stunning scenery, accompanied by a friendly and precise atmosphere, was something out of this world. My favorite day to hike; it was 70 degrees and sunny, and I only wore a fleece and trail shoes. We walked from an altitude of 3450m to 4335m, covering a distance of 6km in 4-5 hours. The difficulty level was medium, and the habitat was moorland.
I experienced high altitude effects, including a rapid heart rate. The guides advised me to rest and drink water, quickly resolving the issue. We spent the afternoon relaxing and arrived at Mawenzi at 1:30 pm.
Active Rest Day
On Day 4, we took an active rest day at Mawenzi to assist in acclimatization for a successful summit. We had a group overview of the geological superlative: the African Rift Valley volcanic, and took a short acclimatization walk. The altitude was 4335m, and the hiking time was 1 hour, a distance of 0 km. The difficulty level was nil as we enjoyed the scenic view of the mountain. We prioritized Quiet time on this day; take a nap if you can.
Trekking across the saddle
On day 5, we embarked on a challenging trek across the saddle between Mawenzi and Kibo to reach Kibo Campsite. This was a crucial phase of our journey, as we needed to acclimate to the high altitude in preparation for the final ascent. The hike lasted about 5-6 hours, covering a distance of 9 kilometers. The terrain had transformed into an arctic habitat, making the climb even more challenging. Upon arrival at the campsite, we rested and prepared for the summit attempt, with an early night to ensure we were fully rested.
However, this was not one of those retreats where you were given options and could choose to participate. The group’s spirit was unanimous – we were all together and determined to summit, regardless of our challenges.
Summit day and reaching Uhuru Peak
On day 6, we started our ascent to the summit in freezing temperatures and strong winds. As we approached Gillman’s point (5,685m) on the crater rim, we tackled a challenging switchback trail through loose volcanic scree enveloped in darkness.
Despite the hand warmers and gloves I was using, my fingers were freezing, and I began to worry about frostbite. At 7:00 am, we arrived at Gillman’s point, where we rested and savored hot ginger tea while we watched the sunrise over Mawenzi. Our guide reminded us that we still had to walk another hour to reach Uhuru peak at 5,896m.
Despite the exhaustion and overwhelming emotions, I followed everyone and found a spot to nap on a rock. Finally, at 9:20 am, we reached the peak and beheld magnificent views of the glaciers and ice cliffs dominating the summit area.
Watching the other women walk towards Uhuru peak was touching, and I was proud of them. After enduring the grueling climb, overcoming every obstacle, and pushing myself to the limit, I finally took that last walk to touch the Uhuru sign and felt profound pride and accomplishment. The ecstatic looks on the porters’ faces as they celebrated with us were terrific.
My porter supported me through knee pain and mental challenges as we returned to Kibo Hut. Despite the difficulties, I persevered and reunited with my group in Kibu. After a welcome break, we continued down to Horombo Camp to rest. I couldn’t help but think of my daughter and my pride. During dinner, we shared our experiences, and I was grateful for the fantastic woman by my side. We also had an opportunity to meet the First black man to summit mount Everest at the campsite; he is a great friend of Saray Khumalo, who happened to be the first black African Woman to summit Mount Everest and the same woman who carried us to the roof of Africa.
Survival, Celebration, and Inspiration
On Day 7, as we woke up in Horombo Hut, we felt overwhelming gratitude and joy. We celebrated that we had made it this far and were alive, our worries and fears left behind. It was a moment of new beginnings, a fresh start filled with endless possibilities.
As we descended steadily through the moorland, we savored every moment, relishing the beauty surrounding us. We stopped at Mandara for lunch and were delighted to find a flush toilet. It was a gentle reminder that we were slowly returning to reality, but the experience forever changed us.
The descent through the lush forests and serene paths to the National Park Gate at Maranguwasjourney took us 6-7 hours. But we took our time, pausing to capture pictures of the stunning waterfalls and playful monkeys that crossed our path.
Looking back on this experience, I realize that it taught me the power of determination and the importance of having a support system. I learned that no matter how challenging a goal may seem, achieving it with the right mindset and support is possible. This journey has inspired me to continue pushing myself and to encourage others to do the same.
Let me know in the comments if you want me to write more about preparing for an adventure like this. Are you interested in joining this annual trip in August? Email me to register for 2024 – only 20 spots are available! Don’t miss out on this life-changing adventure with great support from other women.
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