Goway’s own, Bill Humphrey, recently travelled with his wife and friend to the East African country of Tanzania. Here he recounts his experience of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa.
It all started with an innocent brunch on a beautiful summer day. “Anyone want to come with me to climb Kilimanjaro?”, one of our friends asked. And so it began, one of the most fulfilling life moments I have ever had… a moment that I never knew was on my bucket list in the first place.
Being born in the 60s and having a weight north of 210lbs, I will admit climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was a challenge that I thought might have passed me by, but it turned out all I needed was a little preparation and a bigger sense of adventure.
Our first view of Kili was during the short flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. Almost as high as our flight path, it looked huge, every bit the 19,308 feet that I tried to envision from back home. Little did I know the adventure we were about to have.
We had a great rest/prep day at a hotel in the shadow of the mountain, hanging out by the pool, wood oven pizza, and of course, anticipating our climb. We also got a visit from our guides for the week, Isaac and Bosco, who gave us a full briefing on the journey to come. With the team together it was just a fitful sleep before we were on our way!
With some help from our adviser at Goway, we had chosen the Machame Route up the mountain. It was apparently a little steeper than some of the other routes, but it was supposed to be very scenic, plus, as a 7 day climb, had a higher probably of success due to more time to get acclimatized to the altitude.
The main thing that made this trip possible for us were our guides and porters. They did all the cooking, got the water, packed up our camp after we left in the morning, raced past us during the hike to have everything set up, and the tea ready by the time we arrived at each night’s next stop.
The five days up were great, with each day having a very different landscape as we gained altitude. Bright green rainforest turned to scrub brush, which turned to alpine, and finally barren rocks – like something from another planet. Each day had its own scenic vistas that were “stop you in your tracks” beautiful.
Summit day was a day like I have never had before – up at 11pm to get dressed, have a cup of tea, and begin our “pole, pole” (Swahili for “slowly, slowly”) walk to the top. After 7 hours of almost non-stop hiking, we hit the lower peak just as the sunrise was turning the sky to a bright orangey-pink. How many more lifelong memories can one week possibly have? In this case one more, and it was a big one. I really needed to check my excitement of nearing the peak, remembering to keep my pace slow and steady as the oxygen levels were starting to affect everyone.
The final summit was everything you would expect – the sense of accomplishment, the comradery of others that made it with you, and at that moment, the thrill that you no longer had to climb up, that gravity was about to become your friend again. For me it was a little more than that, I now knew I could do it, and no one will ever be able to take this away from me.
After a short couple of minutes at the top we started the trek down, and by noon the next day, we were back at the bottom… physically tired but having an emotional high that I know will last a long, long time.