“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”. – Nelson Mandela
Shortly after a hot lunch, we left Barafu Camp at 14,930 feet (4,550 m) – the normal setting off point for the summit attempt – and continued on one hour up to a higher, lesser known camp called Kosovo where we would sleep a few hours before our midnight rise to climb to the top. Few people know about Kosovo Camp and staying there instead of at Barafu saved us an ugly first hour straight up climb at the onset of our quest to reach the top.
The hike was steep, rugged and tough, giving us all a small taste of what we had in store for us early the next day as we attempted to summit Kilimanjaro at Uhuru Peak. As we left camp and continued up, it was astounding to look down upon the clouds and realize just how far we had come.
And also just how much more we had to go to reach the top of Kilimanjaro.
Our group of nine split off into different smaller pace groups for the last bit of the climb. As we hiked up to Kosovo, I kept thinking how glad I was that I wouldn’t have to do this additional work at midnight. It wasn’t easy and gave me a little glimpse of what tomorrow’s six-hour climb to the top would be like. The only major differences would be that it would be freezing cold, pitch black, higher in elevation and in the middle of the night meaning I would be running on little sleep. I hoped my adrenalin would kick in and my nerves would go away.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”. – T. S. Eliot
It was so barren up this high. There was no sign of life except for those of us crazy enough to attempt to climb Kilimanjaro and still smile about it.
Only a short while later, thankfully Camp Kosovo appeared. It wasn’t very populated and there were just a few other groups there besides us.
It was time to get organized for the big push. I tried desperately to relax but had a hard time. Did I pack the right gear? Would I have the proper number of layers on? Would I be freezing cold? Would I be ok? These thoughts continued to loom through my head while I tried to get a few hours of sleep before my midnight rise.
I had only done a middle of the night climb once before in Nepal and it was brutal. I tried to push that memory away and save it in the back of my mind. But the memory of that dark, cold night climbing up in single file numbness made me weary. I had never been so cold in my life.
I’d be lying if I wasn’t just the teeny bit scared.