Mount Kilimanjaro

Atop a Mountain is Where I Long to Be

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – . John Muir

I have always loved mountains. Perhaps it is their breathtaking beauty or their earthy mystique or even the challenge of getting from the ground on up atop a mountain that lures me to love them so much. I’m not sure what it is about mountains but I long to be near them, in them and a part of them. I love to hike them, climb them, ski them and just see them. If I could pick one place to be, I’d be in the mountains.

Unfortunately we don’t really have mountains in Minnesota. The highest peak, Eagle Mountain, in Northern Minnesota is only a meager 2,301 feet (701 m) tall. So when the mountains are calling, I must board a plane and fly to them. I am beginning to get those itchy feet again, longing for lacing up my hiking boots, throwing on my pack and heading to the mountains. I’m not sure which ones are calling me now. There are the Himalayas in Bhutan and India that I long to see but don’t have the two-three weeks available to climb them. There are the unknown peaks of the Peruvian Andes. And there are even those beautiful Canadian Rockies that call my name thanks to all those Alberta bloggers and Instagrammers I follow.

There are no immediate plans to go to the mountains so instead I will reflect on some of my most favorite mountains I’ve had the luxury of being atop of.

July 2015 – Mount Kilimanjaro

Me in front of the mighty beast, Mount Kilimanjaro

Base Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Base Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro TanzaniaBase Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro TanzaniaBase Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro TanzaniaBase Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

On top of Uhuru Peak Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

On top of Uhuru Peak, Mount Kilimanjaro July 2015


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Kilimanjaro

Transition through the eyes of a climber

There are few mountains in the world that have such an amazing ecosystem and transition of landscape as Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Rising up to 19,341 feet above sea level, the transition from cultivated crops, to lush forest, to heather, moorland, and alpine desert is astounding. I have hiked many mountains but have never experienced any with such a fascinating landscape as Kilimanjaro.

Machame Gate Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Welcome to the long journey up!

Although I’ve already written at length about my trip and am about to put it all to rest, I thought it would be fun to go through the pictures as if you are climbing the mountain for yourself so you can see exactly what I mean. These are brief descriptions of each day, however, if you want to read more detailed posts on my trip, click here. Pay attention to how dramatically the landscape and vegetation change. It truly is spectacular.

Day 1: Climb to Machame Camp

The hike to Machame Camp meanders up about 7.5 miles (12 km) from a starting altitude of 4,890 feet (1490 m) to 9,780 feet (2980 m) and almost the entire hike is through thick rainforest common at the lower altitudes of Kilimanjaro. It is the only part of the hike that is shaded yet the temperature can be quite hot.

Machame Route Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Day 2: Climb to Shira Camp

The second day climb transitions from 9,780 feet (2,980 m) to Shira Camp at 12,600 feet (3,840 m) passing through rainforest glades, the vast open moorlands and up to the Shira Plateau where the treeline ends and the vegetation becomes sparse. In total, the climb is roughly 4 miles (7 km) taking anywhere between four to six hours depending upon speed.

Shira Camp, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Kilimanjaro Tanzania

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Sunset on Mount Kilimanjaro

What Victory Means to Me

“You won’t win until you learn how to lose” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Following and fulfilling your dreams is not easy. Oftentimes the obstacles and hurdles that lie ahead seem so insurmountable that they hold you back from even trying. Whether it is the fear of failure or anxiety of the unknown we all have our reasons.

I’ve realized over the years that if I do not take risks or step out of my comfort zone than I am miserable. I don’t grow as a person nor do I feel fulfilled or happy. The more I challenge myself both mentally, intellectually and physically, the more peaceful I feel in my own skin.

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Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro: The End of the Road

Author’s note: This post is the last post in a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

“A great accomplishment shouldn’t be the end of the road, just the starting point for the next leap forward”. – Harvey Mackay

I woke up on the last day on Mount Kilimanjaro feeling tired, sore and irritable. My left knee had finally just given out and I still blame it all on my fall in the rice fields the day before the climb which injured my left leg. I never mentioned it before but I also have been battling a two-year annoying injury somewhere within the confines of my right hip. Right in the midst of the pain and physical therapy last April I decided on a whim that I wasn’t going to let anything including pain deter me from fulfilling my dreams. I was going to climb Kilimanjaro one way or another.

View descending Kilimanjaro

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Descending Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro: The Long Walk Down Continues

Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

“I prefer physical exhaustion over mental fatigue any day”. – Clotilde Hesme

After a three-hour sleep, it was time to get up, eat and continue down to the final base camp of the trip. The last thing I felt like doing was walking more yet I wanted to get down to a warmer place and closer to the end. My left leg were quite swollen which would eventually make my left knee throb the entire four hours down and for days after the hike.  But I was determined to go. The thought of getting back to our hotel with a hot shower, a normal bed and alas a glass or two of wine kept me moving.

Descending Kilimanjaro

We had been incredibly fortunate to have had amazing weather the entire seven days on the hike. We never faced rain, the sky was clear affording us spectacular views of the peak and the valley below, and most important of all, it wasn’t too cold on our ascent to the summit. The only cloudy weather we had occurred during our descent down. It was gray and overcast but really it wasn’t bad at all compared to what it could be.

Descending Kilimanjaro

Descending Kilimanjaro

Descending Kilimanjaro

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Descending Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro: The Long Walk Down

Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

There is one fact that is sometimes forgotten when climbing a mountain: What goes up, must come down. After the euphoric elation of reaching the summit at a little past seven o’clock, the reminder of the long, difficult hike back down hit me like truck. I was exhausted, famished and at an emotional high that would soon dwindle as I began my descent down to our base camp for some much-needed rest.

Our group of nine had split up into different pace groups, and I was alone with another climber from our group named David. Despite being as fit as can be (David just completed a marathon in Africa a few days before setting out on our climb), being in shape does not always guarantee your body will acclimatize properly. There are a number of reasons why you can get altitude sickness but it is never certain what exactly sets it off. Poor David reached the top of Kilimanjaro and promptly vomited behind the trail. He needed to get back down and fast.

Descending Kilimanjaro

Once the sun fully rose and I was able to take a quick breather, I took this shot of the rugged, steep trail back down.

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Uhuru Peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, SolarSisterSummit

Reaching up to the sky on top of Kilimanjaro

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. – Bruce Lee

What are the boundaries we make for our lives? I know for myself, I have certain boundaries I will not cross. I will not be dishonest, disrespectful, or full of hate. Instead, I will be as open-minded as I can, as loving, loyal and honest as possible. I have set my standards high at trying to be the best “me” I can humanly be. Do I make mistakes? Of course! We all do. Yet I strive to correct them, to push ahead and to always try to improve myself to make me a better person and human being.

While I may be an adventurous person who is driven to explore, wander and challenge myself physically there are other aspects of my life that are relatively structured and risk free. I have my boundaries on what kinds of risks I want to take and what kind of life I want to live. My family always comes first. Yet thankfully I have the most incredible, supportive husband possible who encourages me to follow my dreams and challenge my boundaries. Climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro is one such boundary I had dreamed to conquer, and thankfully with plenty of hurdles and obstacles along the way I fulfilled my dream at the end of July.

I have written a lot about each day of my Kilimanjaro climb. But I have not written yet about the hardest, most difficult day of all. The Summit. So here the story goes.

Shira Camp, Machame Route, Kilimanjaro

Sunset at Shira Camp. 12,600 feet/3,840 m

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Kosovo Camp Machame Route Kilimnajaro

Kilimanjaro: A rest at Kosovo before the Summit Push

Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

“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 feet)  – 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.

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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.

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Karanga Camp Machame Route Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro: Lunch at Barafu Camp

Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

The morning light rose above the mountain and slowly warmed my tent. I had slept relatively well knowing that the next 36 hours were going to be grueling. We would have a short three hour hike to Barafu Camp at 14,930 feet (4,550 feet)  – the normal setting off point for the summit attempt – and continue on to a higher, lesser known camp called Kosovo where we would sleep before a midnight rise to climb to the top.

Carnage Camp Machame Route Kilimanjaro

Morning 5 on Kilimanjaro.

Karanga Camp Machame Route Kilimanjaro

Group shot before we leave Karanaga Camp.

It was another gorgeous day and the views of the summit were spectacular. After five days and nights on the mountain, it was hard to believe that the summit attempt was already so near. We were incredibly fortunate to have been blessed with such spectacular weather and were hoping that our climb up would be equally nice. The thought of climbing unprotected for hours in the dark scared me more than the actual climb. I knew that on some cases it could be bone-numbing cold with winds well below zero. Six or seven hours in that sounded painful.

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Karanga Camp Machame Route Kilimanjaro

Evening at Karanga Camp

Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work”. – Colin Powell

Our night at Karanga Camp would be our last full night’s sleep until after the summit attempt the following day. It was hard to believe that we were already on day four of our climb. I was beginning to get used to living on the mountain and breathing in the cool, crisp air at night. Yet the thought of a hot shower and a real live bed sounded heavenly.

Karanga Camp Machame Route Kilimanjaro

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Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route

Kilimanjaro: An evening at Barranco Camp

Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

We left Lava Tower after a filling lunch and had a two-hour walk down from 15,190 feet (4629 m) to Barranco Camp at 12,960 feet (3950 m) where we would spent the night. From every angle, the summit of Kilimanjaro loomed reminding me of how much work I’d done and how much more remained.

Almost instantly, the landscape began to dramatically change from black volcanic rock to high alpine desert land. What amazed me the most about this part of the hike were the amazing trees and scrubs, some of which are endemic to Kilimanjaro and are magnificent.

The hike down was rocky and steep yet truly surreal. We stopped many times along the way to take pictures of the amazing views and highly unusual and exotic plants and scrubs. After several days on the mountain, it still astounded me how different it was the further we went up.

Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route

Stopping along the way to take many photos of the amazing landscape

Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route

Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route

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Shira Camp, Machame Route, Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro: Day 3 Climb to Lava Tower and Barranco Camp

Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

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I woke up well-rested and at ease at Shira Camp. I had slept better since I’d finally figured out the secret key to staying warm at night: Hot water-filled Nalgene bottles at the bottom of my sleeping bag. Our American guide, Chaney, told me to fill them up right before bed with the boiling hot water that we use for our evening tea. I arranged one bottle at the foot of each leg and voila, it worked like a charm!  Chaney also instructed me to dress in breathable layers. I slept in my long underwear, hiking pants, wool socks, long sleeve DryFit t-shirt, top layer DryFit pullover, Spyder over-layer, fleece jacket and wool hat. I scrapped the additional Gortex jacket that I wore for dinner and left it next to me for that awful time at night I had to climb out of my warm sleeping bag and find the toilet tent.

Although it sounds like an awful lot of clothing to sleep in, it was just right. It gets pretty darn cold on the mountain and the higher you climb, the colder it gets. Being warm at night was critical. Otherwise you were in for a long, brutal, uncomfortable night.

Shira Camp, Machame Route, Kilimanjaro

Sunset at Shira Camp. 12,600 feet/3,840 m

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