What can I say? It’s been the cliched blur that everyone says that summit night is. We’ll give it a go – it’s rare that I’m lost for words!
After dinner (pasta, pasta and more pasta…) we all kitted up and started following the long, glittering road of head torches zigzagging onwards and upwards forever above us. Up and over a ridge that looked like it might be the end, only to reveal another steep ascent with yet more rude Americans and dropping temperatures.
The six of us, the Wolf Pack, stuck together for the duration. One person needed to stop, we all stopped. It’s how we roll – we were in this freezing cold hell together.
And yes, hell is the only way to describe the monotony, the cold – the chilling right to your core -15C for 8 solid hours on Kilimanjaro.
At one point we’d been trudging along for about 40 minutes without saying anything to each other. That’s a long time for a group of people who so far hadn’t stopped yapping for six days. The following conversation went something like this:
Holly: You alright there Dan? You’ve been quiet for a very long time?
Dan: Yeah, I’m just f***ing bored. I mean, instead of watching paint dry, I’m watching f***ing bags freeze. Boring and pointless.
This lifted our spirits – I don’t think any of us could breathe with both the altitude and our hysterical laughter at over 5,000m!
He had a point. It’s not that it was pointless, it was just the endless walking with nothing to see other than the bag and bum in front of you. A bag that was sparkling with ice, a bum that was numb and covered in filth from sitting in the dirt. Delightful.
We were all begging for sunrise at around 4.30am – only an hour to go. This meant we’d soon start thawing out, soon be able to appreciate this once in a lifetime scenery.
And yes, it was damn impressive, but it’s hard to appreciate something when your toes are so frozen they’re painful, and the reality of what is ahead of you is suddenly as clear as the literal day that was dawning. I hate to sound cynical, and unappreciative, but as I’ve already said – we were in absolute hell.
The last ascent up to Stella Point is gruelling, even soul destroying. For every one step you take up, you slip back down five. Up, down, up slide down.
We got to Stella Point where our guides all gave us a cup of tea and we all had a sit down. Very bizarre at that height but hey, I’m never one to sniff at tea!
We then shuffled the last bit to Uhuru Peak. And just WOW. The glaciers, the curvature of the earth, the unbelievable feeling that we were conquering everything and everyone, proving ourselves wrong, proving people at home wrong who had little faith.
We reached Uhuru at 7.30am, just (!) nine hours after leaving camp. My toes were so frozen that Jeremy rescued me by stuffing my feet up his coat to thaw them out – I honestly don’t think I would have lasted more than two minutes if it weren’t for him so a massive thank you to Jezza!
The few of us that arrived first hung around at the top for a couple of hours, taking pictures, having foot massages, taking in this glorious and life changing experience. We only went and bloody did it! Just as we were thinking about heading down, some of the team appeared – lots of hugs were dished out, there were plenty of tears!
What a day. What an achievement.