Most people with a sense of adventure hope to climb at least one of the so called “Seven Summits” which are the highest mountains on each of the seven continents of the world. Everest in Asia, is the highest and most well-known of these mountains.
Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcanic mountain in Tanzania and at 5 895 metres is the highest on the African continent and the fourth highest of the “Seven Summits”. It is regarded as one of the most enchanting of the summits thanks to its natural beauty.
As an adventurer by heart, climbing Kilimanjaro has had a prominent place on my bucket list for some time.
When invited to join a group of like-minded adventurers in climbing Kilimanjaro, I immediately accepted the challenge not quite knowing what I was letting myself in for.
The group consisted of Henk Cronje, an experienced mountaineer, who has already successfully climbed four of the “Seven Summits”, his wife Danielle, their daughter, Tasha who would be attempting to become the youngest girl to climb Kilimanjaro, Isabel Homsek, Petro Carson and myself.
We were accompanied by a highly trained and experienced team of guides and porters, who played a vital role in the success of our adventure.
I must confess that the anticipation of the climb consumed my thoughts for weeks before we finally set off on our expedition in December last year.
When I first saw Kilimanjaro from the comfort of our plane window, it took my breath away- truly an awesome sight. The climb itself was certainly a gruelling undertaking with our bodies having to adapt to the extreme altitude and subsequent oxygen deprivation which eventually reduced us to a slow lumbering pace. All of us experienced varying symptoms of altitude sickness which ranged from lack of appetite, headaches, nausea and nose bleeds. Fortunately none of us had it so severely that we had to abandon our attempt, which has been the case with many other unfortunate climbers.
Our final summit attempt began at 12h00 at night in freezing and windy conditions. When we all finally reached the summit of Uhuru Peak, the highest point of Kilimanjaro and Africa at approximately 8h30 the following morning we broke into spontaneous cheers of joy and triumph. Each of us had achieved our personal goals and in the case of Tasha, she became the youngest female to successfully climb Kilimanjaro and now holds the official world record for this feat.
For me reaching Uhuru Peak that day was an amazing and emotional experience. What I remember most vividly and which will remain with me for the rest of my life was the agonising slow struggle to the top, the feeling of nausea and my lungs crying out for more oxygen. On the other hand there was a feeling of ecstasy as I witnessed the most beautiful sunrise of my life and seeing the snow-capped peaks, the glaciers and the veils of clouds below me.
When I now look back on my quest for adventure by climbing Kilimanjaro, it was truly a life changing experience. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to climb this magnificent mountain and once again realise what a wonderful and beautiful world God has created and how truly great He is.
Written by: Gerald Roberts