"In the mountains, there you feel free..." T.S. Eliot

What is it about mountains - and climbing them - that captivates us so? People talk of “conquering” mountains. No one “conquers” a mountain.

You conquer what it is inside yourself that makes you think you can’t do it. You conquer parts of yourself that you perhaps didn’t even know existed.

You reach the summit and see the world through different eyes.

why kilimanjaro

There is something about mountains. Pieces of the Earth that rise up and make us feel very small. As you scale a mountain, you leave parts of yourself behind you, and you find parts of yourself you didn’t know existed.

“Home” can seem a long way away. And you realise that “home” is what is inside you.

You go to a place that is uninhabited.

Uninhabitable.

Inhospitable.

The thin mountain air makes you experience things differently. Amongst the rocks and the sand and the task in front of you, all day-to-day problems seem miniscule.

You learn to listen to your body. You learn that your mind is only limited by your beliefs.

An ordinary person, doing something extraordinary.

These days with all the media we are exposed to, you could be forgiven for believing that climbing Kilimanjaro is something that everyone does.

It’s not so. Twenty years ago, before the internet was available on everyone’s phone, how many of your friends had climbed Kilimanjaro?

Acclimatization

It can be life-changing. It can be exhilarating. It can be tough. It can be dangerous.

Climbing Africa’s highest peak, the world’s highest free-standing mountain is a challenge, both physically and mentally.

Whether or not you reach the summit - it’s not guaranteed - the experience is unforgettable.

You see how your body changes as you ascend, responding to the altitude.

You notice when your mind gets in the way of your mission.

You forge friendships and camaraderie with your team.

You learn about different cultures and different environments. All while working towards a common goal - to reach the summit.

The Journey really is more important than the destination.

The summit is the culmination of all the hard work you’ve put into it. Training, buying your gear, travelling across the world to make an epic journey.

The hard work you put into taking yourself from the gate of the Kilimanjaro National Park, all the way to Uhuru Peak, 19,340ft above sea level.

Kilimanjaro summit success

A place of stones and rock and glaciers. A place of bright blue skies and burning sunshine. And ice.​

Getting there is hard. As the air gets thinner and colder the comforts of home seem very far away. The relentlessness of the day’s trekking, the little tent buffeted by wind that you call ‘home’ every night.​

It’s like meditation. You are alone in the vastness of this remote and beautiful land. Your body taking you higher up the mountain.

At times it can feel as though it is you against yourself. And at times it’s like being in a trance, focused on one thing - moving ever forward.

And yet, you are not alone. You are sharing in a dream, in a reality with others.

We all suffer the same - yet different - challenges. We learn about each other - and ourselves - without any of the trappings of our modern life.

All right. Except the guy who has five solar panels strapped to his daysack, powering every manner of i-Things.

​Who we are on the side of that mountain is someone the same - yet different - from the people we are at home.

We connect with the parts of ourselves that we don’t notice in our day to day lives.

The pared-back reality shows us the things we “need” and “want”. We see the disappointment in people’s faces when they are forced to turn back through injury or altitude sickness.

People pushing through discomfort to do something they had dared to dream of.

The journey starts long before you arrive at the bottom of the mountain. It starts with the dream of reaching the summit.

​Why Kilimanjaro?

It is arguably the “easiest” of the Seven Summits. Kilimanjaro requires no technical skill to get to the top.

It is in a very beautiful, and accessible part of the world. If you have a clean bill of health from your doctor, nothing is stopping you from attempting it.

I say “attempting”, because that’s what it is. Statistics vary from 50%-65% summit success.​

Many factors are at play in the quest for a successful summit. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know whether you can do it.​

Unlike many things in life, there are no “tricks” to reaching the summit. You can prepare all you like, then come down with altitude sickness, or a twisted ankle.

When we embark on this journey, we take a step into the unknown. And that’s what so exhilarating about it.

However, preparation is key. You can’t show up in a pair of tatty sneakers and a couple of wooly sweaters and think you’ve got a chance (if anyone would even agree to take you). You need to prepare your body, have the right kit, and prepare your mind.

And then step into the unknown and have the adventure of a lifetime.

Do something extraordinary. Go to a place that will change you. That will make you more “you”.

Embrace the beauty of the land. See the change in climate zones as you climb. Look upon the glaciers. Look down on the world.

Kilimanjaro Altitude

Go home with a new inner horizon.

A horizon formed by the sounds of the wind, and the singing of the porters.

Of the black rocks and stony scree. The bright white of the glaciers. Go home with a place in your heart opened up to a beautiful mountain in a beautiful land.​

4 thoughts on “How the Magic of Kilimanjaro Changes your Life

  1. I am attempting to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro in October – I am currently excited and terrified in equal measure! Would love some tips on how to mentally prepare for the challenge

  2. My wife and I climbed the Machame route 3/25 – 3/21/17. This was an amazing experience. It has changed us both. In January we were invited to visit my wife’s brother and sister in law who are currently teaching in Moshi. We had told them last summer, when they moved there, that we would love to visit. By September I was already scheming possible scenarios where we would visit and climb Kilimanjaro.
    It became an obsession for me.
    I could think of nothing else.
    At first I teetered back and fourth not really sure if I would be able to summit. I’m 57 and have knee problems. I had been working out regularly for about 1-1/2 years and was feeling (at times) like I stood a chance. I started training harder and walking more. At first my wife wanted nothing to do with my plan. She had never even slept in a tent. I told her that I had no problem doing it without her. She could visit while I climbed and then we would Safari and go to Zanzibar with family afterwards. I started watching every YouTube video that I could find on the subject. Eventually she was bitten by the bug too. We hiked with our packs almost every night from late January until we left for Tanzania on 3/22. One day in January I hiked 22 miles when the high temp only reached -6F. I was ready.
    The first day on mountain was hard but fantastic. Day 2 was (for me) even harder. I wondered how we would handle 5 more days at this pace with the air getting even thinner. But over the following days I only focused on the moment. Just moving forward. Not looking past that day. It was doable. My only fear then became altitude sickness. Go slowly, drink lots of water, eat as much as you can. Even if you loose your appetite. My wife and I never suffered with headaches, or nausea like some of the others. But we were unable to sleep, And my appetite was gone after day 3.
    Summit night was after day 5. At that point my wife had only slept about 1 hour for the entire climb. I had slept about 3 hours.
    The nights were long and filled with racing thoughts. In spite of this we were having a great time every day. The guides and porters were amazing. You form friendships with them. They were so friendly and helpful.
    We miss them now. We want to go back again. We will do this again.
    I envy any of you that are getting ready to go. You CAN do it.

    • Rick, thank you so much for your inspirational story!

      The preparation for a Kili climb does become a bit of an obsession – but in a good way, getting fitter, listening to your body and preparing your mind for what’s in store.

      And when you are on the mountain, it’s a case of one foot in front of the other, listen to your body and remember why you are there.

      Some of my happiest memories are in a mess-tent, exhausted, with people I’ve known for 4 days but feel I’ve known for years. You forge friendships with your guides and porters – their hard work and cheerfulness pushes you forward.

      I hope that you and your wife do decide to go again – try one of the other routes, one agent does the “Kili 360” which is an epic experience. I really appreciate your taking the time to share your story Rick.
      Best wishes
      Clare

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