Kilimanjaro Diary: The hardest walk I’ve ever done

At the top of Kilimanjaro and I'm crying with emotion
At the top of Kilimanjaro and I’m crying with emotion

We’ve done it. We’ve all done it. All 18 of us and the doctor reached the Stella Point summit at 7:14am today. And it was one of the hardest walks I’ve ever done.

After dinner last night we went straight to bed wearing our summit clothes. This meant we would only have 4 hours sleep maximum and of course it was wonderful, quality rest, rudely interrupted at 11pm.

We had a snack and began the trek to the summit. The aim was to reach Stella Point between 6 and 7am.

My brother-in law Aron set the pole-pole pace. We were briefed that we must stay together in one line, no singing (to conserve energy) and watch our buddies.

The path was mainly sand or ash, and was energy sapping with some steps moving us backwards. It was so hard. We had agreed to take a five minute break every hour and I couldn’t wait for the next break. I kept looking at my watch and each time it had only been few minutes since my last time check.

The path was constant switchbacks which was nice because we all had the opportunity to see the magnificent views. The first view was of Moshi Town – a city scape some 25km below us. The second view was of the dawn.

Sunrise while walking up Kilimanjaro
Sunrise while walking up Kilimanjaro

African daybreaks and sunsets are world-renowned, and this was my first – from near the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The walking continued for six hours of extremely tiring terrain and attitude. In the seventh hour our main guide’s mood changed to pure happiness and he was virtually congratulating us. He pointed at the top of the next hill and said “That’s Stella Point.” That hill was the hardest so far and seemed to take an age. At 7:14am today we reached Stella Point.

I had read before arriving in Tanzania that many people reach Stella Point and do not continue to the Uhuru Peak – the highest point of Kilimanjaro. I hadn’t understood it until today – the extra hour to walk a kilometre of relatively flat ground was extremely difficult. We were already tired from the climb and the early start but all 18 of us continued to the Peak.

I was exhausted and one of our porters carried my rucksack the final uphill stretch to Uhuru.

19 of us at Uhuru Peak, the top of Kilimanjaro at 5,895 metres
19 of us at Uhuru Peak, the top of Kilimanjaro at 5,895 metres

Once we reach Uhuru my emotions just unleashed. I always find mountain climbing emotional but this was a different scale. Most of our group’s eyes were filled. We took lots of photos and started to walk back down.

Our doctor recommended returning to base camp quickly. I took the opportunity to surf down the scree and volcanic ash. I did this for a few minutes when one of our porters overtook me and we were flying back down to camp. We arrived at 10:30 and the next group arrived almost an hour later. I used this time to catch up on some sleep.

After lunch we pack our kit and walked to the next and final campsite – Millennium. It was a three hour walk and our group were knackered. Our lead guide and doctor explained that it is unsafe to stay at the attitude of base camp so we really had to do the walk.

We arrived at Millennium having walked in the cloud the whole way. As soon as we arrived there was heavy rain which always makes camping harder.

Dinner was wonderful – green banana stew and rice. It had been a long and emotional day.

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