They Made It

Two weeks ago today my Guy, Son (C21), and Brother-in-Law (BIL) returned from their adventure in Tanzania, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and enjoying a safari through the Ngorongoro Crater.

They made it to the summit, 19,341 feet above sea level. It took six and a half days up and a day and a half down.

Guy said it was the hardest thing he’s ever done, physically and mentally. The key word is polepole, Swahili for slowly. You go up slowly, one foot in front of the other, allowing your body time to acclimate. Guy said he never felt the physical exertion one experiences on a typical hike, where you move quickly to cover mileage and get to your goal. This hike wasn’t about the sweat. It was all about reaching the summit.

Their group of 12 hikers had 49 porters, carrying not only their backpacks but also sleeping and dining tents, tables and chairs, food and cooking supplies, and a port-a-potty (pity the guy who carried that). As they got closer to the summit and met up with other groups ascending along different trails, camp held as many as 500 people. Apparently, this hike is more popular than most of us reckon.

Summit day begins at midnight and hikers climb through the dark to reach the top at dawn. While hiking in the dark seems counter intuitive, apparently reasons include limiting the time spent at extreme altitude, the incredible dawn view from such a great height, and the possibility of storms at the peak later in the day.

By far the most difficult leg of the trip, Guy said it required more mental than physical strength. He stumbled several times. He had hot tea and caffeinated snacks and forced himself to sip or nibble every few steps. Fatigue and altitude working in tandem to shut down his brain, he wasn’t sure he’d make it. Yet he did. Their whole team made it to the summit.

And then, the best souvenir beyond achievement itself: group pictures at the summit.

After all the hard work, the remainder of the trip makes for a satisfying reward.

They trained for and achieved a personal high. They shared the experience with family and made new friends. They’ve experienced a part of the world they’d never seen before. They returned with greater self-confidence and a richer sense of what it means to be alive. Their lives have changed. Guy is ready to go back. C21 think he’s done with Kili, but talks about what else he might do.

Those of us who stayed behind feel solidly convinced that the only part of this adventure we’d choose would be the safari. However, we’re having conversations about what might be next. Challenged by their achievements, I have my own goals, physical, mental, professional. Guy and Q15 may take on a Scouting high adventure trek this summer. We all may take on shared endurance efforts of some sort.

We inhabit a great, big, wide world. Let’s explore!