My journey to Climb Kilimanjaro was challenging. I had been lacking the belief to make an important transition in my career. I really needed some space to make up my mind and Kilimanjaro gave me so much more than that.
I was planning for just less than 6 months but Ian got me quickly up to speed. I have been Kayaking and cycling most of my life in the states and have stayed active but I need to get more specific training for Kilimanjaro. This was vital in my success and thanks to Ian for his advice it made all the difference. I found the altitude challenging and fatiguing and thank god I picked the 8 day trip or else I would not have made it to the top.
Traveling to Africa
I have traveled to many parts of the world, but never to Africa. I was extremely interested in visiting the Mt. Everest school in Uganda which Ian and friend built in 2009 after their Everest ascent. It didn’t happen on this occasion but I will raise more funds and return to visit the school with some friends in the near future and climb a mountain in Uganda.
Once I arrived in Kilimanjaro, I was met by Ian’s staff and brought to our Hotel in Arusha. Ian arrived later that evening and our group sat down straight away asking questions about his Everest climb and all his Kilimanjaro climbs. He had just come off a long flight and sat there for 4 hours answering all questions and then checking our gear.
Starting the Trek
We woke early and had breakfast together. Everyone was excited about the climb. I was ready and motivated to take on this challenge. I really wanted to do it. I was very impressed by Ian and his team. Everything was very efficiently managed and we were on our way climbing Kilimanjaro. Walking slower than I imagined, Ian brought a very relaxed atmosphere to the group, encouraging everyone to drink their 4/5 liters, walk slowly and enjoy the rain forest. We chatted and walked and took lots of breaks. What a walk through the rain forest on the Lemosho route. I was a great experience. We had a little rain for 30 minutes and that was it.
The day was a long hike up the Shira plateau and we took our time taking breaks on a regular basis for toilet spots. We all had to get used to going to the toilet in the outdoors but we had our own chemical toilet tents in camp which other teams didn’t have. This was a great plus for me.
While heading into Shira camp 11,155 ft. I could notice the lack of oxygen and Ian had me drink more water and I felt much better. I was trying to go easy on drinking water so I didn’t have to stop and go to the toilet but I realized I needed to drink more water to stay well hydrated. A lesson learned early. We enjoyed an evening of games and cards and everyone was really enjoying the slow controlled pace of the climb as it was really helping the team recover quicker.
Everyone slept well and we had a nice walk up to 12,467 ft. the follow morning. The jump from Shira 1 to Shira 2 really made all the difference for me. This additional day living at altitude, taking my time and drinking plenty of water helped become more comfortable and more relaxed about the days ahead. I really started to enjoy the journey as we got closer to the summit. Ian talked about live being very simple here. Eat, drink lots of water, slow walking and sleep. ‘Do these things well and you will make it’ We all took this on board.
The next day was a long day. We were at 12,467 feet at Shira camp 2. We now had to head to 15,091 feet and then drop down 2,296 feet to Barranco camp. This was a 7 hour hike and Ian made sure we paced our hike up to the Lava Tower and walked consistently and slowly towards the lunch point. We were all noticing the lack of oxygen but most people had listened to Ian’s training advice prior to the climb and felt physically in good shape. After about 45 minutes at this height we moved down the beautiful barranco valley into Barranco camp. We had a little bit of rain but the weather cleared for a great view of the Barranco wall and the following days hike.
We were all tired but staying well hydrated throughout the day, this made all the difference and after cleaning up in camp we were all excited and invigorated by the days hike and felt great and excited about the coming days. Ian was happy with mine and everyone’s performance and we had a couple of easier days to come before the big and long summit day. We all went to bed early and woke up refreshed and ready for the wall.
After the 700 feet climb (mostly walking) up the Barranco Wall we walked around the base of the big summit volcano. We walk around the mountain going up and down small hills nothing too strenuous and everyone was walking and talking and enjoying the new dusty moon like terrain.
This walk was great and having the extra days helped grow my confidence. If I wasn’t feeling a win at the end of each day, I am not sure I could have had the belief I could make the summit. By feeling tired but fulfilled each day I was motivated to take on the next day. We could hear people vomiting and moaning and feeling the altitude in Barranco and Karanga camp. Ian explained that most people are doing 5 or 6 day climbs. Going to high altitude too fast and getting sick and having to go down and only 50% of people make the summit. There is no way I could have cut out any days. I needed all 8 to make the climb. Ian said ‘We are here to enjoy and experience something special why cut out days, get sick and have to go down’.
On the climb I started to realize you can not cut corners on the mountain and the same was true of my work at home. If I want to succeed at home I need to make sure I am doing everything possible to make myself successful in my career. I was learning so much about myself and my ability. My ability was only curtailed by my lack of experience. I had to go home and learn more, research more and educate myself more. If I can do that I can really get after my goals and make them happen.
The Final Push
I was really enjoying the group and listening to Ian’s words of wisdom, daily tips and encouragement each day. He slowly built my confidence during the climb although I didn’t realize it until after the climb. We were getting closer to the big day and we slowed our pace as we headed to Barafu camp 15,256 feet as others were racing past us we kept our slow and steady pace and felt relaxed and good as we arrived in high camp. We arrived in at 1pm, cleaned up and had our dinner early so we could get as much sleep as possible before the summit attempt. We rested all day and got ready for the night climb ahead. We woke at 10:45pm started snacking, drinking a liter of water and put on our cloths and boots to get warm before heading out of the tent. We all came in for breakfast at 11:30pm and got 2 more liters of waters for the climb. I drank 2 liters before leaving on the long walk to the summit. I eat some toast, porridge and hot chocolate. At mid night be started walking to the summit. It was warmer than expected but as the night went on it got colder and colder and we needed all the layers and down jacket. I found the walking easy but walking in the dark was mentally challenging. I had to focus on my breathing and stepping as Ian reminded us every 20 minutes. This helped. Slow step after slow step I kept pushing myself. I really wanted to do this. After 5 hours we could see light on the horizon and that helped me realize most of the hard work was done. Ian told us we were getting really close to the crater rim and that was the hardest part. We had to self motivate and focus on our breathing. We were down to a snails pace at this stage and taking very short breaks sometimes every 10 steps. We had to keep moving slowly as it was really cold. The last 2 hours to the crater rim were the hardest but we all made it to Stella point. The sun was starting to rise and we could see the summit. That was enough to wake us all up and make that final push to the summit.
Reaching the Summit
I had a spring in my step now and we all were so excited to reach the top. Yes I was tried but getting to the top was driving me on. Ian told us to focus on the top, each step and breathing. We moved towards the top and 45 minutes later I reached my goal. I was emotional and wanted to savor this very special moment. We took our pictures enjoyed the summit and started to make our way back towards Stella Point. The view was out of this world and one I will never forget. All 10 team members made the summit of Kilimanjaro all thanks to Ian and his team. We started the long walk down. It started to get warmer so we were taking off layers and by the time we reached our tents it was really warm. We all rested in our tents for 45 minutes then we were called to pack up our tents. It was a struggle but we knew we needed to get lower. I filled my water bottles and had 3 more liters of water for the way down. We all had lunch as people looked at their summit pictures. At 1pm we started walk down lower to Mweka camp. The lower we got the better we felt and 3 hours later we arrived in camp. We washed up, some people got a beer and enjoyed the celebrations and dinner. Most people went straight to bed after dinner and some of stayed up and chatted for a hour or so. I felt great after my 15 hour day and so happy with my achievement.
Ian made all the difference in my success and has contributed to my life changing experience on Kilimanjaro. I have come home motivated to make the changes needed and excited to take on the next step in my career and look forward to climbing another mountain with Ian in the future. We had a great team, great food, great tents and the whole climb was one of the best experiences of my life. I highly recommend Ian Taylor Trekking for your Kilimanjaro climb. I had the time of my life!
Christy McGuire, 2015 Climbing Kilimanjaro with Ian Taylor Trekking