Why we Stand on the Summit of Kilimanjaro

The reason I choose to climb Mount Kilimanjaro is because I wanted to test myself. I wanted to know if I could achieve a summit 50% of people do not achieve and benchmark myself against myself. I really wanted to see if I could train, focus and get the result I so badly wanted.

My research started on You Tube. I started looking at video’s and came across Ian’s summit night on Kilimanjaro video. It lead me to this video I immediately e-mailed Ian and he got back to me with a wealth of information. I read through everything and then gave him a call. Thank you Ian you helped me believe, give me confidence and helped me fully prepare for the climb. Your wisdom, passion and time was greatly appreciated.


My training started in earnest. I really wanted to get the fitness and strength, to not only achieve the summit but go beyond that and really enjoy and get the most out of the trip. I started training 3 days a week in the first month and then added an additional day and by the 3rd month I was training 5 days a week. I live in Denver Colorado so I had access to the mountains so I would get out snow shoeing at first with 10lbs weight in my back pack and I will hike up 2,000 feet and back down 2,000 feet. In the beginning it took me 2 hours 30 minutes. I got stronger and fitter and I got it knocked 1 hour off that time. By month 5 the snow was gone and I was adding more weight to my back pack and slowly built up to 25lbs in my back pack I was training on the stair master and I lost weight, built strength and confidence and all this was done in 6 months. I felt like a different person. I was training 5 hours in the gym and 4 hours on the mountains, so I still had plenty of time for other things and it was not all consuming. I did have to alter my diet and this played an important part of the weight loss. I dropped 20lbs which was amazing. Focus, desire and the sheer will not to let myself down again drove me to keep training. Ian even came down to meet me and go for a hike to help me out. It was a great motivator, he was happy with my progress which was great to hear.

Heading to Africa

All the hard work was done. I was time to get on the flight to Africa. I had been to Nepal years earlier and I was so disappointed to could not each Everest base camp so those fears came rushing back as I set my eyes on Kilimanjaro. A beautiful monster in the sky. Ian’s lead guide Athumani was amazing and put my mind at ease. He said ‘ let’s just get to the gate, start walking and we will enjoy each moment and day of the journey. Relax and we will take our time’ Hakuna Matata……..

We did just that, the pacing was perfect, the terrain was perfectly paced. Once we hit steep hills the pace slowed and the guides managed this perfectly. I was so happy with the pace and the whole team were very excited about the journey. I had never talked as much in my life. I was so excited to be getting this journey underway. We had a few American’s, Australians, English, German and 4 Irish people who were so funny. Loved them all. Everyone had been training hard and the team looked very strong. Ian’s team on the ground were amazing, from King Solomon, Emmanuel, Amani, Sayyid, Max and all the other guys. The service was first class and the food was even better. Chef Ede was the best.

On the Trail

The pacing of each day was perfect, plenty of breaks, rest, laughs and encouragement. Our team was perfect and couldn’t have wished for a better set up. I started to notice a slight headache on the way up to the lava tower at 15,200 feet. I was not taking diamox but was using aspirin on a daily basis. I felt much better after lunch on the way back down the hill to Barranco camp. By the time I got down to see the Barranco wall the head ache had cleared. I was tired but exhilarated to when all our staff were standing there dancing and welcoming us to camp after a hard day.

Barranco Wall

I slept hard this night and felt so much better in the morning. I think mentally it was a test the whole team came through and all believed we could make it at that point. Exciting stuff. We all talked at breakfast about the Barranco wall. It did look imposing as we looked at it face on. Once we started making our way up it became clear that it was a lot easier than I imagined. Yes, you have to concentrate in certain sections of the climb but you it was fun. There were maybe 4 scrambling or climbing sections and one down hill section other than that it was just walking. We took our time getting to the top and we were treated to one of the great views of Kilimanjaro along with the view way off down to the clouds and plains below. From the top of the Barranco wall it becomes easier as we moved to Karanga camp. There was one last hill at the end but that only took us 25 minutes.

From Karanga camp it began to become real. We were so close to the big day and we were all getting nervous about the upcoming summit night and long day back down the mountain. We just took it nice as easy from Karanga camp to high camp and this took us 3 and a half hours. The terrain was gradual and we were just keeping our heart rates low, deep Breathing and staying as relaxed as possible. The goal was to safe as much energy for the following evening. We left at 8am and arrived at 11:30am. We got into our tents rested at our new height of 15,100 feet. I started to get my tent set up and Lunch/ dinner was set for 1:30pm and then the plan was to rest all the way through to 10:30pm. We will wake get ready and have breakfast at 11:30pm and start walking.

Summit Attempt

At midnight be made our loud announcement at we were going to make it to the summit. We took off in the dark and walked through the lower part of the camp before a 700 feet steep climb up out of the camp. This was challenging but once we took it slow and steady we were fine. This took about an hour and then we took a break. It was not that cold but it would get colder the longer and higher to moved. From here there was another hour of gradual hiking upwards and we could see some head torches above, not many.  The next 4 hours were mentally challenging, we were taking our time and pacing the climb nicely but mentally it was tough. For me the last hour up to the crater rim and Stella point was the hardest. We had to take a good few breaks on that last push but the sun started to come up and we could see the top of the crater. It was hard work and really challenged the whole team. Once we got to Stella point we could see the top and where the famous sign was. Seeing the top was a great boost and after a very short break. We were on the move. The terrain was easier, I was tired but I really was excited about reaching the top. It took us about 45 minutes and I stood of the top of Africa. An amazing, exciting, important moment in my life. I did it!! I dropped to my knees and cried.

After a few minutes I got up and all the guides hugged me, we were ushered to the sign for pictures and group pictures before taking about 10 minutes of our own time to enjoy the top as the sun came up. I was cold, maybe 20F but it soon warmed up as the we moved off the top. The scenery is just breathtaking and out of this world it was hard to take it all in. I was just so happy I had reached the top with all the guides and the whole team pushed hard to make it.

The Way Back Down

The journey down was hot and hard. I was tired and after about 3 hours we all fell into camp and slept for an hour. Athumani got us packing up, we had lunch and started the 3/4 hour journey lower to Mweka camp at 10,170 feet. We had just climbed over 4,000 feet to the summit and dropped 9,000 feet lower on the mountain. An amazing feat!! I was so happy to be coming down but happy with experience, standing on the top and seeing all my hard work pay off. I was so happy. I slept so hard that night.

We were up early and I and whole team were so excited to be getting a shower. The walk through the rain forest was awesome and we were back to our laughing and joking as we made our way back to the gate. I collected my certificate, had lunch and then headed back to the hotel for a shower, beer, dinner and we had a late night of celebrations.

Climbing Kilimanjaro was a life changing moment and experience. I proved to myself I was worth something and worthy. It gave me the confidence to go on and achieve other things in my life that needed attention.

Sarah Ryan, Kilimanjaro 2015

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