Finally: Summit day. As mentioned on the last day the night was short. Very short in fact, as we had to get up at 11pm to get dressed, drink some tea and be ready to start at midnight. Sleeping at that altitude is also interesting. Your breath rate is increased significantly, as is your pulse. My resting heart rate was at 100 bpm, whereas 60 bpm would be normal at sea level!
When dressing we’ve had to keep in mind the temperatures of down to -10°C, which is even colder at altitude and when being outside for hours. Onion layering was key:
- long sleeve base layer, long sleeve base layer, thin fleece jacket, thick fleece jacket, softshell jacket, down jacket for the upper body
- long johns and down trousers for the legs
- thin AND thick trekking socks
- thin AND thick gloves
- balaclava, cap, hood
- … and we were ready to go!
Our guides positioned us in a row: they knew from the days before who is stronger and who is less strong. (Spoiler: as everyone of us made it to the top “less strong” is only a relative term.) In any case the slower ones had been positioned in front in order to keep our group together so our guides could keep watch on us.
During the next five hours we were only seeing the light of our headlamps and the backs (or butts) of the ones in front of us. Every single one of us was concentrating on the next step, on the next breath – we were losing our sense of time. It was cold, dark, exhausting. If people say making it to the top is 30% fitness and 70% mental strength they are speaking of this day. You don’t know how far you already went, how far it still is – but you are continuing anyway. You have that single goal, that single destination – or destiny and you want to achieve that.
My own personal and mental strategy was as simple as difficult: don’t think about how long you might be able to continue. Just focus on the next step. If the next step is possible: do it! Then try the next step.
The higher we got the bigger also the symptoms of altitude sickness became for some of us. I was happy not to have any problems as headache or nausea, as some of us had to vomit on the way up.
But then at around 5:30 am the dawn began. I think I can speak for all of our group: the dawn of our life! Immediately you start feeling the energy of the sun filling your veins, I had goose bumps all around and a mix of wanting to laugh and cry at the same time. It’s just such an emotional moment every one of us enjoyed.
Although we still had 250 height meters to go. At that altitude that means another 2 hours!
I was exhausted, dehydrated, probably had low blood sugar, needed my trekking poles to keep my balance. But after those 2 more hours finally we’ve reached the summit.
Ururu Peak, Kibo, Kilimanjaro, Africa at 5,895m! WE MADE IT!
An incredible feeling – almost impossible to describe. I’ve worked 1.5 years for that moment, envisioned it countless times. Thought about how it would be and could be. And finally this moment was there. I was standing at the top of Africa, together with newly found friends and our guides and summit porters.
Awesome, fantastic, stunning. Just open up the thesaurus for those words. Every single one of those will match.
On the summit we had approximately 15 minutes until we needed to start our descent. On your way down you’re taking some rest at the last camp Kibo Hut, but then descent directly to Horombo Hut at 3.720m, which makes this day a 22km trip with a 2.200m descent. But first things first: The way from the summit to the Kibo Hut was a big challenge for me as I was totally exhausted, started to see double, had problems concentrating. Two of our guides supported me on the way down to Kibo Hut and led me down the direct way. At Kibo Hut I got some tea, toast and pancake and my energy and spirit of life came back quickly.
Rested and strengthened we continued our way down a couple of hours later so we arrived safely at Horombo Hut before the sunset for the best sleep on the mountain on the whole trip.
- starting altitude: 4,720m
- final altitude: 5,895m
- altitude gain: 1,175m
- distance: 22km
- duration: 14h
Altitude – distance – chart:
Kibo to Summit to Kibo:
Kibo back to Horombo:
What goes up… – last day: all the way back