Kilimanjaro Journal: Day 5 – Summit Day!

Day 5 (well kinda, starting at midnight on Day 4) — Jan 28, 2015 

I didn’t sleep too much before our midnight wake up call, but I still felt wide awake to begin our summit. Our guides told us that you have to start around midnight and climb the 4,000+ feet in the dark, so you make it to the summit right at sunrise… because as soon as the sun comes up the wind starts up. The wind is extremely strong, basically it’s blowing from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic with nothing to slow it town at that elevation on the whole continent. We had also heard that the clouds start to move in soon after the sun is up, and based on what we’d seen so far with the weather, we had no doubt.

Kilimanjaro Summit Day

We had been warned that it would be cold and windy and COLD! We probably didn’t have the best attire to summit Kili, let’s review. I had:

  • a very cute trenchcoat rain jacket from REI (it’s from REI, yes, but let’s just say it’s not exactly “technical alpine wear”)
  • a nano-weight down jacket that we’ve been carrying everywhere, it’s lightweight… it’s the lightest weight down jacket they make
  • nano-weight down vest (same deal)
  • lightweight hiking pants
  • pair of leggings
  • charming charlie’s cheap-o cotton scarfy thing
  • 2 tank tops
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 1 thin long sleeve t-shirt
  • Buff to be used as a hat like thing
  • My ole reliable hiking boots
  • A pair of borrowed gloves from a porter

And I wore every single piece of clothing I could…. Kinda felt like the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Rick had:

  • Hiking shorts
  • Lightweight hiking pants
  • Ski pants (yep, he wore all three!)
  • 2 Icebreaker t-shirts
  • 1 long sleeve Icebreaker t-shirt
  • Marmot nano-weight, very well loved down jacket
  • rain jacket
  • Merrell trail running shoes
  • Buff to be used as a hat like thing
  • A pair of borrowed gloves from a porter

Basically, we proceeded to put on EVERYTHING we had with us and hoped for the best!

Turns out that almost all of the other groups left at midnight. But thanks to our guide’s amazing confidence in our speed hiking abilities, or more likely his lack of desire to get up any earlier, we left at 1:15 AM. He assured us that we would have plenty of time to make the summit by sunrise… he failed to mention that was conditional on us basically doing a light jog up the 4,000+ feet to the summit. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a jog, but it felt like a powerwalking death march, as we passed group after group after group. More on that later…

We started up by the light of our headlamps. We could see other trekkers far ahead of us on the mountain, like a small trail of ants shown only by their headlamp light. Marching up the mountain in the dark only being able to see the back of the person in front of you and about a 4 foot circle of rock illuminated by head lamp gives you a lot of time to think… or sing. I sang the only song I’ve found that I know all the words too, Roger Creager’s, Everclear. Thanks, college. Thanks, Anne Jenkins Roberts. Rick was thinking “Strong Like Lion. Slow Like Turtle. Gassy Like Antelope.” Did I mention it was freezing cold and dark? Turns out we don’t take many pictures when it’s freezing cold and dark.

Luckily the sun does come up eventually to and way before you see the sun you can start making up the ridge line and then rocks around you and then finally the glacier and crater. We’re almost to the summit.

Kilimanjaro Summit Day

Kilimanjaro Summit Day

 

There is another peak “Stella” of sorts that is on one side of the crater that stopped at briefly before climbing the last hundred meters past the glacier around the edge of the crater on the way to Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro, the highest point on the continent of Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world!
19,341 feet above sea level (5985 meter).Kilimanjaro Summit Day

Kilimanjaro Summit Day

 

Kilimanjaro Summit Day Uhuru Peak

 

We made it! We tried to keep up the tradition of “Airplane” on the summit, unfortunately we didn’t get a great photo of it. It just looks like Rick is kicking me in the stomach WWE style.Kilimanjaro Summit Day Uhuru Peak Then it was Down. Down. Down.