Kilimanjaro Summit

Take me back.

I’ll never forget that night. Getting ready to summit. 7 travelers from all over the world with one goal.

We tried to nap around 8pm but your mind is racing. You are exhausted from 4 full days of trekking up to 12 hours per day at staggering elevations. Sleep is a luxury but desperately needed. You wear all your clothes at night trying to stay warm in temps reaching -20°F. You are adequately fed with rice, beans, porridge, noodles and popcorn. We were tested nightly for oxygen and heart rates.

The group has to be ready to leave at 12am sharp. I had 7 layers of clothing on my top & 4 layers on my legs (I was a little warm but couldn’t take any chances). Our water bottles were filled with boiling water (by the time you reach the summit they are almost frozen again). I put in my right pocket unwrapped lifesavers my mom had given me. In my left ear, I put in my headphone to play an upbeat music playlist I made prior to arrival. These were my 2 game changers that ultimately gave me that edge to power through.

I was #2 in line. Your only focus was to watch the persons’ ankles in front of you. One foot in front of the other for 5 straight hours. Pole pole (slow slow).

Occasionally you would look up and just see light trails traversing up a dark mountain in zig zag patterns from a few other groups. Thank goodness we couldn’t see those ledges because we later learned the drop offs were scary as hell.

We stopped briefly around 3am for some hot chocolate. The best I’ve ever had. But we had to resume moving quickly to reach the summit at sunrise.

It was so challenging. I remember one guy was falling asleep every few steps, which was one of the signs of oxygen deprivation. He was heartbreakingly turned around to head back to our base camp. Another was running out of water only 2 hours from summit and had to concede. 3 other females had to end their journey due to deep coughs and altitude sickness. So that left my tent-mate and myself with 1 porter to attack the final push. We had made a pact on night #1 that we were going to conquer this together at all costs.

I remember about 30 mins from Stella Point, the picture spot that signifies you are only 1 hour from summiting. That was the only time I seriously thought about quitting. It was a low point where all my insides were screaming. Legs were jello. Every piece of you is frozen and stiff. Your internal thoughts screwing with your sanity. But the moment passed, thankfully.

Stella point is that sign you needed to power through and that “you got this”. At this point, we start walking through snow and see this massive glacier guiding us on the left side. Twilight is breaking through and I get an extra pep in my step because it is going to happen. I start crying uncontrollably while continuing forward. My smile hurts because it is so big and can’t be controlled.

Summit is a blur of only 30 mins due to extreme cold and making it back to base camp with time to descend safely, but I’ll never forget seeing that sunrise above the clouds. Pure joy. Ethereal beauty. Mission accomplished. ✅ 🤯

May 9, 2013 is significant for 3 reasons:

My Disney hiring anniversary

My brother Scott making it home from a deployment

Summiting Kili

Sliding down the scree for the 2 descent days are another story…… 😱

UPDATE: I recently found some of my long lost pics, so included those below for some extra views into the rugged landscape involved in this monumental feat!

Published by elliottcm

Love adventure travel, work hard & play hard, happy in both extremes - relaxing on a remote beach or rappelling down cliffs, take joy in simple things, love being on & near the water, visited 55 countries & 47 states so far in this crazy beautiful life! Goals by my 50th birthday - 50 states. 75 countries. 50 national parks. Be in Antarctica on my big day.

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