10 June 2012 

 Well, there ya have it. The blessings have already started. I got picked up at a gas station in Moshi by my guide to be, and after talking at their office, I decided to go with the 7 day trek and not 6. To my surprise, there were already two other people going on the 7 day and that if I went with them, I’d get a discount! Yes, I will take that....thank you very much. Then walking into my hotel, I met the two people. A mid 20’s couple from Sweden. OK, its time to charge my plethora of electronics. Ciao

11 June 2012 
 Its time. Today is the day. Day 1. The attempt to climb will start shortly. It is breakfast time, and as I have no idea what my food will be for the next 7 days, I’m enjoying overpriced eggs and juice. 

 NIGHT TIIIIIME! Day 1 is in the books! I had a few weak spurts, but overall a great day. All clouds, in the rain forest all day, and our vertical assent was 1200 meters. From 1800 (the park gate) - 3000. Tomorrow will be 800 vertical, and will take us about 4.5 hours, two less than today. 
 Arriving at camp this afternoon/evening was nothing short of amazing. The tents and chairs and “mess tent” was set up and waiting, and after a short rest we had hot tea and popcorn. Next came the carrot soup and bread. What a dinner. All 3 of us were pleased. Nice dinner we agreed....then came the potatoes and fish fillets, haha. Wow, impressive! I’m definitely full now, I thought. Midway through, another vegetable soup was served and I was speechless. This would be a very nice meal in a house. An amazing meal for a picnic. But all of this carried up a mountain on people’s shoulders? C'mon....
 Needless to say....dinner was tasty. 

12 June 2012

 Day two is in the books. Literally. Dinner is finished, my tummy is full, and my neck is sunburned quite bad. I sit in our mess tent writing by candle light not because I have no other light source, but because somehow, it just makes it that much better. Our dinner each night is accompanied by candles, and it has been wonderful. Another 3 course meal was had and we just got finished star gazing. They are un-be-leave-able. Johan is using a 15 second shutter speed to try to capture the Milky Way, and really, what you can see from up here is truly breathtaking. In the states it seems that you can see thousands of stars. Here it is millions. It almost looks like there is more white in the sky than black. Standing there with my head tilted back feeling the cool breeze around my neck I got a bit excited again and realized I am really lucky to be getting to do this. Despite there being +/- 100 people at this camp alone on this night, I realized again that I’m one of a few that get to experience this. Life is good. 
 We had a few sections of our trek that bordered “technical” or “climbing.” I enjoyed them. This morning, we started out walking in the rain forest under complete cloud cover, but were soon through them where sunburning was free and liberally distributed to everyone. I’ve only had a few light headaches so far, but tomorrow apparently, will be the start of the challenge. Challenge? Hmm, what exactly have the past 2 days been? Just kidding, it has really not been that bad. Do as they say and go slow and all will be fine. After all, the hike is scenic. Why not just cruise, and have a casual walk. You get to camp and although you get to rest, all you will be doing is sitting. 
I’m quite confident that I will sleep great tonight. I realized last night that earplugs DO work for me. Add that to being on flat ground tonight.....I’m excited. 
Tomorrow we climb to 4600 meters, then hike back down to sleep at 3900. We are at 3800 tonight so hopefully I’ll push through, without any major difficulties. Well, I could keep rambling but I’m yawning and should try to sleep. I do not even know the time...

14 June 2012

 The dogs are barking now!! Not literally, that is just what Vernon Taylor, my grandpa used to say. Its been a long two days. Well, technically a long day and a short one. I decided to keep up with a porter for the last 30 minutes or so on our decent into camp last night and I paid the price. Thinking “up fast” is bad but down fast isn’t, I opted to go for it. What I didn’t think of is that my heart/blood/oxygen would still have to be pumped and keep up. A horrible headache and nausea ensued and my evening plans changed in favor of Advil and a nap. I’d recovered by dinner and after a bit of chitchat I turned in for what would be my best night of sleep yet. 
Today we got to start late because we’re on the 7 day plan. up until now the 6 day people and us have done the same thing. The camp we will sleep at will only be their lunch stop. They will continue on for another 4 hours and relax (try to sleep) until midnight when they will start their ascent to the summit. I do not envy them at all.
 We on the other hand, will relax for the rest of today, and have another easy day tomorrow. 3 hours of hiking today, and 3 tomorrow. Then rest all afternoon and get up ad midnight tomorrow to summit. In every way the 7 dat choice is better. Especially since they gave it to me with no price change. 

15 June 2012

Dinner last night was good and we got to visit with the porters for a bit. One is 19 years old, one 20, and 22 I think. Its just so crazy to me, it really is (their lives). In too many ways to discuss....but some comfort comes from their acknowledgement that this is a good job, and I suppose it isn’t fair to them to compare their style of living to that of someone in another country. But is that a copout on my part? I don’t know. I do know that I don’t like being waited on and catered to. Especially by people who could use more assistance than myself, even if it is their job. 
Well, this is the dawn of the day that I will summit. Tonight at midnight we will set off for the top. 

 It is 5:15 p.m. now and we’re at our next/last camp (before the final climb). I forget the name of the camp. My headache reminds me of the altitude though. 4600 meters. Thankfully it has not been horrible every day. I think we all know I don’t do “sick” very well. 
 It didn’t take us very long to get here today, maybe 2.5 hours. What we walked through was called the alpine desert. The camp here is just below the snow line on the mountain and when you are not in direct contact with the sun, it gets cold fast. I just took at 2.5 hour nap. I’m glad I did because after the nap yesterday, I slept very little last night. Even as I’m writing I keep having to put on more clothes. It’s going to be a cold night, and even colder walk up the mountain. I’m a little worried though....I sure hope I have enough clothes. I should be good. Walking helps keep you warm. 

16 June 2012

WOW! What a day. Man what a day. I climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro today. I can summarize the ascent to the summit like having the flu, and being forced to walk up a never ending gravel hill in the dark with snow and ice where the temp is 15 degrees Fahrenheit and you are forced to breathe through a straw. Oh, and you start at midnight having no sleep and arrive at the top just before sunrise. So that is how Kilimanjaro is. But that is just the summit night/morning. The preceding 5 days are like walking up stairs for 4-6 hours per day. Yes, you still have the straw in your mouth. 
 When I got to the camp at 3100 meters this afternoon I spent about 5 minutes enjoying the ability to hold my breath for longer than 2 seconds and not worrying about passing out or throwing up. 
Oh ya....thats the other thing. En route to the summit, I couldn’t decide if my “Heart”/blood was going to burst out of my neck, chest, or head first. That altitude is something else. When I got to the fake summit, Stella Point, I literally laid down. the guide made me sit up, but I actually started crying. Why? I don’t know. Because for the previous 3 hours I really didn’t know if I was going to make it? We saw several people do an about face and accept their failed attempt. It gave me an uneasy feeling yet encouragement at the same time. It also might have been because I felt so awful, sick, hurt, and exhausted that THAT was the only thing my body had left to do. Or it could be that to my right was the congrats sign, and in the background was a breathtaking (literally) glacier, and to my left was the sunrise, peeking through 2 inferior mountain peaks. 

You can see the earth’s curve when you’re out on the ocean, when you’re in an airplane, and from where I was sitting. Man...the sunrise. I could actually see the earth from the same perspective as a commercial pilot; and I was sitting on the ground. Despite a few very sparse clouds above me, I had a beautifully clear sky. And even though I did need a little help from the guide, I still walked to 19,340 feet to see it. The mountain did require me to throw up 200 yards from the top though, before I could get a picture. Nice entrance fee. 

The decent was equally awful for the first 300 meters, and then something happened. Adrenaline. And a full shot of it. I felt great, awake, and excited. I naturally started walking faster, and that turned into some crude style of gravel sliding/skiing. It was amazing. Me and the guide were blowing past people like they were standing still. Some actually were I guess, haha. But most were trying to do this weird type of side step tiptoe thing where they were using their hiking poles....we didn’t need no poles haha. We were cruising. Upon reaching camp, the guide told me we made it down an hour and 15 minutes. it was supposed to take 2.5 hours. Hello nap time. My goal has been reached. 

Heather Reihm
9/9/2012 10:06:06 am

Von, As I read your journal I feel like I am right there with you experiencing this. What an amazing feat you accomplished!!!!


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