Climbing Kili—A Labor of Love, The Beginning

When Erin first asked if I’d be interested in climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro I scoffed. Absolutely not. It sounded like a long, miserable journey that I was not in any way prepared to tackle. However, after a bit of internet research, I came around to the idea of attempting “Everyman’s Everest.” And with that, we paid our deposit to ClimbKili and were officially doing it.

We arrived in Arusha, Tanzania and almost immediately set out on the 8-day Lemosho route along with four other trekkers—Emma and Conor from Ireland and brothers Tommy and Josh from the US. The task seemed manageable—we would carry a daypack with our daily essentials (water, sunscreen, layers) and the porters would handle the rest. And for the first six days, the hiking was manageable—just when it felt like we could go no further, we had reached the nightly camp. Our guides Emanuel, Dustin, and Chi-Chi (yes, Chi-Chi) made sure that we maintained a slow but steady pace with constant reminders of “pole-pole” or “slowly, slowly.” We were consistently the first group to finish the day, and were proud of it. As a member of the group said, “I know it’s not a race, but we’re definitely winning.”

Perhaps the biggest adjustment during the first few days on the trail pertained to our hygiene and living quarters. There are no showers on the trail, so bathing with wet wipes was the only way to go. Delightful. Around day 5 I announced that I didn’t think my clothes smelled too badly, all things considered. However, Erin quickly let me know that I was incorrect in that statement— it’s always good to keep a girlfriend around for the real truth. Dirt seemed to become a part of our skin and fingernails despite all efforts to stay clean, and eventually we simply accepted it for what it was—a dirty adventure.

Each night we slept 2-deep in a 3-person tent. We pumped ourselves full of water each day to stay hydrated and combat altitude sickness, which lead to much-abhorred bathroom runs in the middle of the night. At least 45 minutes were spent each night debating how much longer we could hold out before getting out of our warm bed, throwing on some shoes, and stumbling to the chemical toilet in the dark. Each night was chillier than the last, and we made due by adding layers of clothing and placing our rental jackets over the top of our sleeping bags. I promised Erin that I wouldn’t tell anyone if we had to spoon on the last night to stay warm. Fortunately for her, it didn’t come down to that. I have a feeling we’d both like to be big spoon, which never works out well.

When the wakeup call for the summit hike arrived around midnight on night 6 we were nervous, but ready to go. This was what we had been training for, walking towards, and thinking about since well before our arrival in Africa. It was time to accept a challenge that we had never anticipated facing, and we were ready. Let’s do this Kilimanjaro.

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