Below is the journal ASLM CEO Carol Walters kept during her climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, as part of the Kili Kicking Dementia fundraiser.
Friday, October 18th – Arrived at Kilimanjaro International airport just before 1:00 pm and were greeted by our Mountain guides Douglas, Alex and Freddy who drove us to Aishi Machame Hotel which has the most beautiful grounds. We checked in and Douglas our Lead Guide came to our rooms to do a gear check and to let us know what we needed to pack in our backpacks for the next day. He said goodbye and we did some exploring of the beautiful grounds, then went to the outside bar for a well deserved drink. Dinner was served at 7:00 and we were off to bed for a good night’s sleep in preparation of day one of our mountain journey. ?
Saturday, October 19th – Climbed to Mti Mkubwa Camp (Forest Camp) at 9,498ft
7:30 am – Down to the dining room for breakfast at our hotel and met some climbers who had just come down from summiting. They indicated it was one of the toughest things they have ever done ? and they were both very fit people. They got hit with a bad snow storm with a foot of snow falling in a short period of time. One guy had his hat freeze to his face, which tore his skin when he removed it. A woman had a face full of blisters from extreme wind and cold. They gave us lots of good advice which we will heed.
8:30 am – Awaiting our departure from our hotel.
10:00 am – Our crew just arrived to pick us up quite a bit later than expected as our bus broke down – yikes! Not a great way to start things off.
1:00 pm – Arrived at the Londorossi Gate to get registered for our climb, had lunch and now off to the Lomosho starting point. Met another group of climbers that had just came down from the summit and they also said it was the hardest thing they have ever done – and they were both marathon runners! New respect for what we are about to do. We gathered some more great advice from these climbers which we will heed. ??
2:30 pm – Our bus got stuck on some unstable road due to extreme rainfall on our way to the Lomosho gate and the bus nearly
tipped over with us and all our gear inside and mountain crew inside – yikes!! We all disembarked and the crew managed to
push it out only for us to get stuck again a bit further up the road, so decided we needed to hike from that spot to the gate.
3:15 pm – Started our hike to the Lomosho gate on very steep muddy roads passing others stuck as well. This was a tough way to start our climb up the mountain
but we’re all still in good spirits. I found myself very winded and I’m not sure if it is the beginning of the way altitude will impact me, but it did freak me out a little.
4:30 pm – Got to the Lomosho gate and started a very steep climb immediately as we were now significantly behind schedule and trying to get to Forest Camp before dark. Our climb today took us through a beautiful rain forest where we saw blue monkeys and white and black monkeys. It was a challenging climb due to the elevation and muddy terrain. I was still very winded at points feeling like I was gulping for air again, freaking me out. The rest of our KKD team are doing great and all of us are in good spirits. Needed to pull the headlamps out as it got dark with still an hour to climb. Got to Forest camp at around 7:30 pm. Washed up and had dinner – cucumber soup, fried fish, fried potatoes, root vegetables and bananas …excellent dinner. Today I really appreciated our team who pulled me out of my head and supported me when I was feeling very challenged. ❤
9:30 pm – Douglas our lead guide met with us to go over our plan for the next day. Up at 6:30 am, breakfast at 7:30 am and the hike for the next day will start. This will take us out of the rain forest after about a 2 hour climb and into the moors up to Shira 1 Camp. Off to bed now in our little tent.
Sunday, October 20th – climbed to Shira 1 Camp at 11,500ft
3:30 am – Charlie and I woke…had a chocolate bar snack and water and now going to try to go back to sleep. 🙂
6:30 am – Wake up call to wash and pack and breakfast at 7:30…oatmeal, frittata, avocado, sausage…left Forest Camp for day two of our climb. It was a tough ascent today with a combination of weather and terrains. After about two hours of climbing we were out of the rain forest and into the moors which I foolishly thought would be soft rolling hills, but soon discovered it was another three hours of an uphill climb through mud and rock with half of it being in the rain…very challenging. We passed the time with a game of ‘name that tune’ then started coming up with songs that related to the weather (ie.“RainDrops Keep Falling on my Head”) or the terrain. Helped to make a challenging situation fun and our guides were great joining in :). The last hour of the climb was pretty flat with very interesting flora and fauna. We were in the clouds for a good part of the day, but occasionally caught glimpses of the most outstanding views of the mountains and valleys. We got to Shira 1 camp for lunch at around 2:30…got cleaned up, had a nap and joined my teammates in the mess tent for tea and a game of Bananagrams and some great conversation through questions posed in the Book of Questions. Dinner was outstanding with pumpkin soup, rice, stewed root vegetables in a coconut cream sauce and sauteed with beef with corn bread. Delicious. ? Night stars were outstanding tonight!! I was proud of our team today and feel good about tomorrow. ??
Monday, October 21st – hiked to Moir Hut Camp at 13,800 ft
Well today I am thankful for my training. The climb was not as steep but 3 days in I know it would have been quite a challenge if I did not have the strength in my legs and back. Breathing is more laboured at this altitude – I am so glad my strength is there, giving me one less thing to worry about.
6:30 am – Up and getting ready for the day at 7:30, we had a hearty breakfast. We were blessed with a clear blue sky and an outstanding view of the summit…so awesome to think we will be there in a few more days. We met our whole crew this morning with a song in front of the summit backdrop. I am so impressed with the strength and kindness of this crew. I am equally impressed with our KKD team who always seems to be there when you need them.
8:30 am – We left our camp for our daily journey up the mountain. The terrain again was beautiful everywhere you look. I found the first hour very difficult with my
breathing so we slowed the pace and things leveled off. Charlie also took my water to help lighten my load. We hiked past some awesome caves which we stopped to take some pictures at. We arrived at our next Camp Moir Hut at around 2:30 and sat down to a well deserved lunch – carrot soup, home made french fries, fried chicken and fried cabbage (we have an outstanding Chef as part of our crew). So glad I am doing this trip with Wendy, Ian and Charlie…what an experience we are having together. ❤
6:30 pm – Sun is going down with a spectacular display over the white fluffy clouds – my picture just does not do it justice – and the peak of Kilimanjaro on the other side…it is amazing how much closer one day of climbing has taken us towards our goal. Wendy and I stood overlooking our camp and beautiful view, acknowledging how fortunate we are to have such an experience. ❤?
Tuesday, October 22nd
Part 1 – Moir Hut to Lava Tower Elevation: 13,800 ft to 15,190 ft
Part 2 – Lava Tower to Barranco Camp Elevation: 15,190 ft to 13,044 ft
Today is called an acclimatization day so we hike high and sleep low.
6:30 am – Wake up call, coffee served in our tent and 1 hour to pack for the day. 7:30 am breakfast is served which typically consists of oatmeal, mango, toast, eggs and sausages aka fried hot dogs :).
8:30 am – We start our climb to Lava Tower Camp. This was a steady incline covering about 1400 feet for about 4.5 hours. We walked at a very slow pace due to the air/oxygen ratio at such high altitudes. Scenery was once again outstanding. We are above cloud level in many areas which gives you an interesting perspective. The weather changed from sun to rain to hail and as we got higher there was snow on the ground. Our KKD team was in good
form and this leg of today’s journey felt great. We landed at Lava Tower camp around 1:00 pm for lunch. This camp is named after the 300 foot tall volcanic rock formation at the base of the camp which was very impressive.
2:00 pm – It was time to head back out to descend to Barranco Camp where we will stay the night. We weren’t too excited about leaving as rain and hail had started, but we geared up and out we went to descend a complicated rock/water fall terrain…was not the best part of my day due to my fear of heights combined with rushing water, but we all made it unscathed and with dry feet. From there we had a long descent through the very rocky terrain of the Senecio Forest with plants that made you feel that you were part of a Dr Seuss story…we got some great pictures.
We landed at Barranco Camp around 4:00 pm, got cleaned up and had dinner at 6:30. We turned in at around 8:30 pm tonight, as we are all exhausted. It was a challenging day with a steep incline followed by a steep decline. This is the first time we have done a lengthy decline and it definitely used different muscle groups. Our KKD team is still in fine form and ready the scale the Great Barranco wall tomorrow- yikes. ?
Wednesday, October 23rd – Elevation: 13,044 feet to 13,106 feet
The elevation today is somewhat deceiving as we climb quite high again, then descend to sleep low to help prepare us for the altitude we will be at in just 2 more day when we summit. ?
6:30 am – Started as every day does by being greeted by Pascal with a wake up greeting and a cup of coffee in our tent, with an hour to get ready for our day. 7:30 am we had breakfast and at 8:30 am we start our climb by descending into a ravine that takes us to the base of the Great Barranco Wall – this is a part of our journey that I have been apprehensive about due to my fear of heights. In this part of the climb we scale a 900 foot cliff! At parts we actually had to hug the wall to maintain our footing. Charlie was such a help scaling that wall – I HAD NO IDEA I HAD THAT IN ME…and in the words of a fellow climber once reaching the top which I share wholeheartedly – “holy f**k”. Lots of emotion when we finished that part of today’s journey. From there we hiked the top of the Barranco wall up hills and into valleys. Again the landscape was very different from what we have seen thus far, more desertlike and equally as beautiful. We had a sharp descent into the Karanga Valley and then a steep climb to where we are camping for the night. We arrived at Karanga camp around 2:00 pm which was much earlier than the previous day – we were all thankful for the extra down time.
6:30 pm – Dinner, debriefing and off to bed. It is going to be a very cold night so we put hot pockets in our socks and two pairs of wool base layer to sleep in. ?
Today really challenged us, especially me and once again leaning on the support of the KKD team certainly helped all of us get through it. ❤
Thursday, October 24 Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp Elevation: 13,106 feet to 15,331 feet
Our day started much the same as our other days with our wake up call at 6:30 am, breakfast at 7:30 and climb starting at 8:30. It was a shorter hike today but we covered a lot of elevation. We took a very slow pace as the elevation is really affecting my breathing. We covered mostly desertlike terrain with extremely strong winds – nothing like I have felt before. Temperature went from quite warm to hail and freezing temperatures. We arrived at Barafu Camp at around 12:30 pm and sat down immediately for lunch, which was great as we were all starving. Starting at 12:00 am tomorrow we begin our last trek to the summit. This will be a very long day for us as after summit we need to descend about 10,000 ft. We will be hiking for around 14 hours
tomorrow which is sure to challenge us all.
We all are feeling good, strong and a little bit nervous but very excited that summit day has now arrived. ???
Friday, October 25th – SUMMIT DAY
I am going to start by saying one day we will all look back on this day with fond memories, but at the moment I have to say it was one of the toughest days of my life and I am sure my three teammates would agree.
We all reached the summit which is awesome, but we worked ourselves to complete exhaustion – especially me. ?
12:00 am – We ventured out to start our climb to the summit in the strongest winds we have ever experienced. Our path lit by our headlamps and a sky filled with stars. It feels wrong to be heading out for a difficult climb in the dark, but we will be rewarded by the most amazing sunrise when we hit Stella Point at 18,900 feet.
About 2 hours in, my legs begin to feel very weak. I start to tell myself that I am still asleep and that this is all a dream and for some reason this helped me for a bit. I started to go through all the people who sent me words of encouragement and strength. I found focus and drive by reflecting on the strength, love and dedication of so many families living with dementia. I reached out to my Dad to give me the strength of his legs to help me continue. When you looked up all you could see is a long line of headlamps moving slowly up the mountain. This sight gave me a sense of community working together…it was both peaceful and a source of strength.
When we found a bit of shelter from the wind, we would huddle together and eat a little and drink. As others continued past we all exchanged words of encouragement and
strength. About four hours in I was almost ready to tap out when I remembered a recommendation from the company who organized our trip to drink a 5 hour energy drink. I opened it, trembling with freezing fingers and drank it and it certainly did the trick. Within a few minutes I had a renewed energy and clarity. And then we got our reward at around
6:00 am – the most amazing sunrise above the clouds…again a new source of energy. We still had another 3 hours and 40 mins to reach Uhuru Peak – the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa.
We continued on after taking a few pictures and having a drink (after about 2 hours into our climb our camel packs had froze but we still had water in our insulated water bottles)
we were off to Stella point then to Uhuru Peak, still fighting 80 km/hour strong winds and freezing temperatures. We reached Stella Point at around 7:45 am and all decided to continue on in extreme weather conditions as snow had started and winds had not subsided. Onward to Uhuru Peak.
We summited at 8:40 am…SUCCESS!!! We could only stay at the peak briefly due to the high elevation so after some hugs and high fives we took some quick pics and started down. I have to say, the climb down was as hard as going up. I reached a point of complete exhaustion two thirds of the way down and my legs started to buckle under me in loose ground. Our Summit Porter took my backpack and arm to help and then we were blessed with our team of Porters who came out to meet us. With one on either side of me we continued our descent. I even took a piggyback ride down a very rocky point (these Porters are the most agile strong men I have ever met). Finally we arrived back at camp and Pascal our waiter had chairs for us and a cup of juice. All I could think about is that we had another 4 hours to climb to get to a low enough altitude to spend the night.
We had a quick lunch and then went off to sleep for an hour. I woke stronger, but my sight went hazy and my breathing was very wheezy. Douglas, our guide said we needed to get to a lower altitude quickly as I was experiencing altitude sickness. Alex, one of our Assistant Guides, took my backpack and my arm and we started our descent with Charlie there to take my other arm if needed. We decided to stay at High Camp for the night instead of Mweka Camp as it was an hour closer and at a low enough altitude. My sight and breathing cleared within an hour of this descent, but Alex was at my side for the 3 hours it took to get there. We had dinner, debriefed with Douglas and set the plan for our final descent tomorrow. We were all exhausted and quickly fell asleep.
Oh what a day – although it was one of the most mentally, physically and emotionally challenging days of our lives…we feel so fortunate to have had this experience together. ❤?
Saturday, October 26 – High Camp to Mweka Gate Elevation: 11,065 ft to 5,380 ft
6:00 am – Awaken to our last day on the Mountain. We all feel well rested for our final descent. We packed up, had
breakfast and met with our climbing team for the tipping ceremony and to say our goodbyes. Our climbing team sang some songs and danced to celebrate our success. We were blessed with a strong, kind, caring team who were there to support us every step of the way.
7:50 am – We started our descent primarily through the rain forest which was a beautiful way to end our journey. With tired bodies and well-worked legs we finally arrived at Mweka Gate and were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Erfan the CEO (Chief Entertainment Officer) of Kalamazoo Safari, the company who coordinated our trip. He had a cooler full of cold Kilimanjaro beer…boy did that hit the spot!!!
So this ends our Kilimanjaro journey. Was it life changing? I would have to say a definite yes! I learned I have a strength deep inside of me that when accessed, can carry me above the clouds and conquer the most mountainous challenges. And I learned that living in the moment allows me to access this strength. I learned to ask for help when I needed it and that that is not a sign of weakness, rather strength. On the Mountain you needed to be prepared for any type of conditions and weather could change from hot and sunny to cold and rainy in a matter of minutes so being prepared for the day was important…one day at a time – pole to pole. I learned to be a good follower and to trust the judgement of our leader. I learned how to live one day at a time rather than having to things planned out too far in the future. I learned how to access the strength and support of our KKD team to attain such a difficult goal. Kili taught me a lot about myself and the true strength of a team working together…so grateful for this experience. ❤?
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