She is the world’s highest free standing mountain. She hypnotizes you with her innocence of compelling beauty and majestic appearance. Like a devilish drug, she lures you in using your “first time inhibitions” as the bait – Devil, Devil by Eric Church
You want to go back, your body and mind ache for that feeling of intoxication. She is the goddess of deception. She can be your savior that feeds you through her gleaming beauty of what’s above and below. My first time she fed my ego, this time she became the devil. She fought me with rain, snow, wind and cold almost like she sensed my “situation” had escalated. She used it as a weapon against me, preying upon my mental weakness. She knew I had a precious cargo of 49 souls to take to the top, everyday stripping me of my confidence and ability to carry their memory and to follow through with my commitment to them.
What she did not know was that I had a secret weapon of my own… BRONWYN. It was not easy for Bronwyn! Water in her camel’s back froze within minutes of initial summit assent. Frost bite and hallucinations were only a few of the excruciating obstacles tossed her way, yet Bronwyn with the ever watchful eyes on her guide Freddie, pressed onward to the top. Slowly, steady and with determination, the reason for the climb was on her mind and within reach.
On February 12th at 7:23am, Bronwyn stood atop Africa’s highest peak, at 19340 ft. There she stood proud to be one of the 50, leaving the 49 in peaceful embrace of Kilimanjaro.
The mountain peak rejected me, leaving me at base camp tired and feeling defeated. What it did not take from me was my soul. She won by a narrow margin. Her beauty, without a doubt, will take me back. Kilimanjaro did her job, she made me stronger.
The Emotions –
Like Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro by Vivaldi… My emotions became its own concerto. The violins set the pace and intensity of the sound… my emotions were thrown around within that sound and pace. At times I used the Muhammad Ali socks that Matt gave me. One foot said “sting like a bee”, the other said “fly like a butterfly”, inspiring me to be great. At times the visual embrace of a young love made me smile and other times my purple scarf and precious cargo pushed my emotional limits further. I gave up as many times as I pushed through… that’s what my emotions did to me.
Like The Four Seasons my emotions came to a crescendo, once realizing, by going any further the altitude could kill me like it had done to another climber. I could see the worry on Bronwyn’s face, fearful of me pushing any further, as well as the concern of my guide while holding on to his determination of supporting my quest. I did not fear the summit, nor death actually. What I feared was defeat. What I feared was the emotional look on Bronwyn’s face knowing that I could be in grave danger of needing oxygen and taken down the mountain or worse.
It is an emotional journey… The Mountain. She teaches you to be acutely aware of your every step, your every feeling, your every emotion and she expects you to play in the orchestra… she being the conductor.
The People –
Imagine no hell below us, only sky above us. Imagine all the people living for today… imagine there’s no country, nothing to kill or dye for and no religion to, imagine all the people living life in peace – John Lennon.
Dr. Z – Accomplished mountaineer at the age of 71.
Sue – Well traveled nurse and accomplished mountaineer.
Pierre and Marie – Pierre is a technology guru and Marie is a scientist in cancer research, a well traveled and fashionable inspiring couple.
Freddie, Augustine and Sunday – Our head guides who quite frankly kept us alive with their knowledge of the mountain and its effects on the human body. They (I am certain) are not human. They have been to the summit over 100 times each, scaling the rock faces and crevasses like mountain goats. They knew by just watching us daily what condition we were in. They were our guides, mentors, trainers, clinicians (without the degree) who by the end of 8 days became family.
The two dozen crew members inspiring us, cooking for us, pitching our tents, singing to us, supporting our every step… they too became our family.
For 8 days there is no religion, no difference in skin color, no hatred, no class difference, no politics… only the beauty in each other, the quiet of the mountain, the chatter and laughter of friends, the genuine encouragement of each other. That’s what the mountain is all about.
You may say I’m a dreamer… but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us and the world will live as one – Imagine by John Lennon
And in the end, through the challenges, obstacles and hard work, it all boils down to a cold Kilimanjaro beer…
A special thanks to –
Shawn and Kevin… my dear friends who inspire me everyday by their fight to always remember.
Embark Exploration Co… You are the best. Thank you for making this, past and future climbs the best adventures.
Africa… is not just a place; it is a feeling. Africa is the heart of the world and there are only a few of us who have been touched by her.