This is the third post in a series about my family adventure hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. If you’re joining us now for the first time, please start here .
The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men…
It’s 11pm and we start our final ascent to 19,000 feet. We are excited; Mount Kilimanjaro, we’re coming to get you!
However, at 3am, our daughter started to walk in an unsteady line, the first sign of altitude sickness.
We thought it could be fatigue due to sleep deprivation, so kept going.
She then started throwing up, so we slowed down even more and took a break in some caves at 17,000 feet.
Next she complained her head was going to explode, so we knew she had mountain sickness and we had to get her back down to a lower altitude. Since I had summited Kilimanjaro 17 years ago, and Neel did not, we decided to split up. Neel ascended with our chief guide and Ariana and I descended with our two other guides.
Ariana was still very sick, so I basically had to hold her up all the way down to 16,000 feet. We finally got back at 6am and she slept for 2 hrs. When she woke up, she felt better so we waited for Neel, instead of descending more.
Neel summited the first point of Kilimanjaro at 6am, to be met with a howling wind, snow and hail storm. He continued to the final point in the storm and finally reached it at 8:30am.
However, others in our trail family did not do so well.
One person had to be evacuated and others were quite ill, so we are incredibly thankful for our guides.
The Problem With Pace
Mountain sickness does not discriminate against age, fitness levels, or training plans. It can hit anyone, at any time. Since acclimatizing is a big part of success when climbing, you need to walk slowly… think agonizingly slow…. through the elevation levels. Your guide is in charge of the pace, ensuring that you don’t go too fast. My daughter and I liked to call it, the “Kili Shuffle.”
When you’re taking in the scenery, having a fun conversation or just enjoying the sunshine, the pace doesn’t seem so slow. However, when you want to get to a hut or lunch break, the pace will drive you insane.
A few times I broke from the pack, increasing my pace because I just couldn’t take it anymore. Elias, our chief guide, would slowly call me back, reminding me to keep pace so I don’t get sick. Sigh….such a lesson for a shark like me.
Our Final Descent
Neel finally returned to Kibo Hut at noon. He slept for an hour and then we had to hike another three hours to get to lower altitude. We literally ate and then fell into our sleeping bags in our clothes that night!
It was finally the last day—a seven-hour hike back to the bottom. We were exhausted but it was still beautiful to hike through the moorland and rainforest again. Our van was waiting for us; a shower never looked so good.
Thoughts From a Person Who Can’t Sit Still
Reflecting on the hike I wonder, what else in our lives can benefit from taking it painstakingly slow? What do we rush through at home and in the office? Take a closer look to see where you might experiment with slowing down. Even something as simple as responding to emails may be a good place to start. A good way to slow down is by practicing mindfulness. Here are easy ways to incorporate mindfulness into your day from start to finish.
As I mentioned, slowing down was not easy for me. You’d think it would be the climbing that was the most difficult part of hiking Kilimanjaro; for me the biggest challenge was the pace.
But stay tuned, because the biggest challenge of all was still yet to come…