I am definitely an adventurous and outdoorsy kind of guy. I couldn’t stand the fact that entering the New England winter was going to make me a slave to the SFP-Aldrich-Spangler-SFP route for a long time. So I needed to go somewhere unusual that accomplished two objectives: climbing a mountain and exploring a new country. Africa came to my mind.The imagination of the endless savannas bathed by a bright orange sunshine and surrounded by the ponderous Kilimanjaro just had me daydreaming for most of fall semester. I’d go with a close friend and mountain guide from Colorado.
In seven days I experienced the beauty of such a mountain. The natural diversity is breathtaking. Starting from a lush and tropical rainforest, passing by Mediterranean mild climates full of endemic plants (dating from the last eruption more than one million years ago), to the cold of an Arctic-like summit surrounded by massive glaciers, this is certainly one of the most attractive climbs I have accomplished. Some of the days were gruesome due to intense rain and wind (very unusual for January, the dry season) that forced us to sleep in soaking wet tents and sleeping bags, but when the sun came out, it paid for any type of suffering just for the views of the Moshi and Serengueti valleys from an altitude of 12,000 ft.
I don’t want to make it sound too easy, though, since it is a 19,341-ft. peak, the highest peak in Africa and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, so you need to be fit. It requires basic knowledge of high-altitude hiking, and you need to know your body to get it fully acclimatized, especially for summit day, which consists of a 15-hour trek up from high camp to the summit and back down. The good thing is that logistics are easy (and mandatory to help local communities) so porters take most of your heavy gear. And the weather is still fairly mild for that type of altitude.
I was impressed by the surrounding beauty of the place and by the happiness of the local people that accompanied us, including our porters, guides and our dearest cook George. Their smiles and gratitude, even though they did most of the job, still remain in my mind. I guess that’s why I keep climbing after all. People that live a life in close contact to Nature transmit such a positive energy, gratefulness and harmony that is so attractive. That balanced life they seem to have is in the end what we are all looking for and strive to achieve. Climb, hike or simply get out of the noise and you’ll realize.