Climbing Kilimanjaro

by Beth Emery (United Kingdom)

A decision that pushed me to the edge United Kingdom


I decided to do it because so new friends from university had signed up and I thought it sounded cool. One by one the pressure of fundraising got to them and they had dropped out, and all of a sudden I found myself at Machame Gate signing in to Kilimanjaro National Park with expectations of what the next six days would hold almost entirely set by the celebrities that climbed Killimanjaro for Comic Relief years ago. There was a huge group of us, the biggest sent by Childreach International that year, and getting everyone ready to go was a bit like herding cats. For this reason we were about two hours later than we should have been and it was decided we should eat lunch before we started walking. Squashed onto picnic tables, everyone was talking, trying to distract ourselves from thinking about what it was we were just about to do. There was a monkey, I can't remember the species now, hanging around the picnic area. We were enthralled by him until he launched himself onto the table and began eating as much of our lunch as he could before he was shooed away. Then it was time to start walking, and at first it didn't seem to bad. There was a wide path working its way up through the jungle, it was humid, but not unbearably so, and everyone was making an effort with conversation. Flash forward to summit night and the atmosphere of the group has dampened. No one spoke. It was all anyone could do to keep walking, and try not to look up at the headlamps high, high above. Higher than it seemed possible to be. I no longer have the concept of time. We could have been walking for five hours, but then it could have only been fifteen minutes. For the last couple of days eating has been a struggle, but my body needs energy. I eventually manage to swallow a jelly baby and immediately sick it back up again. I try to have a sip of water. It's frozen. Fabulous. I keep on walking, pole pole, slowly slowly, as the porters keep reminding us. I kept asking one of them "I am going to do this, aren't I?" and he kept reassuring me I would. It felt like a false hope. And then the sun rose, and every cliche about how incredible it is were true. Being able to see more than a couple of feet in front of me felt like a new lease of life and all of a sudden it didn't seem so hard any more. I was thirsty. I still felt sick. But I was close. I could do it, and in what felt like no time at all, I had. Now, finally, I was finished. I'd forgotten we had to walk back down again.