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  • Niki Harry

Conquering Kilimanjaro - Day 7 Summit!

Updated: Apr 23, 2019

Elevation: Start at 14,950 ft – end at 19,341 ft at SUMMIT!

Another rough night, I barely slept and it seemed like most of the group had the same issue. My headache was back, plaguing me throughout the night. We were woken at 4:30AM as promised. It was freezing out and our tents were covered in frost. We had to be dressed and out with our packs by 5AM.

Breakfast. Medical check. Hike start at 6AM. Then three of us girls were told that we were not carrying our packs today. They knew we were suffering and any extra weight makes a huge difference. I wasn’t happy with this again but had no choice. Hated the fact the Eliakim would be carrying double his load. You end up feeling very guilty. We started off in the dark using headlamps. It didn’t last long as the sun comes up and it was light by 6:45.

​The hike was straight up, and up, and up. The heart was pounding beyond control, the breathing very labored, and with every heart pound, it pounded in my head. As if it wasn’t tough enough climbing straight up, then we had to deal with the new altitude heights.

The snow peak on the left is where Uhuru peak is and where we were heading. The weather was fabulous and we were ecstatic thinking we were going to get an awesome view. This photo was taken around 7:30 am.

By 8am they started hitting us with the “Kili cocaine” (glucose for bursts of energy. We were all fading quickly. It took every ounce of energy to breathe and move one step in front of the other.

By 9:30 the clouds already started to roll in. We were really hoping it wouldn’t happen and that it would stay clear for us. Look closely in this photo: the camp we left is on the rocky ridge right way down behind chef Tosha (the guy carrying the Tusker flag).

We all felt the same I think, but Deb and I still seemed to be suffering the most with the headaches and by 11am three of us were getting oxygen along the trail. I did not know John took this photo, but it still makes me howl with laughter when I see it.

Some of our group mostly had pressure in the head and most had a hard time breathing. We encountered some sick people coming down from the summit. Most of the other groups at our camp started the summit climb at midnight last night and were just returning. We didn’t want to do that originally as were unsure of what to expect and couldn’t fathom walking in the dark for 7 hours especially if there was a snowstorm or bad weather. But there is an advantage, when you get to summit, you have clear views, there are rarely any clouds at that time of morning and you get to experience the most incredible sunrise. But we took our chances and hoped for good weather. It certainly was when we started out, not a cloud in the sky. But here it is, already completely fogged in.

We finally reached Stella point, the final point before Uhuru peak (the summit). It seemed like forever, a very long gruelling six hours as they promised it would be. I remember asking myself silently at the time “why am I doing this”? But then would reassure myself that we were almost there, and to just do what I kept reading for a year “put one foot in front of the other and don’t think about anything else”. And that’s what I did. That’s what we all did, like zombies, following one another in silence.

It was decided to have lunch at Stella point. No warm tent or hot soup here. It was a packed lunch, but all carried for us by the few porters that were chosen to come with us. It was absolutely freezing up here and we all huddled alongside a big rock edge.

Three of us got more oxygen as we were attempting to eat our lunch. I had given up and could care less about taking photos by now and thankfully, Eliakim, who loves photography and took every opportunity to grab my camera from me, took all these photos. I am so happy he took these as the memory will be with us forever and will always make me laugh! All I remember about this moment was trying to peel that hard boiled egg and my fingers wouldn’t co-operate. And my nose was running like crazy but I had the tube in it and it was all just really gross!

Of course Johnnie boy did just fine – no oxygen for him.

Poor Heidi was absolutely freezing and she couldn’t shake a chill she had – they had her put on 2 or 3 coats. This photo makes me howl because all I see is the Michelin man!!

Jerry’s on top of the world (literally) and its his Birthday today !! WOW – talk about incredible timing.

The weather started turning and fast moving clouds, fog and ice pellets started coming down. A quick photo in front of the Stella Point sign and then had to move quickly as we still had another hour to reach the summit.

We continued on but this time had a bit more of a pep in our step as we were told that the worst of the steepness was over. It was pretty gradual now and not as tough, except for the labored breathing due to the high altitude. We were rewarded a couple of times when the clouds cleared by getting an amazing view of the glacier to the left side of us.

FINALLY, I caught a glimpse of the sign way up in the distance and I screamed it out loud…’THERE IT IS! I CAN SEE IT!!” Now we all quickened our step with pure joy knowing we had finally made it.

Here we are - almost there!!

Deb and Alan were the first ones at the sign, hugging each other jubilantly. We arrived at 1:47pm local time, 6:47am Toronto time. What an amazing feeling.

​We were all congratulating and hugging each other, and thanking and hugging the porters and guides as we knew we couldn’t have made it without them. Then the photos, each taking our turn. Then several group photos. The weather had cleared for about 10 minutes, literally long enough to take our photos. It was still a bit of a disappointment though as we couldn’t see down into the ash pit and into the crater due to the cloud cover. But it was a fleeting moment and the disappointment quickly passed.

Me with Eliakim.. whom without I don’t think I would have made it! Thank you bud! I will never forget this most incredible journey!

We then got a wonderful surprise. Eliakim started yelling to us to come gather in a circle quickly. We moved away from the sign and out of nowhere, our chef Tosha produced a small table, plates and a birthday cake! He had changed into his red chef’s outfit and even put his hat on. The porters and guides huddled together and started singing happy Birthday! Jerry was celebrating a birthday today. What an amazing surprise and what an amazing birthday! How many can say they had a birthday cake on the top of Kilimanjaro at 19,341 ft!? They sang 2-3 songs, then Jerry cut the cake, and we all had a piece.

Then we got a full group photo eating cake in front of the sign. And sadly the weather turned, it started snowing and blowing very badly, the clouds moved in and within minutes you could barely see 10 ft in front of you. And we had to leave, immediately.

We had about 2 1/2 hours back down to the same camp. It was very steep and due to the sand and tiny rocks, it was slippery and we literally ran and half skied using our feet. It was really hard on the legs. It was also hard to see and at certain points we lost sight of the other trekkers in our group. No one really stuck together, some people suddenly reacted to the altitude going down as we were changing too quickly and a few people got really sick.

Their packs were taken and they had to be assisted or arm held in going down. John had suddenly developed a headache as well. He took Tylenols and it cleared within an hour. I felt ok but had a slight headache. Some had nausea and got pretty weak and they actually called a porter to come from camp and bring hot tea with lots of sugar half way up! I was totally amazed at that. We all made it back to camp between 4:45 and 5pm.

We are all SUPER, SUPER tired. Cold. Sore and aching. Sick with altitude. We changed into warm clothes but it was extremely hard to do anything, it took every ounce of energy. In the tent, my headache came back with a vengeance, which was so weird because we dropped back down to 15,000 ft! But he said it happens because we dropped too fast and if it didn’t clear he would give me more oxygen as it is dangerous to continue having a headache at this altitude. Luckily, by the time dinner was served, the headache left me and I was back to normal. Heidi suddenly started to lose her voice, it was very weird.

We all went to bed at 7:30! We were totally exhausted but OH so happy that the day had finally come and that it had a joyous, safe and successful outcome!!

WOO HOOOOOO!! Day 7 down… with triumph! Continue reading about our Day 8 - the descent.

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