The Journey of a Lifetime: Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro

The Journey of a Lifetime: Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro

“THERE was one moment where I thought, ‘what am I doing here?’ But then, half an hour later, we reached the top, and everything was forgotten”.

An avid German mountain climber, Kristin MartlHassan laughed as she recalled a challenging time during her summit of Mount Kilimanjaro – followed by a sense of wonder and accomplishment.

Mount Kilimanjaro is a snow-capped dormant stratovolcano, famously known as one of the seven summits of the world, and is the highest peak in the African continent, standing at 5,895 metres.

It features almost every ecosystem, including cultivated land, rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and an arctic summit.

It is with no surprise then, that Mount Kilimanjaro attracts dozens of climbers to its peak from all areas of the world. Kristin is one climber who summited in January 2019, with Monkey Adventures.

By combining her experience of Africa, having visited some African nations in the past, and her love of mountains, the journey for her was destined to happen.

“I always wanted to make one of the seven summits...it was really an experience, to climb this mountain. We had guides from Tanzania, from the village, from Moshi town. They talked a lot to us and we had so many questions.

They were really nice and told us everything, so yeah, we had a better feeling about Africa and about Tanzania after”. Although the summit is relatively beginner-friendly compared to the other summits, it has been reported that only 45 percent of climbers are successful in reaching the top.

This is largely due to altitude acclimatisation, which is noted as the number one cause of travellers being unable to finish the summit. Kristin was lucky in experiencing only very minor symptoms, but she recalled others who were not as fortunate.

“One evening, one of us had a little bit of sickness and I, one day, had a little bit of a headache, but nothing serious. We met a guy at the last camp, and he had to go back, he got really ill, and had to go back down”.

Despite the many challenges that come with summitting Mount Kilimanjaro, trekkers can rest assured that they are supported by teams of hardworking porters and guides, who direct them up the mountain and carry essential supplies, such as food and shelter.

Zingondo Mawala, a guide with Enduro Adventures, began working as a guide in 2014 after undertaking KINAPA guiding training, which is a program verified by Kilimanjaro National Park authorities.

“I really like to work in tourism as a mountain guide, guide is the best position”. Zingondo, a very practiced guide, advises that it is important to prioritise your health and safety while also enjoying the experience as much as possible. “Feel free to tell your guide if you don’t feel well because our lives are much more valuable than Mount Kilimanjaro”. Linus James has been a lead guide for over eight years.

In this time, he has led dozens of travelling groups and summited countless times. Even after studying a Bachelor degree in Biology and Chemistry, Linus knew that tour guiding was his passion.

“Coming from a family of hikers and adventure seekers, it’s always been within me... doing something that you are passionate about, as well as making a living out of it, is very rare nowadays...there is no better feeling than sharing your experience wholeheartedly to assist and enrich people’s dreams, as well as unlocking their potential”.

Linus, like many other guides in Tanzania, has a deep connection to the land and the culture of Mount Kilimanjaro and its surrounding villages. He understands that the summit itself can also show your potential in all areas of life.

“Kilimanjaro is a life changing experience; most people take themselves for granted until they conquer Kilimanjaro, that’s when they realise they can achieve more than what they thought”. The profound impact that the journey can have on one’s outlook on life, is something yet to be experienced by people like Adam Brennan.

Adam, a university student and aspiring Kilimanjaro trekker, was originally going to summit the mountain in August 2021, with a group of students raising money for the National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom. However, after Covid-19 restrictions tightened, this trip was cancelled.

“Being able to challenge myself and raise money for a great charity was a given... this [the cancellation] was expected but still a disappointment,” he says.

Despite the initial setback, Brennan has rescheduled his original trip for 2022, and remains positive about his position. “This has given us an extra year to make money, keep fit and it would also be a great way to reward ourselves for getting through our second year of university”, Brennan says.

“It’s a scary thought, trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro, but I feel that I will be ready next August.” Experienced trekkers like Kristin highly regard the impact of the climb in the way they felt when reaching the summit.

“It was really happiness...I was really proud to have made it, and a feeling that we had made it together, all of us... when you make something together; we didn’t leave anyone behind”.

If guides of Mount Kilimanjaro, such as Zingondo and Linus, can say anything, it is that the mountain is a transformative journey that challenges travellers while also exposing them to a unique and beautiful culture. As Linus says, “Kilimanjaro is going to test you, is going to push you to the limits... give it all you got”.

Brianna Raymond is a media and journalism student at the School of Arts & Sciences, Sydney Campus of the University of Notre Dame, Australia.

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