January 1, 2017
PUBLISHED BY Nathaniel Krasnoff
Part 1: The Ascent
For those of you who saw me in the weeks prior to the holidays know that I had a pretty bad cough, which was only getting worse. For those of you who knew my Holiday plans this was disconcerting to say the least, but for those of you who weren’t in the know I signed myself up to climb Mt Kilimanjaro- the tallest mountain in Africa standing at 19,341 ft. It’s also my first time climbing a serious mountain. Feeling unsettled yet? It’s alright that’s natural.
The date is 12/29/2016, it’s our 5th day of our 6 day trek, and it’s a date that I will be hard pressed to forget because today is summit day.
It started just like any other day with a light dusting of snow at our 15,000 ft base camp with 11:30 pm tea and cookies. No one in my group of 12 can eat because we are too nervous, and we are out the door walking toward nothingness at 12:15 am. Within 5 min of walking I turn around to see one of my teammates blowing chunks and dropping out of the summit push. I hurriedly turn back around and try to block it out, “positive thoughts Nathaniel, positive thoughts.”
For a bit of context:
Our team of 12 has a natural split into two clear groups- the fast group and the slow group. Naturally I am in the later group unless I take supplements to hide how out of shape I really am, which I do in copious amounts. The preffered ones for this trip is from a startup called Nootrobox. On 3 out of the 4 days up to this point these enabled me to keep up with the fast group, but on day 3, where we ascended from 13,000 ft to 15,000 ft only to descend back to 13,000 ft, I didn’t take them and ended up in the back walking through a cloud being pelted by freezing rain with 10 feet of visibility alone with our guide Hosea. This is how I chose to spend my much needed vacation, “you’re having fun Nathaniel,” was what I repeatedly told myself so many times I started to believe it until about 10 hours into our summit day when I regretted every decision I had made in my life to get to that point-that is until the piggy back rides started coming into play. Curious? Read on.
Back to the story:
Any day that starts at 11:30 pm the previous day is set to be a doozy so I take my two energy fairy god mothers to boost the odds, but it’s to no avail. It’s not even 12:45 am and I’m already in the back. First it was me Alice, Cynthia, Luke and Simone with guides in numbers to match, but in less than an hour Luke and Simone had peeled off and so too did Cynthia and Alice.
It’s probably 1 am now and it’s down to just me and my new best friend and guide Amadeus. In our first two hours we don’t get very far and everyone around us is dropping out like flies. The killer section is a series of switchbacks that extend up somewhere around 1,000 of the 4,000 vertical foot summit push and it is STEEP. Amadeus asks me how I’m doing and I explain to him that I have no other option but to summit because I don’t take quitting lightly, that I set this goal for myself, and we will achieve it together. He understands my crazy because all the guides and porters (ask me about these guys- total heroes) on our team are equally crazy so we push on.
Two more hours pass and we finally start to make a bit of progress. We’ve passed a few groups, we’ve set reasonable 40–50 min milestones and are moving up this mountain. I did a horrible job planning my snacks, but I do have cookies and chocolate so we start breaking those out with each milestone.
*Insert your own nice visual about sunrises* Summary is that it’s majestic, but I’ve been awake for 7 straight hours climbing a mountain so sunrises are the least of my concern.
Hopped up on sugar and stimulants we actually make it to Stella Point around 7:00 am. For reference, Stella Point is the top of the massive face we’ve been slogging up with very little grace and poise. On one side we are overlooking Arusha, and beautiful lush jungle, and grasslands, and cloud forests, and all the other shit we climbed through to get this far, and the other is the inside of the Kili crater. The important part here though is looking to my left way out along the ridge I finally get my first tangible feeling that I might finish because I can finally see the summit.
We break out the walk around the ridge into 3 sections and set out. I pass the fast group coming back down already because they’ve obviously already been there done that and their additional encouragement irritates me, because honestly we hate all those fast people anyway, the tortoise won that race in the end, right?
Read the entire post on Medium here.