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Mt. Kilimanjaro (Day 2): Above the Clouds

The day began with the most mesmerizing view; we were actually above the clouds! It was absolutely breathtaking. We had arrived at camp after dark the night before, so we never had a chance to orient ourselves on the mountain. We were at the Machame Camp at an elevation of 9,350 feet and heading about 3.5 miles to Shira Camp at 12,500 feet.

We started the morning off hiking out at a couple different paces before we rendezvoused at a resting point. It was always really interesting to see how each of us prioritized our rest periods. Everyone hydrated, some people sent a message (aka bathroom break), some people stretched, and some of us partook in America’s Next Top Model challenges interlaced throughout the hike. We rested a few moments longer as we awaited news of Wandi’s condition. Although in high spirits, it was apparent that her body was depleted of energy and the steep terrain wasn’t helping anything. It was decided that with her health as the priority, this was Wandi’s summiting point. We came close and cherished the gorgeous vantage point before sending her off with our love and embracing her energy and grace. We hiked silently with a few sniffles echoing as we processed continuing on without a teammate so early on.

The terrain was relatively steep as we hiked through the giant heathers. It was a tad foggy and visibility was limited to pines and trees on the trail and the rolling clouds below. I focused my attention to the ferns and mosses that draped the trees and boulders. We climbed and chatted with our guides about the distinctive flowers and plants along the way. At this point in the hike our group had segmented itself a bit in accordance to pace. Our lunch break consisted on casual conversations, exchange of lunch items. After lunch, we hiked for a bit before meeting up as a team at the top of a steep passage. We rested briefly before being signaled it was time to hike on, although only a few people were packs-on. Some teammates that had arrived last were frustrated by the short rest. After a few moments of conversation across the resting area, we each got back on the trail and began hiking, some more quickly than others.

As we continued down the trail, the group began to slowly become segmented again. A couple people up front with a guide, myself with two guides, followed by the majority of the group with guides. I spent the afternoon chatting with guides Reuben and Abdi about their families and journey’s as Kili guides. Eventually, we came to portion of the trail that was exposed and required a little upward scrambling. Now, I had prepared myself for at least a couple high points or cliff-faces, I mean as well as you can prep for it mentally without physically climbing. Oh, did I mention I’m afraid of heights? Like deathly afraid. I can barely look over an escalator as it ascends one floor. Kind of ironic when you think about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, huh? Let’s just say I did my best to prepare. The guides immediately caught on to my hesitation and helped me unload my pack as they guided each of my footsteps. “I am strong. My mind is strong. My body is strong, My legs are strong.” I repeated it to myself as I scrambled and climbed over the exposed trail. When I commented on how terrified I was even after crossing, Reuben responded jokingly, “oh, just wait until the day after tomorrow.” “Huh?!” I responded in a near panic. He assured me that I didn’t need to worry about it at that moment. We hiked on until camp stopping frequently as I took photos and videos of the moss and the water. I just couldn’t get enough of it.

When I arrived at camp, I was greeted by the smiling faces of Brittany and Rosemary before I found my tent and took a moment to take in the view at camp. We were well above the clouds, but they still crept over the peaks that neighbored our campsite. A bit later the rest of the team arrived and made their way to the sign-in building.

We spent our team dinner sharing highs and lows from the day. There was an in-depth conversation about our pace as individuals and as a group. I hiked a portion of the day without my teammates and expressed that I was frustrated by that moment. It was actually a beautifully intimate moment between our team. We were still learning to communicate effectively about both our physical and mental states and ways to better support one another. Katina shared that she had given the climb 110%, but had reached her summit point at Shira Camp. As difficult as it was to hear that another team member wouldn’t be continuing. I was immensely proud of Katina’s bravery as she made the best decision for herself and her well being. We called it a night after opening the chocolate Cintia had gifted us before our climb.

Favorite gear: The North Face hiking pants, they convert to shorts, which allowed for much appreciated ventilation

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