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Friday, September 4, 2009

Take only Pictures, Leave only Footprints

Shortly after 1am we emerged from our tent and were greeted by a full moon and a clear sky full of stars. Perfect. As we began our ascent, layered to the max, I remember naively thinking to myself "Boy I hope it gets colder because I'm really hot". It did.

Wiggling my fingers and toes to maintain circulation the whole way and having added more layers, we reached Uhuru Peak, the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa, the highest free-standing moutain in the world, at about 6:20 am! Looking like ninjas.

The sunrise was gorgeous. The morning light revealed the many glaciers surrounding the Kibo crater and the sun's rays, combined with our adrenaline, quickly warmed us.

As I watched people take their turns, posing for pictures beneath the congratulatory summit sign, some holding pictures of loved ones , some recording video messages to their kids, some simply smiling proudly, and all radiating a sense of accomplishment, the woman's advice "Bring tissue" suddenly made sense.

We took our turn, smiled for the camera and headed back from where we'd come. While it was extremely satisfying to reach the summit, I couldn't help thinking that, as with so many things, it had been just as much about the journey as the final destination.
We arrived back at base camp shortly before 9am and rested for an hour before a grueling 2 and a half hour descent to the Mweka Camp at which we would spend our final night. Descending always makes me feel like an old lady as my knees burn and I try to fathom how going down can possibly be so much more painful than going up.
The following morning we hit the trail early and were back in Moshi town by 11:30am.

At night, we celebrated with Kilimanjaro beer at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Seemed only fitting. Okay, I cannot lie, I just posed for the picture. (I still can't drink beer without my face puckering into crazy contortions).

We celebrated sweet success. At the end of the day, we heeded the advice of the signage at the Park Gate, taking only pictures and leaving only footprints. Okay, it's possible that I may have snuck in a few memories and a couple of ounces of pride for good measure, but don't tell.


  1. Congrats you two!! Its awesome to see your pictures from the top! Take care and safe travels to Nepal