More of a trip report for summit night onlyI powered on ipod at 11:30pm upon leaving the base camp, the earbud is buried in headband+balaclava+Red Sox hat+puffy jacket hat+wind jacket hat...
After 181 songs, I'm back to the base camp from the summit trek
It was probably a couple hundred meters from Stella Point, I could almost see the end of this trek, or was it my altitude hallucination? Daniel, my guide, pointed at the top of the cliff and said we're almost there. I didn't buy it. From where I stood, it just looked as if he's randomly swung his arm towards the sky, and I firmly believed that was simply his trick of keeping me moving. And that's exactly what I had been doing to myself for the past seven hours, constantly tricking myself with the idea of 'it's just 10 minutes away, why not move one step more?'. I was surprised this even worked for that long, thank you Altitude, for the rather low IQ or EQ at that point.
I did see two people with heavy down jacket, hats, balaclava, trekking poles, ski pants walking down the road towards me, two very familiar big smiles. Those were the winning smiles, as if they both had just won a really good hand. Wait, I knew them from somewhere! Hey, they're my Australian mates! YES, I bet they've done it! Woody gave me a big hug and Joe pumped my fist, it was pure joy, I was so happy for them. They both assured me ---- the summit was very close to where we stood. If it wasn't because of fatigue, altitude sickness and nausea, I would have jumped up and down on this news.
Well, anyway, upon hearing that, I felt like bottles of 5-hour-energy/Redbulls pumping into my body and I couldn't wait a minute to get going again. And of course also because it was freezing cold standing there.
Two or three hours earlier, in the middle of dark night, in the middle of I don't know where, I was walking as if badly drunk. I couldn't keep either eye open, and couldn't place the legs right on the ground. Even if I did, every step was so short and small. I felt terrible to keep asking for a break from time to time while I barely moved much distance. Lines of teams and people had passed me that night, as I made my small steps and moves on the continually upwards trek. I saw some hikers were dragged downwards the road by their guides. Finally I sat on a rock, taking a cover from the blowing wind, and took a long rest. I saw dots of headlights moving in the darkness, and I heard some guide singing or speaking in swahili, how jealous I was for that vital capacity. Besides that, it was quiet.
When a small line of headlights turned into human shapes of 6 or 7 people, as they walked up and took a break next to where I sat, I realized I was shivering in the cold. I suddenly felt very annoyed, very angry of myself. You are not out of breath, you know you won't be cold when you get moving, you are not exhausted yet, then why are you wasting time here?! Can't you do better?! Only because you can't see the end of it, only because you don't know how long it gonna lasts, it does not mean that you can or you should give up and turn back in the middle of this nowhere!
The fear was only because of the unknown. When you looked back once you knew it, it's not that hard anymore.
'I f***ing can do this.' that's the scream in my head when I suddenly stood up, picked up my backpack, threw my legs out there and continued going up.
Maybe the swear thing worked, for someone who never swears..., or maybe the emotion triggered the adrenaline, or maybe oxygen started gathering in the air as close to the dawn, anyway, I didn't stop for the next hour or so. I closely followed Danie's step, while my eyes never left his heel and boots. For the first time in that night, I started to surpass other trekkers, one after another. The music from my iPod seemed so distant, all I could hear was me panting heavily.
Daniel turned back, smiled to me, "Is this really you? You were stronger than before" I smiled, I didn't know which really worked or it's the combination of all, but I was just glad I was up and rolling again. That's the first time of that night when I checked the watch, 5:40am it was.
It was the most beautiful sunrise I'd ever seen. I stood there, watching the color of orange, yellow and red, spread and grow at the end of the world. As if someone rendered the air with all these vibes, the dark sky was lightened smoothly with every blinking of the eye.
What can I say, the magnificence of this sunrise is beyond my vocabulary of any language.
I ran about 20 steps when a big sign entered into my eyesight.
So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, two tips to keep in mind on Kilimanjaro.
1) There are more than one sign on the top of Kilimanjaro. They put a sign at Stella Point (5756m), and that's not the end.
The one and only summit is Uhuru peak (5895m).
2) No matter how exuberant you were while trekking up the mountain, don't run, don't! Especially at the height of 5700m, just DON'T RUN!
Of course I didn't come to realize either, and I exhausted most of my strengths in that running towards the first sign I saw, only to find that---IT'S STELLA POINT, NOT UHURU PEAK.
Luke kindly pointed his arm towards some snow-covered spots in the far end of the eyesight, and let me know, it's only another 40 minutes away. For me, from my blurring eyes, I could only manage to figure out some dark spots on the glacier or snow.
- the Final Push -
From this point, everyone walking from the opposite direction are those who have done it. The relief and joy were on everyone's face. I remembered someone came to me and told me “Good job, it’s not very far, just keep going”. I smiled and said 'Congratulations' to them, I felt the warmth from the heart.
It took me an hour. Legs were heavy like lead, and I kept repeating the moves in rhythms, poles, left foot, right foot, poles, left foot, right foot. Somehow, I started doing math calculations in my head trying to pump away all other distractions. '13*57', '156*11‘, '42*68', it worked like a button, each took me so long that I didn't quite realize the passing of time. Before long, I could see that final destination within only steps.
I gave Daniel a big big hug, as I knew I couldn't make it here without his help. I took out the flag I carried all along this way, and I was proud.
I didn't feel any of the emotions that I had imagined I would. Instead, it was rather calm. The calmness filled my mind and my body.
It was almost all white, the wall of glacier reminded me of that Wall in the Game of Thrones. I couldn't really distinguish whether it's snow out there or cloud. It doesn't matter, 360 degree it was purely beautiful and peaceful.