Mount Kilimanjaro, September 11th

The morning was cloudy and very cold.  The thought of a 7-hour hike to the park gate made me want to curl up in my sleeping bag and just cry.  I would later learn that I had developed a lung infection, which would explain how I was feeling physically.

I bundled up in both my down and gortex jacket, but still felt cold.  As we descended through the meadows, I was in no mood to enjoy the beautiful view.  All I wanted was a shower, a real bed to sleep on, and for the shivering to stop.

We saw a few people from other teams being carried down by their porters, presumably severely sick with AMS.  We heard that one of them started the descend during the night because of cerebral edema.  The guides and porters on this mountain are some of the most amazingly dedicated individuals I’ve ever met.

After lunch at the Mandara Hut, the lead guide arranged for a vehicle to pick up Harry who had hurt his knee.  The vehicle pick up will save the last 2 hours of descend to the park gate.  The guide asked if I would like to take the vehicle with Harry.  I flatly refused, despite feeling completely exhausted and sick.  In a pleading tone, the guide asked why I won’t take his offer.  I said it’s only another 2 hours, and I would like to finish what I started.  He said gently that it will take me more than 2 hours to complete the last leg of the hike.  That’s when I realized that I would be holding back everyone if I insisted on walking.  My pace is now significantly slower than everyone else because of whatever I was coming down with.

I considered the implications for a moment, and finally caved in.  I said, ok, I’ll take the vehicle.  The relief on the guide’s face was immediate.  He even bowed and thanked me several times, and had a big smile on his face.  I was almost embarrassed that I had been so stubborn.  It turns out that he had sent the park’s ambulance to pick us up, along with 8 other strangers who either suffered cerebral edema or simply couldn’t finish the hike.  We crammed into the land cruiser ambulance to be taken to the park gate.

The hike was officially over when I signed my name in the park control log.  Despite feeling completely exhausted and sick at the end of the day, I have already decided that I will climb another mountain one day.

When we finished the climb, I expected to feel a sense of accomplishment since I was so set on making it to the summit.  Instead, I felt deeply humbled and insignificant.  Looking back at that week of my life, I am reminded of my physical weakness and limitations.  I certainly couldn’t have climbed this mountain on my own without the amazing team of guides and porters.  Who am I to say I’ve achieved this and accomplished that?

Many of you have given us tremendous support in doing this climb for the Alzheimer Society of BC.  Cliff and I are eternally grateful for all your love and encouragement.  Climbing this mountain was a great adventure, and combining it with a great cause brought it to a different level.

Thank you for all that you have done for us!

The last camp site:

The view while hiking back down:

The stretcher (with suspension built in) if we needed it:

How I finished the last 2-hour stretch of the hike:

The “we’ve done it” photo at the park gate:

What I really looked like after not showering for 7 days, with a fever, and a lung infection:

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