"If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for."
Last January, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. This had been an obsession of mine for years…I can’t even tell you why. It began when I read the book Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer’s personal story of the 1997 Mt. Everest expedition, in which eight climbers were tragically killed in one day. After this, I was hooked on any book about climbing mountains. The idea of attempting something so incredibly challenging intrigued me. I devoured every climbing book I could find over the years. My favorite was Paths of Glory, by Jeffrey Archer — an account of British climber George Mallory’s attempt to become the first man to summit Mt. Everest.
Mallory was a climber on the first three Everest Expedition teams in the 1920’s. He and his climbing partner Andrew “Sandy” Irvine disappeared on their final attempt, and they were last seen when they were only 800 vertical feet from the summit. There is much speculation as to whether they reached the summit and died on their way down, or whether they perished before summiting. Mallory’s body was discovered in 1999, and the picture of his wife, which he had planned to leave on the summit was not found — giving his fans hope that he did actually make it to the summit.
Since I am not a technical climber, my goals were slightly smaller. My bucket list included climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro (one of the Seven Summits — the highest mountains on each of the seven continents), Mt. Everest Base Camp, the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, and possibly Mt. Elbrus in Russia.
A few years ago, I noticed that one of my college friends posted a blog detailing her Mt. Kilimanjaro climb. That was the nudge that I needed. I began reading everything I could find about climbing this mountain, and decided to just do it. I chose a reputable U.S. climbing company, and booked my trip for January 2014. More about that later…