Apparently, the porters told their friends and family that they were supposed to be on the mountain for 8 days, but the 2 women likely will only last for 5 days. Well, we made it to Day 6.
The stakes were raised. The porters were now asking themselves, what are the odds that these two women will summit on Day 7 and should they bet their tip money/drinks/load to be carried in favor of the American Duo? From their point of view, the odds were against us. Sharon started getting nauseous from the altitude and puked on Day 2. And again on Day 4. And me, well, my handicap was obvious.
On the morning of the summit, our guides lagged and while everyone began hiking to the summit at 12 a.m., Team 'Ralph and Gimpy' did not start ascending the mountain until 2 a.m.
I looked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, dressed in the following:
Feet: 3 Smart Wool socks and Toe Warmers
Legs: 1 thermal, 2 running pants, 1 ski pants, 1 gaiters
Top: 1 running tanktop, 1 hooded thermal, 2 running long sleeve tops, 1 North Face Shell jacket, 1 North Face down jacket, 1 water-resistant ski jacket, and of course, 1 sling
Hands: Latex gloves, 2 pairs of ski liner gloves, hand warmers
Head: Running cap and ski mask
Our guide wanted to catch up with the groups that left earlier, so he led us at a quicker pace than I was expecting. As we kept getting higher and kept going at a brisk pace, it was getting harder to breathe through my nose and I felt like my heart was beating fast.
To be honest, it was more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. My first distraction technique was to sing songs in my head that had the word 'walk' in it.
Placebo: "Walk away to save your face. You never were a genious."
Violent Femmes: "When I'm a walking, I strut my stuff and I'm so strung out...."
The Police: "Giant steps are what you take...walking on the moon."
Frightened Rabbit: "I been working on my backwards walk. There's nowhere else for me to go.."
Then I got sick of hearing myself sing in my head. So I turned on my iPod, set it to shuffle and I broke down the hike into music sets. Each set contained 5 songs. When I listened to 5 songs, I cleared the set. I figured that 3 sets of 5 songs = 1 hour.....Oh, the things you do (or I guess what I do!) to keep my mind busy. So, off I went 'clearing my sets' and I followed the Big Dipper up the mountain.
In less than 6 hours, we DID it! We reached the 'Roof of Africa!!' We saw the sunrise near the top and the glaciers were sparkling in the sun. I can't tell you what a sense of accomplishment it is to know you reached an elevation of over 19,000 feet!
The return down the mountain was nuts. It was a steep, downward slope, consisting of a silt/sand-like texture. My guide took my arm, told me to just let go and to trust him. I tightened my sling and off we went, flying down the mountain. It felt like we were cross-country skiing downhill.
My return to camp was priceless. The porters popped out of their tents when I arrived. I had a big smile on my face and I gave them a thumbs up. There was some murmuring and my guide confirmed that I made it to the top!
Two porters, who I did not know, came up to me and asked to take their picture with me. (My 30 seconds of fame :P). I assume that these are the porters that won the bet...they either will have a lighter load to carry on the way down or someone owes them drinks after the mountain!
And on Sharon's descent down, she puked one more time, just to be sure she left her mark and lived up to her mountain nickname, 'Kilimanjaro Ralph'.
Overall, I am still in disbelief that I just hiked Mt. Kili. It seems like a dream.
And while around 4 a.m. during my summit, I vowed to myself that I would NEVER do something like this again, I now can't help but think.....What's next?!?