Instead of recounting every detail of the 6 days leading up to the day of the final summit (19,340 feet), here's a summary of our hike highlights in a Top 10 format:
Top 10 Dislikes
10) At first, I had the hot soup on my list of likes, but by the end of the trip, the daily bowl of soup began to taste like hot melted butter and became nauseating.
9) Hiking in the morning/day, but not getting lunch until 3p.m. We all know that Jeanne gets crabby when she's hungry.
8) Waiting in the cold, drafty mess tent for lunch or dinner and feeling frozen, despite the fact that I'm wearing all of my layers of clothing.
7) Loose rocks on a steep downhill.
6) Potentially being the dirtiest I have ever been in my life, smelling of a mixture of sweat, dirt and tiger balm. Jenn, aren't you glad that you did not come now?
5) Walking so slowly to prevent altitude sickness that it felt like we were on a death march up the mountain.
4) Arriving to the camp to find that our tent has been perfectly placed on a slanted slope, causing me to spend the whole night sliding out the tent door.
3) Waking up in the middle of the night with the urge to pee and having to decide whether I can hold it all night or whether I could find the starry sky as enough motivation to get me out of the tent.
2) Outhouses with small holes where people have aimed poorly, resulting in puddles of piss and piles of poo.
1) Climbing up a steep, rocky mountain side (Barranco Wall) with only 1 arm. Imagine rock climbing with one arm tied behind your back and no harness. 1 slip and I would tumble down the mountain or one wrong movement and I feared dislocating my shoulder again. At this point, I stopped and wondered, "Maybe I am truly crazy for attempting this." I could not have made it up that wall without the help of my guide (see Top 10 likes #2).
Top 10 Likes
10) Arriving to our campsite after hiking in the morning/noon and snuggling in our sleeping bags, drinking tea, reading or snoozing.
9) Having mastered the art of putting my contacts in with one hand.
8) Learning Swahili and carrying a conversation with the locals using the 11 words I know.
7) Looking down on the clouds below us.
6) Seeing the mountain that we'll attempt to summit on Day 7 get closer to us at every campsite.
5) Our daily serving of hot porridge.
4) Our -30 degree celsius sleeping bag. I wish I could summit the mountain in it.
3) Sharon's endless patience and asistance since I am a gimp and can't tie my shoes, brush or braid my hair, roll up my sleeping bag or mat, etc.
2) Shabaz, our guide. Out of all my trips and tours worlwide, I have never had such an amazing guide. He never doubted my ability to hike the mountain. He was a chatty Kathy, full of mountain knowledge, tourist stories and motivational talks. He was acutely aware of our needs and was there to help me through every slippery patch or rocky slope. At one point on the Barronco Wall, I hugged him with all my remaining enery after he literally pulled me up the steep, rocky mountain side when I could not pull myself up the rock and I though I was going to plummet to my death.
1) Peeing under the most beautiful, clear, starry sky that I have ever seen with a view of the glacier capped Mt Kilimanjaro. The stars truly twinkled.
NEXT STOP: Attempting to summit Mt Kili (19,340 feet)