When you mention Kilimanjaro, most everyone knows it’s the tallest mountain in Africa and one of the world’s Seven Summits. But beyond that, details get iffy. Because people generally don’t realize how mountainous Africa is, and because Kili is known as an accessible mountain, it’s often thought of as a minor peak. In reality, it’s a mountain you underestimate at your peril.
Within a 100 yards of the park’s gate, the gigantic wild banana plants and tree ferns had us grasping for something to compare our surroundings too. Everything is big, green, and beautiful. There is too much variety to even comprehend. It’s like if every plant you had ever seen in your life was gathered into one garden and grown on steroids.
The climb would have been nothing but a rocky scramble in dry conditions, but the snow meant we had to trust our footing and our climbing partners totally. It wasn’t technically hard, but the stakes felt high: A glance downhill suggested a long and brutal slide over boulders without a clear end in sight in some situations.
When our alarms went off at 3:30 a.m., she rolled over and said with a scowl: “We came this far, right? Let’s do it. Ugh.” We threw our gear on and started the ascent. Climbing by headlamp reduces the world to the few square feet ahead of you, turning the mountain into individual obstacles. Our lights shone mostly on tree roots that formed a sort of ladder upward, with buckets of mud cradled between them. . . .
We are climbing the seven tallest mountains in East Africa in seven weeks. Yes, this climbing series has never been attempted before and yes we're alternating between very excited and totally freaked out about the prospect! In short, two kids from Minnesota, currently living in NYC, are tagging along for an attempt to achieve 110,069 feet of combined elevation in less than two months.