Thursday, September 4, 2014

What I did with my summer vacation: Part 2

One of the most common things I get asked as a climber is: "Would you ever want to climb Everest?"

My answer has always been "no". I feel like there's too much objective hazard on Everest, not to mention it's ridiculously expensive.  

I've always put the rest of the Seven Summits into the same category as Everest. Not really interested. But I started to reconsider this when I saw Kilimanjaro International Airport as a potential stopover on my air ticket itinerary. After a bit of googling and a few emails, my husband and I signed up with Ultimate Kilimanjaro to climb Kilimanjaro via the Lemosho route. 

And also, what 80s child wouldn't be intrigued by Kilimanjaro after growing up listening to Toto on the radio?

We spent 8 days on the mountain. Life became endearingly simple. Wake up, get dressed and packed, eat breakfast, walk very slowly for a few hours, eat again, walk some more, eat, then sleep. No internet, no TV, no phones.  

During the climb, we passed through 4 very different vegetation zones. We started off in the rainforest, with towering trees, lush ferns and Colobus monkeys.

Colobus monkey!
By the second day, we were into the heather and moorland zone.

Scrubby grassland on day 2

Crazy. Are they bushes or trees?
Most of the way, we had beautiful views of Mt Meru, the second highest mountain in Tanzania.

Mt Meru
Next, we moved into the alpine desert.

Rocks, rocks, as far as the eye can see...
It was very motivating to be able to see the summit. This was one of my favourite camps:

Kilimanjaro by moonlight
Finally, early in the wee hours of the morning on day 7, we woke up at midnight and made our way up to the summit. We were lucky enough to have an almost full moon, so I mostly walked by moonlight. We didn't make it the summit for sunrise, but I will never forget watching the sun come up over the hills while K.D. Lang's Hallelujah played on my iPod. 

6 AM on summit day
Shortly after sunrise, we made it to Stella Point, and from there, it was a 40 minute stroll to the summit. Kind of. Although I was walking very slowly along a very slightly inclined ramp, it felt like I was jogging and I could feel my heart beating quickly. I saw quite a few people who were not doing so great, including one lady who was being full-on dragged to the summit by two guides and a man who collapsed and couldn't get up. We also passed several people who were vomiting.

5,895 meters above sea level with one of our guides, Mtaba. It was cold! I'm wearing 3 jackets!
After taking a few photos at the summit, we ran back down to base camp. Literally ran. It was amazing how much better and stronger I felt the more we descended. We had a quick nap in our tent, ate lunch and then descended another 5,000 feet to our last camp on the mountain.

On our final day, we descended another 5,000 feet and then drove back to Moshi. Yes, you read that right: it took 6.5 days to climb the mountain and only 1.5 days to descend.

Looking back on the experience, I'm so glad we decided to do it. Our guides and porters took great care of us and we couldn't have made it without them. Although high altitude climbing is never going to be my thing, I'm happy we tried something different!


  1. Those are some beautiful pictures. My fave is Kilimanjaro by moonlight.

    1. Thanks! I took those with my husband's Canon SLR... glad I lugged it along!

  2. That looks amazing, love your pictures. I love living vicariously through people who do things like this, because I could never do it myself. I'm asthmatic and I had trouble with the altitude when I went up Whistler Mountain, and that's not even that high! (full on asthma attack, I was the only one in the Whistler ER who wasn't suffering some sort of sports-related injury, I think I was a welcome change to the doctors and nurses there...) Will is going to Nepal to climb a mountain (not Everest, I forget which one) next month, and I'm definitely not going with him, but I look forward to his pics too.

    1. Thanks! Sorry to hear about the asthma... one of my best friends had asthma as a child and he always used to say it's the scariest feeling in the world.

      I would love to go climbing in Nepal. Just not Everest. I hope Will gets good weather... maybe share some of his pics please?

  3. This is so incredible. Wow, Liana! Thank you for sharing. I am like Rachel in that I have to live vicariously through others when it comes to mountain climbing. I once got altitude sickness from just being in Lake Tahoe. LOL. Super congrats on making it to the top. What an amazing adventure!

    1. Thanks, Cynthia! We're going to Tahoe in a few weeks. I hope we don't get altitude sickness! I learned it mostly has to do with how quickly you ascend, so if you drive or fly to a high altitude, that's higher risk than if you walk. Part of the reason our climb took 6.5 days is that we spent 6 days hanging out at the same altitude and acclimatizing.

    2. Interesting! I had no idea that if I took it slow I might be okay. I have a feeling that you will be fine in Tahoe. Most people are and you are more used to the altitude having just been in it and exerting yourself in it too! Have fun!

  4. You are amazing Liana! I started reading and I did not want it to end. What an incredible experience. I would never have the stamina to do that and I think it is so cool to see you do it. And what a wonderful memory to have with your spouse. Those pictures are incredible. I love the idea of being completely unplugged and on a journey. It is like a movie. Thank you for sharing! I just loved this post so much.


    1. Thanks, Jenni! I think most people would be able to make it to the summit without too much trouble. The pace is very slow, and most days we only walked about 10 kilometers (spread out over the whole day). There was a 16-year old girl in our group who did it, as well as a 65 year old woman in another group. Our guide told us the oldest person to ever climb the mountain was 84!

  5. the view looks AMAZING. and lol everest. If only people would know that it cost at least $60,000 USD to climb that damn mountain, and you might DIE and they can't carry your body back to base camp because it's too rocky! (i was interested in climbing everest a while back until I read up on it and since that day haven't changed my mind lol)