Pole, pole is the mantra here on Kili, as the locals affectionately call the mountain that looms over their little town of Moshi. Slow and steady. In the weeks leading up to this point, there was some indecision around whether we should attempt climbing this monster, feeling out of shape from not having done much hiking since South America. A simple climb up a few flights of stairs would be enough to take the wind out of me. What would a 4,000-meter ascent do?
With an impressive crew of 8 guys, we shut our eyes and set off. The first couple of days were a test of patience. Despite having hiked 19 kilometers up 1,800 meters, we actually felt strong. We felt we could've done more and faster, but were constantly reminded to slow our pace to a steady one. Altitude sickness is real and not unheard of. In fact, a guy we met on the way up had to go back down when his headache and shortness of breath would not subside.
The third day was filled with mixed emotions as we trekked the long, rolling stretch of moorlands and desert to base camp. After 9 kilometers up 1,000 meters and very little rest, we would ascend at midnight that night and attempt to summit in time to catch the sunrise. Such eagerness and anxiety in those few hours.
Day 4 was a test of willpower. The climb up began just 20 minutes after midnight and no matter how slowly we went, it wasn't slow enough. We were to climb 1,200 meters over 6 kilometers and at our pace, it seemed as though we would never make it. The air is thinner and breathing becomes more labored at this elevation. Stopping to rest meant defying the freezing temperatures for longer and the more time spent on the face of the mountain, the more discouraging.
Ten minutes from the peak, the sun began to make its appearance and determination surged from within. We raced to the top, our frozen fingers fumbling for our cameras.
Standing above the clouds, everything was forgotten. Senses became numb. There was no sound. We were literally breathless. As we waited to greet the sun, we could only stand back in awe, hearts filled to the brim. Wisps of cloud danced before us as if the opening sequence to one of nature's most incredibly orchestrated symphonies. No words could even begin to describe.
The last day was a test of endurance. Raw fingers, sore muscles, aching joints, blistered feet, 19 kilometers.
Back in town, we already start to reminisce. How easy it would have been to turn around at any point and how amazing the human body is to persevere. Just a few days on the mountain, but a life lesson learned. Mind over matter. Pole, pole.