You Have Not Failed
The absolutely drop dead, wrong, stupid-ass way to approach climbing Kilimanjaro is to have the intention of making it to the top. Sure – it should be one of the goals that you should strive for, but it should not consume you, be a priority over your health or over your safety. NEVER. You have to mentally prepare to not make it to the top, hands down, no questions asked. Thousands of people return down the mountain, disappointed, with wicked headache, nauseas and vomiting, feeling sad that they did not some summit the highest mountain in Africa. This is the wrong approach.
Here is why:
First off, many people try to climb Kilimanjaro way too fast. This is perhaps because the price of climbing the mountain is very expensive and the thinking is, if you climb the mountain fast, you can save a bit of cash. It’s true – some people do it quickly, save a few bucks, but the vast majority never it make it to the top in five or six days they plan to climb. They get altitude sickness, don’t enjoy their trip, don’t stop to look back and enjoy view. They should relax and think “man, I am climbing the highest mountain in Africa.” You want to enjoy yourself on the mountain, right?
Kilimanjaro is one of the highest mountains in the world, one of the fabled seven summits, and climbing to 19,300 ft over the course of seven days is no small feat. 25,000 people “attempt” to climb it each year, but the majority of the ones who make it to the top are the climbers who take their time and don’t try to rush up the mountain. Even those who don’t rush up the mountain many times don’t make it. It takes your body many days to get a sufficient acclimatisation.
The important thing is to enjoy your climb, know your body, and if you get altitude sickness, just accept it – and get your ass down the mountain. On Kilimanjaro, it’s okay to accept defeat, enjoy your climb, look at the views, and respect the mountain You will probably only climb the mountain once in your lifetime and you should probably enjoy it.
There is a very popular saying in Kiswahili, the language of Tanzania, that says “Haraka Haraka haina Baraka,” which literally means “hurrying has no blessing.” That means, “take it easy,” in true Tanzania style. This is true for the mountain too. Enjoy it while you can.
By Peter Baxter
| September 30th, 2005