6:45AM, July 14, 2002. An hour of my life I will never forget.
I am on the side of Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking, with a goal to reach its summit by sunrise. The trail is all crushed stone. I am no geologist, but I tell myself it is shale from uplifting and colliding continents, or was it debris thrown from the volcano? Yes, that’s right… Mount Kilimanjaro is actually a stratovolcano with three distinct volcanic cones. Whatever, I tell myself, that is all just science. Right now, I am climbing the 19,341 foot African mountain! Who would have ever thought!
I am cold, somewhat confused, knowing only to put one step in front of another. I am meeting others on the team at the summit come sunrise. The summit: Uhuru Peak at sunrise. It almost becomes my new mantra. Uhuru Peak at sunrise. It joins my most often mantra of “climb the mountain”, used at times when not even climbing actual mountains.
The shale pieces on the trail are now warming up with the rising sun. As a result, each step forward, higher, and with great effort becomes a sliding back routine. The shale bits are not holding steadfast as during the night hours when literally frozen in place. Am I climbing up this mountain or moving backwards? I am hoping for more forward than back movement. I am tired and thinking I should be on top very soon.
I create a rhythm with my trekking poles. I dig into the shale bits and step higher and forward. I see I am moving forward because the sun has begun to rise. I am behind the rest of the team. It is no longer their headlamps that I see ahead of me, instead just their backs. Damn, they seem so far from me, yet we are all on the same mountain. I will get there when I get there. No time or place here to give up. Climb a mountain at your own pace; yes, I will.
It is now approximately 7:45AM and I arrive at Stellar Point. Many people think this is the high point, yet it is not… but this was the hour of the climb I will never forget. I continue to the peak…. an amazing moment when there!