Two photos, two stories

On the left is me and my dad on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, a trip he has been looking forward to for a long time. It’s a photo of triumph, but it’s a deception. The other photo is of me and my dad with the people who helped us get there. In fact, we certainly wouldn’t have made it without them.

I expected a physical challenge – the final summit night is a 4,000 foot climb up a 25-30 degree grade starting around 11pm – but it was harder than anything I anticipated. On the way up, I got a mild case of acute mountain sickness, feeling dizzy to the point where I stumbled several times – not a good thing on a steep mountain. My dad said it was the first time he’s seen me like that. But a mild version of AMS is not life-threatening, and we continued. My muscles weren’t tired, but I couldn’t focus or keep my eyes open and I nearly fell asleep while hiking uphill.

I was almost sure there was no way I could make it to the top, but our guide and two of the porters that joined us for summit night made the difference (you can’t hike Kilimanjaro without a guided tour). They sang to cheer us up, gave us hot tea, and kept encouraging us. They even took our day packs (look in the photos at who is carrying backpacks and who isn’t).

We reached Stella Point before sunset and Uhuru Peak minutes after. Watching the sun rise from the rim of the crater surrounded by the (quickly disappearing) glaciers was an epic experience.

So the first photo is our happy father-son moment. The second one is the more complete story of how it happened.