With a team of 26 people from different walks of life, I believe I began my first steps along an adventurous road ahead of me. The Right to Climb expedition was led by Omar Samra, Egypt’s first climber and youngest Arab to summit Mount Everest, and it aimed at raising awareness for the mentally challenged in Egypt. Being a brother of two sisters with severe mental disability, Omar’s devotion to the cause and his enormous skill and determination were effortlessly transmitted to all of us. All 26 of us miraculously made it up to Uhuru Peak at 5895 m altitude, the highest point in Mount Kilimanjaro. It was a challenging and rewarding journey all at once.
I had my sorrow and happiness moments, my doubt nights and euphoria days, so I thought I’d share it all. Below is my daily journal on Mount Kilimanjaro.
It’s Happening! Kilimanjaro is Just a Few Hours Away
The minute I took the decision to go up Kilimanjaro I stopped sleeping at night. I would toss and turn in bed, forever obsessing about getting ready and having the right equipment. My heart would race just by the thought of me taking my patient steps one by one to the top…
A Beautiful Monster
It took me a few minutes of staring out the window with a blank mind for me to realize that my mouth was actually wide open. I could not take my eyes off it. It was a monster. So high with its glaciers it seemed to be all on top of the clouds, floating with such ease. The clouds were like loyal servants surrounding it and caressing its edges…
Day 1: Karibo Tanzania
Coming from concrete Cairo, this hike was a delicious treat to my senses. My eyes were no longer looking at incoherent blocks of cement that always gave me a sense of claustrophobia. I was looking at endless fields of green, smelling the fresh mist that carried the scent of the trees, and listening to an overwhelming variety of sounds of birds that were busy conversing along the way…
Day 2: Your God is Mine
I became so fearful of the adventure ahead. I went back to my tent and it took at least 2 hours for me to warm my body again and go back to sleep. All along I kept trying to soothe myself by trying to gather all the respect I ever gave to anyone and offer it to Kilimanjaro. I whispered to it softly in my mummy bag before I closed my eyes, “Your God is mine.”…
Day 3: #WTF??!!@$%#
Soon my dizziness turned into imagery. I started seeing people talking who weren’t even there. It was like a semi-conscious experience. So my body decided to put on a denial act and fall asleep. There were times when I tried to grab the opportunity that the guides weren’t looking and close my eyes and pretend that I was in my bed in Cairo, fast asleep…
Day 4: No Food, No Summit!
That’s what I love the most about the mountains. They are a metaphor for life and its challenges as we grow older. Each new rock is a new bigger challenge you have to face. You have to get over it with careful consideration and calculation of your steps. Where you place your feet, when and where to rest your weight, and which part of the rock you choose as your support could mean either your road to the top or your painful, sometimes lethal, fall…
Day 5: Mind Over Body
I came thus far despite the illness I felt. My body has come to a fine state after struggling with the altitude. I’ve seen other cliffs, so why is this one particularly scary? I am on a mountain, aren’t I? And cliffs are what makes a mountain beautifully intimidating.
Day 6: Zero Hour, Sub-Zero Journey
The journey to the summit took 5 days and it climaxed in the early hours of the 6th. I was learning something new about the mountain, about God, and about myself every hour. No person can truly believe what they are capable of until they are on the edge of survival.
Day 7: Down to the Clouds
I was right there, standing on that mass, breathing normally again, looking at the clouds below me and making my way into them. My entire being was overwhelmed with gratitude. The fight against myself was over. My mind had nothing to do now but rest, enjoy the benefit of its struggle, look around and take the beauty and bliss all in.
Epilogue: Kilimanjaro Wisdom for a First Timer
Kilimanjaro wasn’t the first hike for me, but it was definitely the first time I do outdoor living and climbing to an altitude of more than 3000 m. So I consider myself a first timer, and maybe that is why I think I should share my discoveries, as graphic as they are. Veteran climbers might forget the little details they’ve learned to take for granted.
An Ode to Kilimanjaro
The whole world enveloped in darkness… As, weary, the day becomes night… The body discovers its weakness… The soul, relentless, its might.
Guest Post: 12 Hours to the Summit
But how could I be lonely now when I was so much closer to the heavens and to myself? There is a fine line between loneliness and solitude. And this mountain, as it has stood freely for all these centuries in all of its vast glory, finally taught me that solitude is a not such a bad thing after all, solitude is freedom.
#1 by Rachid on October 2, 2010 - 9:26 pm
I bow to your accomplishment, especially after what I had thought was an adventure climbing the Catherine Peak at Mount Sinai.I now understand better your sense of patience and poise during our arduous descent yesterday. God Bless
#2 by Arwa Mahmoud on October 3, 2010 - 1:53 pm
Your words humble me Rachid. Thank you so much.
#3 by Coucla Refaat on October 6, 2010 - 11:10 am
Not only a brilliant writer , but a wonderful person. Chapeau
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