I think the most surprising part about climbing Kilimanjaro is not that I managed to reach the summit – which I did, and have photographic proof! – but that I even attempted it in the first place.
To put it simply, I am lazy. For someone who seems to have a love of throwing herself off cliffs and out of planes, for crashing kayaks and falling down waterfalls, and for chasing dreams, I am really one of the laziest people I know. I have been known to take an elevator one floor up on occasion. Or always. I nearly passed out at one point trying to find the gorillas in Uganda after stuffing my face full of chocolate and then trying to walk up a modest hill. Yet I manage to get through these things because they require at most an hour or two of physical exertion.
Kilimanjaro is different. While most of it is not technical in any sense in the way that traditional mountains are, it is endless trekking. And I do mean endless, in the suck the will to live out of you kind of way.
Even my sister, who is amazingly fit and loves to run ultra marathons, found Kilimanjaro a new kind of tedious. The first few days are okay. They warm you up for what is to come. As you climb higher and higher and the air gets thinner and thinner it begins to feel more like you're swimming than walking. Coupled with the fact that the higher you get, the more impossible the terrain becomes with scree and loose rock mitigating any attempts you make to get higher.
Climbing Kilimanjaro means you traverse through five different ecosystems in just as many days. Just as you've conquered the rainforest, you’re in an alpine desert. Just as you're learning how to navigate that, you blink and it’s arctic snowcap.