Climbing Kilimanjaro, in the words of our fellow expeditioner Adinel Tudor, in an interview for Dilema Veche.
When Adinel told me he is leaving for Kilimanjaro, I thought to myself, I would probably never do such a thing. Even though it’s not one of the toughest mountains (I have read about climbing on Everest or other 8000ers), Kilimanjaro seemed like an especially physical and mental challenge. So I asked him, the day after he returned, what made him go there and how was the experience. Adinel Tudor is a serial entrepreneur, with businesses in a wide variety of domains, amongst them culture, being the founder of Bookaholic.ro. He is passionate about sports, a variety of activities – some extreme, reading, technology and economy.What made you climb Kilimanjaro?
What makes any of us, people, in general, climb a mountain, search the spring of a river, go to the Poles or to the depths of the seas? For me it’s a combination of wanting to explore and challenging myself to go further, to prove to myself that I can, to be better tomorrow than I am today. In particular climbing Kilimanjaro is also about the promise of the most beautiful sunrise in the world, from Stella Point, 5685 m.sunrise at Stella PointWhat were you expecting and what was it actually like?
Probably the first thing you hear, as a Romanian, when you tell your friends that you are going to climb Kilimanjaro is “Aah, that’s easy, even Andreea Marin climbed it”. So, no matter how much mental and physical training I did before, somehow I left pretty mentally relaxed, because even the Surprises’ Fairy climbed it, right? The reality is, however, different. Of course depending on the route chosen. I, together with a Romanian team, climbed on Machame route, or “Whisky Route”, the second hardest route, having no technical challenges, but with physical effort and altitude acclimatization challenges.Which were the hardest parts? How about the best ones?
Talking earlier about challenges, the hardest of them all was in the fourth and ifth climbing days. Practically, these were two continuous days, nothing separating them in my memory. We left from Barranco camp, at 3984 m, at 8:30 in the morning and, with a few short breaks for sleep and food, the long day ended the following day, in the evening, after climbing Uhuru peak and descending to Mweka camp, at “only” 3090 m. Meanwhile we probably slept in total four-five hours, and started the climb for the summit at 00:00, that’s why my memory refuses to recall the two days as separated. It was a long, challenging and beautiful day.
The best part was, when on the last day at 3090 m altitude, which we were already perceiving as a sort of sea level, in spite of being more than 500m over Moldoveanu peak (note: the highest peak in Romania), we woke up to the songs of the local support teams (guides, porters and assistants), songs of gratitude and congratulation to the ones who conquered the summit. In fact, I think anybody who has climbed Kilimanjaro remembers the words to the song „Jambo Bwana“, with which the guides’ team accompanies any climb: „Jambo! Jambo bwana! / Habari gani? Mzuri sana! / Wageni, mwakaribishwa! / Kilimanjaro? Hakuna matata!“How did the journey take place?
One of the most beautiful parts of the climb on Kilimanjaro is passing through the four seasons and through extremely diverse forms of relief and vegetation.We left in the middle of an equatorial summer, with temperatures over 30 degrees, through jungle, and we reached the summit, in only five days, with temperatures below freezing, strong wind and alpine desert. The first day was for accommodation, getting to know the local support team – guides, porters, cooks – and a light trek through the jungle. It didn’t present any challenges for me, however the walk through the jungle helped me focus on the following days and reminded me of my motivation to climb the summit.
The second day was much more physically demanding, with a climb of 800m difference in altitude in just four hours, exiting the jungle and entering in the „moorland“. It was also going to be the last day in which we climbed only until noon. The acclimatization did me well, in spite of the cold I was fighting from day two (till we left), which did me as much good as a pebble in my boot. The break in Shira camp, at 3847 m, was to last sufficiently long to allow us all to charge for the following days.
Already from day three things started to get “serious”. We left in the morning and climbed to Lava Tower, at 4600 m altitude, where we stopped for lunch. This was also the first day with signs of altitude sickness in our team. The symptoms were stronger in some, hindering them from enjoying the break at Lava Tower. I was very happy I had no headaches, no muscle cramps or any other signs of altitude sickness. Of course I was about to find out later that I was hasty in being happy.
After lunch we followed the motto „Climb-high, sleep-low“and we descended from 4600 m to Barranco camp, at 3984 m. The total at the end of the day wasn’t too encouraging, with only 100m altitude gained on the way to the summit, however sleeping below 4000m did me well. How important oxygen is…
It’s hard for me to separate day four from day five, as I already mentioned, so I will put them together, as they are in my memory. We started the morning forcefully, climbing the Barranco wall – a rocky 257 m tall wall -, it was the first moment I felt a physical challenge and the thrill of “I am really climbing Kilimanjaro”. Despite looking a bit scary, this wall doesn’t require special climbing techniques, but rather decent feet, lungs and balance.
on Barranco Wall
From its top the view is excellent, the camp we left was visible below, in the distance, adding to the pleasant feeling of fulfillment. We continued the trek to Karanga camp, through Karanga valley and alpine desert.
the Romanian expedition on top of Barranco Wall
After lunch, without break, we continued to the final camp before Barafu peak, at 4681 m. It was the first time I climbed above 4000 m, and the feeling of overcoming the first altitude threshold was excellent. However, as we were approaching camp, I realized I was hasty to enjoy the lack of altitude sickness. Once we passed 4500 m, the characteristic headache became a constant companion. The lack of oxygen increased the feeling of discomfort, and in the evening, when we reached the last camp before the summit, I only wanted to sleep and to get it over with as soon as possible.
We slept a few hour in the afternoon, woke up “gladly” at the signal given at 23:30, and by 00:00 we were ready for the final ascent. The headache wasn’t going anywhere, so I realized I had to take it with me to the summit. The first hours of climbing the 1200 m altitude difference were relatively monotonous “pole, pole”, meaning “slowly, slowly”, as the guide was telling us. However every one hundred vertical meters seemed to add 100 grams to each boot and 1 kilo to the backpack. Slowly, slowly. After the first hours of climbing, “breath, walk, breath, walk” became a mantra. Somehow the body was listening to the two commands, but I couldn’t say I had energy for many other thoughts between them. Breath and walk. We reached 5000 meters. A new threshold. I should enjoy it. Breath and walk. Are we there yet? We still have to climb. Breath and walk. Breaaaak! How good it is to sit down, even for a short while. Come, get up, we are running late. Breath and walk. How many lights from the head torches are in front and behind us… Breath and walk. Look, we passed another group. Daybreak. Breath and walk. Is the sun rising? I wonder how much more to go? Breath and walk. One foot in front of the other.Adinel at Stella Point
Finally, the sun started to rise, this means we are close to the first summit, Stella Point, 5685 m. The most beautiful sunrise in the world. Breath and walk. The last meters to Stella Point are a superhuman effort. I had no more energy, and had to have a break for an energy gel and bar. Ah, how good pure carbohydrates are! We’ve made it, here’s the sunrise. It is truly beautiful, but I can’t access my memory to tell if it’s “the most beautiful”. I would want to stop here. At least a little, to sit in the sun, to rest and sleep. The guide congratulates me, I smile to the camera. Then he doesn’t let me sit. There’s just a bit more to Uhuru, a little over 100 vertical meters. Just a bit more, I have made it to here, I can’t stop. I continue walking. Step after step. Breath and walk.
the last glaciers on Kilimanjaro
When did an hour pass? I don’t know, but I’m on the summit. The view is superb, the glacier is visible below us. Everybody is taking pictures, somehow we all manage to find the energy for a last smile. The feeling of having climbed the summit will be enjoyed later. Now we have to descend. Fast, to get back to oxygen. There are still another three hours back to camp. We climbed in eight – I had barely notice them pass. We breathed and we walked. We did it. Let’s descend.
Adinel on Uhuru Peak
The first part of the descent was a sort of skiing on scree, without snow and without skis. We descended quite fast, the extra xygen allowing me to think of something else besides “breath and walk”. How good it would be to sleep in the sun. How lucky we were with the weather, we had no rain or snow. How beautiful everything looks when descending, even the alpine desert has its charm.
Having reached the camp, I am congratulated by the local team. They are happy for me. I can sleep. Only after another two hours of sleep do I start recalling everything.The feeling is wonderful, I did it, I feel the victory, the adrenaline, endorphins and even so there is too little oxygen. We start the descent to Mweka camp, at 3000 m. As we descend, we start talking, making conversation, laughing and enjoying ourselves. We did it!
The last day begins with the songs of the local team, who congratulate the tourists for their accomplishment. Jambo, Jambo bwana, today we have a last, light, three-four hours descent and the adventure here will be over with. We must repeat it, next year we must climb another mountain.the Romanian expedition team with their summit certificatesWhat must one know when climbing Kilimanjaro?
I think, to summarize it, to climb Kilimanjaro you need to be mentally and physically prepared. It is not at all technically difficult, only mentally and physically. And no, it is not easy because “the Fairy” has climbed it.How was the interaction with the local people?
Certainly, I wouldn’t have made it without the local team. From the porters, who would pass us carrying all our heavy bags on their heads or backs, to the guides, who always had the right encouraging words and songs, we are talking about wonderful people, who truly love the mountain you’re climbing on.the Romanian expedition together with the local support teamtext: Cristina Foarfă