Here we go, Kilimanjaro summit, day 5 of the hike …
(If you missed it – here is my look back on Kilimanjaro Day 4)
I figure I need at least a few posts and maybe a book to tell you about the day we went up and down the summit of the amazing Mount Kilimanjaro. Lets start with this post at least and see where it takes us.
Funny or sad or surreal or crazy enough, when I think of standing on top of Mount Kilimanjaro I get emotional and am now writing this very sentence through salty tears in my eyes and on my cheeks. I want to try and tell you why that is, if I can even put to words the emotion of such a moment. I can’t even call it a moment as the experience was more than even moments; it was the accumulation of emotional, physical and really quite spiritual challenges and ah-ha experiences that in the end become your “Kilimanjaro memory’ if you will.
So really, stay with me, as I try to explain how it felt, how I actually think it has changed me, and through that hope it encourages you to challenge Kilimanjaro Mountain itself or your own ‘Kilimanjaro challenge’ whatever that might be in your life. In my next Summit Day – Hiking post, I will give you more of the factual, step by step of summit day stuff and lots of pictures. I felt I had to get this emotional stuff of my chest first before I could get into hike-y stuff and wanted to paint the picture of how it felt before dazzling you with summit pictures of glaciers and volcanic craters and such…
Some of you are probably still stuck on the Brande is crying while writing – what the heck? When you hear I have tears, please don’t be sad for me! These are tears of pride, of amazement, of feeling blessed, of being awed by our amazing planet and its Creator, and of being speechlessly reminded of how much the human body and mind are actually capable of. Of course, I will be honest with you and admit they are not all happy tears some are sad but that’s ok too so please still don’t feel sad for me. Some of the salt water in these eyes as I write are in memory of the fear of heights during the climb, the dread I felt when I honestly believed the next cough would leave blood in my palm, the next puking fit would leave me too exhausted and unable to continue.
A little caveat before we start, I am hoping beyond hope that none of my fellow hikers actually knew I was feeling all this. I was trying to keep it in so they could focus on their own hikes and not me all working my crap out up and down a mountain summit. I am not sure if I was able to dupe my hubby, bestie or sister but a girl can hope.
My memory of that day has gaps for sure. But as usual, the next morning I woke (light headed and coughing) and sat in the tent scribbling down every detail I could recall… here is how I remember feeling (think roller coaster) …
I remember feeling guilt. Yup, guilt. The guilt I have for making my wonderful husband stand by and watch his wife suffer though nothing shy of a wee dose of pulmonary edema purely for the thrill of knocking something of MY “must do” list in life, not his or ours – but my list. I think it is nothing shy of total and complete love that he, with full support and love, saw me through it, and even climbed it with me. You have probably read before that my husband hates hiking. Well his love is more for me than his hate is for hiking, so he does strap on his hiking boots once in a while just me and that includes to hike Kilimanjaro. I feel looking back I was very selfish asking him to hike for 7 days straight because I wanted to and then topped that off with me getting sick on the summit and scaring the crap out of him in thanks. So lets admit here, I know some of my emotion is caused by this overwhelming display of his love for me and just how far and high, literally, he is willing to go to demonstrate it. Wow! Right? So not just guilt, but also fall-in-love love all over again too.
Any who – carrying on.
I remember feeling stupid, yes you read that right – stupid. When we started out at 5am in the morning. I had all the right gear, the right training, my body felt mostly right that morning but yet I had a voice in my head that said ‘who do you think you are stupid girl, you were the chubby kid in school, the every diet out there I tried it gal, the just shy of being really good at sports but never amazing girl, the etc etc etc (insert all kinds of nasty self talk here). Stupid! I felt stupid cause of my self talk and I felt even more stupid for letting this self talk even enter my mountain-climbing, kick-ass mind.
I remember, on the very opposite spectrum, some very awesome self talk. Giving myself a mental high five for training so hard and feeling so good in my muscles and joints as a result. There was some definite you are bad-ass and hear me roar self talk moments happening!
I remember feeling thankful. Thanking myself for all the hours and hours of research I did so there were no surprises along that way that can trip up my brain into an anxiety / obsessive worrying. Thanking God for my body and the opportunity to be able to experience something so amazing on this globe of ours. Thanking all the family, friends, and support I have who were so excited for me to do this and so willing to jump in and make sure it was possible to get here and get up the mountain.
I remember looking around at my fellow climbers and feeling so blessed to have such amazing friends and family. I was on a mountain with my wonderful husband, with my so tough and so funny sister and her awesome husband, my hilarious and inspiring best friend, and the two closest friends my husband and I could ask for in the Carmen brothers. How did the universe align for such a rock star group of loving, darn funny and supportive people to come together? To accomplish this feat together? For all of us to be successful together? I will never know but it was a great reminder of the power of the universe (not to sound cheesy).
I remember feeling lonely. I had to leave behind the group on our descent as I was told to link arms and scree ski down with our Assistant Guide Felix and get down to a lower altitude where my breathing would get easier. I remember feeling lonely that my husband was not with me and yet rather glad he would not be next to me to see how much I was suffering, to hear that popcorn crackle in my lungs, or to see the liquid coming with each coughing fit. If I saw concern in his eyes for me it would be my undoing I think. I was channeling all of my ‘you are strong’ woman feelings I could. So best we could not make eye contact really.
I remember being frustrated. Getting back to the tents and being so glad that they came so quickly upon on us and yet so mad that they seemed to take forever to materialize. I was walking with my husband again shortly after scree skiing and glad for it. I have gaps in my memory here but know he was always asking how I was and was not impressed when I went to my knees in a coughing fit or puking fit. For both of us, for different reasons, we wanted to turn the next corner and see our tents.
I remember being scared. I think my hubby knew I was struggling with breathing already but really getting back into our tent tent was when quiet the crackly/pop of my lungs hit home for us (BUT I was still breathing and exhausted smiling to have made it).
I remember being happy. When we arrived back at the tents my oxygen saturation was 60% and heart rate low (not a great combo) when we first got to the tent but I recovered to 62% with some focused breathing in just minutes. So I figured it would climb right up in 2% increments with more good breathing and I would be golden in no time. Yahoo I am breathing better already and I climbed a mountain!
I remember feeling ashamed. The moment when I saw the not impressed, incredulous, what-the-hell-are-we-even-climbing-a-mountain-for look on the husband’s face made me feel bad for my selfish bucket list. I knew he was worried for how I was feeling and more than anything my response to how I was feeling. But I actually think this helped me. I went into focus on getting oxygen in, getting the vision back to clear and without little fire fly bugs, and get the fear / mad out of my husbands eyes. Not to sound like a generalist, but I think the fear / mad thing is a total guy thing – they are scared for you but mad at whatever made you sick or hurt in the first place.
I remember feeling so taken care of. Shortly after the not impressed-husband look he was lovingly (and romantically in my opinion) unlacing and pulling off my dusty boots for me as I laid on my sleeping bag focusing on not passing out. Then shortly after, that amazing sister I mentioned early, who is also Asthmatic sadly but bless her cotton socks for it, came by with her inhaler thingies for me and I was soon feeling better and better as the night progressed. Moments again after that my husband was teaching me how to use an inhaler for the first time between coughing fits. Finally, him him chuckling at me as I wrapped myself in an emergency blanket like a baked potato and fell back to sleep like a rock.
I told you … roller coaster!
Oh Kilimanjaro, I may not have left any toenails on your mountain side .. but I sure did leave a blazing trail of emotions up and down your summit!
Next post I will honour the beauty of the mountain with pics of the summit day and a hiking account. They will be so much more meaningful now that you have the emotional foundation to lend some passion to the images.