I don’t even know the extent of what I have just been through. Unfortunately, this journal will never capture the fullness of the experience that just took place. Clearly though, it was the most difficult, challenging thing I have ever been through. I have never had to dig so deep, nor felt so used. I had nothing left to give. In the end it was worth every effort though.

I woke at 11:30 after barely getting any sleep. I was so nervous for midnight, it prevented me from relaxing. However, I must have slept a little, because I remember being a soldier in the “D-Day” invasion, just waiting for the transport door to come down and the onslaught to begin. They say if you are acclimatizing, you will have anxiety dreams – go figure. As I awoke I poked my head out of the tent and there were already climbers leaving, and I could see their head lamps dotting the line streaming upwards. To my surprise even the first hour was difficult. It was simply the lack of oxygen that caused every muscle in my body to be sore, every breath to feel like my last and every nerve in my head to feel like it was going to explode.

In order to null the pain, I would lull myself to sleep as I climbed. I would turn off my mind and just go on autopilot; it was amazing how this could be done. It was then I felt I was that soldier in the transport. I just sat there, so tired from no rest, thinking when this will be over – for I felt as near to death as I have ever been. Just as a wave came smashing against the boat, shaking it violently, I literally fell over into the snow, back into reality. I had no idea how much time had passed, but I was back here on Kilimanjaro and the pain suddenly became real again, surviving for my life. I picked myself back up and tired to keep going. I was scared my guide would send me back down for fear of me going delirious because of the lack of oxygen. Instead, he simply gave me his head lamp and on we went. For hours in the dark, through the snow this went on. I can hardly recall anything that went through my mind. At one point I tried saying the ABC’s and kept getting lost – that is when I knew my mind was starting to fail me. I had to be careful though. There were some steep cliffs and ledges that if I didn’t focus on them, it could mean a disastrous situation. But that moment of focusing could last no longer than 30 seconds before I slipped back to a dull and incoherent state. At many points I thought I was going to pass out, there was just nothing I could do to get air. It is amazing though for the first time in my life, inside of my soul, I could feel the basic instinct of survival, which ignited energy and adrenaline I didn’t know existed. It just kept me going, step by step, no thought, just a lulled mind, unaware of anything, even the pain. At one point I was panting and groaning so hard, my guide Aribo stopped me, grabbed me by the shoulders and told me it was “not about just getting to the top to take pictures, rather it is about right here, right now, and what you are becoming. Don’t forget what you are becoming”. I was too tired to think about what any of that meant, but now I know.

After about 5 hours of this treacherous journey we hit a steep point where almost every step my boot slipped. Because of the snow, the footing was unstable. It was more taxing on my already low energy level than anything. It went on forever, but I knew once at the top we would be to Stella point, which was only a short 40 minute walk to Uruha point, the place where we would find peace.

Finally we got there and Aribo gave me a huge hug, told me I was a hero and then both of us simultaneously gave glory to God we made it. I was surprised where this sudden outburst of energy came from, but I wouldn’t turn it away. It didn’t last for long though and once again I was back to this dream state, so close to just shutting the body off. I honestly took each step, not covering more than 8 inches, not knowing if that would be my last step. How could I be so far from hope and optimism when the goal was now in sight? I can easily say this was the most challenging, grueling and hardest thing I have ever done.

Finally we made it there, there was no sprint or change of pace, but once there it was like I was a new person. I had the biggest smile and almost started crying. To think of all that was forgone and what this costs me, just made the smile that much bigger. It was gorgeous, too amazing for words. It was a paradise in heaven. Some thing that can only be seen at 20,000 feet above. Although I was one of the first ones up, I stayed longer than anyone, as my joy was unmatched.

All of a sudden there was something inside of me that released so much hidden energy, my excitement and pure joy came as a refreshing rescue to lift up this frail and dying body. I went to the edge of the peak, found the roundest stone and plumped my incoherent absent body on it. I will never forget that moment, the view, the sense of achievement and more importantly the greatest journey I have ever been on. To think, 6 hours of dredgery and pain, with nothing left inside, but yet there I sat, my mind free totally inundated by the power of the moment, to which nothing else could enter my thoughts. As the sun continued to rise and bring light to this expansive kingdom, above the clouds, my mind could no longer bare taking it in. It was too much.

Although at first I thought I would have no energy to descend 3,000 meters with the blistering sun scorching every inch of uncovered skin, somewhere energy was found. There on the snow covered mountain top of Kilimanjaro you would have found one of the most joyful travelers and his guide, skipping as a free pioneer through un-chartered snows. Now there was nothing that would take this away from me.