Reflections of Mount Kilimanjaro Journey From Kevin, Did I actually just do that? Did I just summit Mount Kilimanjaro? The feeling is so surreal and it still hasn’t hit me yet but I officially made summit and become the first person with a j-pouch to do so. The journey wasn’t easy; there were many issues that I battled along the way but the pure determination and support from loved ones kept me on the pathway to victory! I’m not going to lie, there were many times that I felt I would give up, but I always thought about who I would be letting down the most… and it wasn’t me, but it was the people that believed in me.
I am such a fortunate individual to have this much love coming my way and I seriously owe you all the world. MAD LOVE! It was Rob that reached summit first, followed by myself, and then Marsha at 7:20AM on August 31, 2014. Unfortunately, Chaz fell ill during hour 3 of our 7 hour summit and was escorted back to camp by our guide.
I thought about how to best describe our journey and what I could do to actually show everyone our trip, so I kept a video log and will be submitting a little something for you all real soon! As for now, let me take you through our trip day by day.
We started the day by travelling through a few villages to our drop off spot. Marsha, Rob, Chaz and myself rode in the car with our 3 guides and bountiful amount of porters. It was a fun car ride through the towns and we even got to stop off and visit a little banana shack, definitely neat! Worst part of the day was getting a speeding ticket, but everything else went off without a hitch!
Once we got to the drop off location, we had lunch and set off! It was a super mellow, fun and easy hike through the Rongai forest to Simba camp. It was nothing exerting and we reached camp with 3 hours. Our altitude by the end of the day was at 2650m. We spent the night hanging out, getting our bearings and enjoying each other’s company. It was a fun old time and although the camp was quite busy, we had our own little area. Squat poohing was the worst part, but living with IBD… I could just about pooh anywhere. I definitely preferred to wilder-poop than use the outhouses, but I tried to be civil.
After dinner, we ended up retiring to our tents. Each night we would usually sleep by 7PM, hiking all day takes a lot out of you! However, it was this night that things took a pretty bad turn for me. I ended up tossing and turning all night, having extremely vivid dreams and talking in my sleep. By the next morning, I was just a wreck and I didn’t know what was going on with me.
As we awoke, everyone was razzing me for snoring and moaning at night (whatever, I “let it go”) but after breakfast, as we started our climb to the next camp, I knew something wasn’t right. The whole trek, I was exhausted with a severe headache and I was getting the runs! I took a couple trail poops and eventually found out that I was suffering from a bad case of acute mountain sickness. I could barely walk, I had no energy and all I wanted to do was sleep.
By some miracle and the cautious eyes of our guides, I lugged my body to Second Cave camp at 3500m and immediately passed out. I slept all day and all night, only emerging for dinner and ate next to nothing at that. There was a lot of talk about sending me back down, because my body wasn’t getting used to the altitude quick enough (despite taking it slow and the pills). The team was concerned and I was worried.
I wasn’t about to pack it in. I wasn’t going to go back down and I sure as hell wasn’t going to quit this journey. The team ended up going for a hike around the camp site to get used to the increasing altitude.
It was a miracle! I woke up and felt amazing. I had a great amount of energy, my humour was back and the rest of the team definitely recognized that I was back in action. They mentioned that dinner was quite boring without me. But I knew that they really meant dinner was boring cause they had no one to make fun of… (well that’s what Rob and Chaz meant not Marsha, she’s too sweet!). After a quick brekky, we set off on our journey up the mountain! Today we went from Second Cave camp to Kikelewa camp at an altitude of 3690m.
There wasn’t much of an altitude gain and rather, the extra day was spent to get our bodies accustomed to the altitude (I could definitely use it)!
The pathway up the mountain continued to get harder and harder. Every day was a challenge and the altitude gains on the body became more and more tough.
I would have a headache almost every day, as my body tried to adjust. Marsha was also having some difficulties (although not as many as me). Rob had a few issues, but only because he decided to exercise at each camp, as apart of the “Buck Furpies” challenge and out of all of us, Chaz seemed to adjust the best (jealous)! I could feel my body every day pushing itself to reach the next camp.
Trust me when I say I cried, cause I did… on the inside, lots! Through all the pain though, I kept pushing. I kept pushing for not just myself, but my supporters, for IBD-ers around the world and I kept pushing for the cure.
Once again, we woke up early (too early if you ask me). We’re usually greeted in the morning with a hot cup of tea and a hot bowl of wash water by Kristian, one of our helpers and once our stuff is packed, we head to the dining tent for our meal. Breakfast was usually eggs (yeah, we were fed super well), toast and some sort of meat (sausage or bacon). Of course, I couldn’t eat some of the food because of my diet, else I’d risk having an attack on the mountain.
Today was probably among one of the hardest days, as we hiked a steep ascent into Mawenzi Tarn, a beautiful lake hidden in the mountain valley. Our altitude today was at 4320m, almost a 700m gain, yikes! I definitely started to feel dizzy and the pains when we got higher and higher, but once we got to camp, I was instructed by our guide to take rest and get used to the altitude. Marsha ended up hiking up towards the crater, Rob was off doing his thing and Chaz took time to himself as well. We had lunch and dinner here and retired early.
Every night the team would make fun of me for snoring and moaning in my sleep. In my defense however, my body was adjusting to climate and I couldn’t help it! Yeah, I was mocked around camp a lot but at least it was all in fun. I wasn’t the only one to snore though, Rob, Marsha and Chaz all had their fair share of the night time mumbles.
Every camp we would share stories of the outhouses, although this camp was well kept – it didn’t win the best award. This outhouse was built on a cliff though (smart) so all your business would fall over the edge of the mountain. “Look out below, falling turds coming through”! As someone with a j-pouch, I had to use the outhouses at every camp multiple times. I should have just slept in them, but that would be gross. Rob, however decided to have a “shower” in one of them. I don’t know how clean you can feel, taking a shower inside an outhouse… you’ll have to ask him about that one.
DAY 5 and 6:
We went from the beautiful lake to Kibo Hut today. Kibo Hut is where the “coca cola” route joins the “whiskey” route, named so because “coca cola” is considered the easy route and “whiskey” is considered hard (get it, haha)! Kibo Hut is the busiest came site since all the routes converge here and it’s the final resting place before summit. I thought the hike to Kibo Hut was among the hardest.
It’s because you can see it from a far ways away, but it takes forever to get there. It’s seriously the worst! It’s like you can see it, you’re sooo close and yet, it takes forever to get there. Cool story though, on the way to this camp site, we passed by an old plane crash. It’s been said that the ghosts of the dead passengers still haunts the area. Okay, I made that part up. But seriously, the pilot was having such a hard time seeing where he was going because the cloud line was so low and thick that he miscalculated and crashed the plane.
It was a small aircraft, and two people died. Okay, back to the hike. So after hours of torment, seeing the camp but not reaching it – we finally got to it! The camp itself was quite well maintained. The outhouses had electric lights (hold those ooh’s and aah’s) but no flush! Once we arrived though, we were welcomed by heavy hail and snow. Seriously, this hail was heavy. It was pummeling my face and ruining my perfect image (just kidding, I looked like crap). Rob decided to do his “Buck Furpie” challenge and once that was done, we headed to our tent and tried to sleep before dinner. We were told to get an early night’s rest that evening as we’d be waking up at 11PM to get ready for our midnight trek up the mountain for summit!!!
You have no idea how exhausting summit day was. It was pitch black dark, it was freezing cold, there was snow and all I wanted to do was get to the top! For hours upon hours, all you could see were the lights from head lamps as trekkers journeyed to the top of the mountain. The air was thin and I started to feel sick. I had to stop a few times because my body was fighting… all I wanted to do was sit down or throw up. It was around hour 3 that Chaz started to feel awful. He wasn’t doing well and the mountain sickness got to him. He started to throw up, got really ill and he seemed disconnected from his body. It wasn’t long before the decision was made to take him back down the hill.
Rob, Marsha and myself continued on. Things were started to get rough for Marsha however that woman pulled it together and kept moving. With thanks to our guide Frank, Marsha was able to get herself to the top! The team reached Gillman’s Point (peak number one) just as the sun was rising – talk about a beautiful view. Who else can saw that they got to see the sunrise from the top of the world?! It was magnificent!! We continued our journey to Stella’s Point and then kept pushing for Uhuru, the highest point. It wasn’t until 7:20AM that we reached our destination.
I cannot begin to tell you how I felt. I fell to my knees. On one hand, I was so insanely happy. I was so happy that my body was flushed with emotion. I wanted to cry, scream, run, yell all at once! It felt like my mind was racing from one end of the world to the other. It was an intense feeling of relief, gratitude, excitement, love but most of all, accomplishment. I became the first individual with a j-pouch to summit Mount Kilimanjaro… I still can’t believe it. It’s still so surreal and I’m in awe at myself. I wanted to quit so many times. My body wanted to quit so many times but my heart… it told me to keep going.
After many a photos at the top, we decided to venture down. I was insanely exhausted and I couldn’t breathe up there. All I wanted to to do was sit but I was so excited… my body was messed up! We began our trek down the mountain as we passed new trekkers with gleams of both hope and despair in their eyes. I’m sure that’s what we looked like too. All you could do was wish them well and tell them it was worth it.
After another tough few hours, we finally made it back to camp. We thought we could rest, but oh were we wrong. Once we reached the bottom, we had to pack up and continue our descent to another camp. Holy moly, my body was crying. We ended up hiking a near 12 hours that day!!! My legs were spaghetti noodles and my eyeballs could do anything but stay open. That night, I crashed so hard and slept so well. Despite all the noise and commotion of all the campers at the site, I just hit that sleeping mat like it was a cloud. Apparently I had some really bad farts that night too (sorry Rob)!
A 6 hour trek and we are officially off the mountain! The end was near and everyone was on a mission. All we could do was walk and wait, wait for the end. The walk down was beautiful though. Some of the most open, vast and incredulous scenery I have laid my eyes on!
Once we got back to camp, the first thing on everyone’s mind was a shower! Oh man, I have never loved the feeling of hot water on my skin as much as I did that day. But enough talk about that, this isn’t that kind of blog. Once we got all cleaned up, we treated our whole team to beers and then they put on a little song for us while presenting us with our certificates, officially marking our journey to the top of Kilimanjaro!
The whole journey was an experience. It was not only an experience for my mind but it was also one for my body. Completing that journey was hard enough, but completing it with a j-pouch was even harder. My body is quite unpredictable and I never knew if I would have an attack or not! Thankfully, things were kept under control but even so, not having a large intestine to absorb the water you are constantly drinking or having water shits on the trail are major concerns for an expedition this tough.
I learned that I could defy odds and push myself to new limits. I tested myself and I know that I am capable of this and so much more! I never would have thought or dreamt of doing something like this and now that I have, the world is at my fingertips. I want to thank Rob Hill, my friend, mentor and hero. Without him and IDEAS, I could not have achieved this monumental goal for myself and the world around me.
My name is Kevin Ram, and IBD doesn’t stop me!No tags for this post.