So, David Crowder sings a song called “Stars” and the words came to me while sitting outside one evening under Kilimanjaro while I was bundled up and freezing and exhausted and alone and feeling so thankful. I hadn’t thought of the song in ages, but the words came back to me that night, clear as day… Figured I’d share ‘em.
“You should see the stars tonight, how they shimmer, shine so bright. Against the black, they look so white. Coming down from such a height. To reach me now. You reach me now.
And you should see the moon in flight, cutting across the misty night. Softly dancing in sunshine, reflections of its light… Reach me now. You reach me now.
And how could such a thing, shine its light on me. And make everything beautiful, again…
… And you should hear the angels sing, all gathered ‘round their King. More beautiful than you could dream. I’ve been quietly listening. You can hear ‘em now. I hear ‘em now…
And how could such a King, shine His light on me. And make everything beautiful. And I want to shine, I want to be light. I want to tell you, it’ll be alright. And I want to shine. And I want to fly. Just to tell you now, it’ll l be alright. It’ll be alright.
Cause I’ve got nothing of my own to give to you, but this light that shines on me, shines on you… and makes everything beautiful again. “
Here are a few snippets from my journal while climbing Kilimanjaro. Enjoy the photos! They speak louder than my words ever could.
Tuesday 6/26 writing from 10,000 feet
Full day hiking in. Jungle and rainforest, mud and fog. Still nervous. I hate to say it, but statistics would bet that we won’t all make it to the summit. (I shouldn’t think that way). Kili doesn’t have the biggest success rate in the world.
We are a big group. Big groups of Americans are loud. That said, anything is louder than one who has been traveling kinda solo for the last 11 months. Feeling culture shock for my own country? Missing my family. We were going to do this as a family. My parents and siblings should be here.
But, hot chocolate is one of the best things in this world. And the porters love it when I try and speak Swahili. They now call me “Da-Da”… It means “sister”
Wednesday 6/27 writing from 12,200 feet
You can see the mountain now. No more rainforest. Mt. Meru and Mt. Kili are both breathtakingly beautiful. Massive mountains that emerge from absolutely nowhere. Clouds clouds clouds. Blue sky. MOUNTAIN. Already drank 3 liters of water this morning. Pole Pole means Slow Slow. One step, two step. I’m feeling good. Day at a time. They say going slow and drinking water prevents altitude sickness.
Thursday 6/28 writing from 15,208 ft at lunch
Today has been harder. We are climbing the entire day today. Still miles to go before we sleep tonight. We are up to 15,000ft right now, but moving ahead on the trail to sleep at 13,200ft. They say “Climb High, Sleep Low” to get your body used to the altitude. It is harder to breathe at 15,000ft at first. And if I look at the mountain for too long, I convince myself that I am not strong enough. So, I glance up, smile, then look at the stones, look at the path, talk with the other climbers. I try to enjoy the breath I have now and try to take it slow. My lungs can feel it. Some are struggling with altitude sickness and exhaustion.
Friday 6/29 writing from 13,200 feet after climbing to 15,000 again
My lungs hurt and my heart races sometimes while we climb. We take lots of breaks and try to adjust to the altitude. I have realized that I think less now. Maybe it is because of less oxygen up here. Climbing is like a meditation: simple thoughts, quiet, slow, reflection, little moments. Slow slow. My thoughts move from memories of this last year, to people I love, to thoughts about home. General feeling of awe and thankfulness.
And Kilimanjaro puts it all in perspective. Layers of rock and ice and snow and glaciers and the light reflects off the mountain and back toward me. This mountain is the most powerful and graceful thing I have ever seen. She stands free, intimidating and alone and yet with this magnificent energy that is somehow inviting. She says, “If you are strong enough to dream of climbing with me, you are strong enough to do it” and I want to believe her.
I drink at least 4 or 5 liters of water a day. I still haven’t had any altitude sickness or nausea or even a hotspot or blister on my foot. It is a miracle.
God, this mountain is awesome. You must’ve had fun making it. How beautiful is this world?!
Saturday 6/30 from 15,000ft
So, while I am physically feeling good (tired, but not sick) I am so nervous and excited that I’m struggling to think straight. We are making our attempt at THE SUMMIT TONIGHT. We will leave at midnight. Headlamps and full moon and guides to lead us up. We will climb 13.1 miles up and hope to make it to the ridge by sunrise at 7. After reaching 19,341 feet… we will stay as long as we can on the summit (altitude and freezing temperatures will likely make us feel strange, fast) and then we will climb 13.1 miles back down to this basecamp to celebrate and rest before making our descent to lower ground. This is what I have been waiting for. This is it. The last push. The last challenge. The goal. And I can’t believe it. Praying for strength and peace and safety. Just gotta watch my feet and follow the footprints ahead of me. I can do that.
Sunday 7/1 … thoughts after SUMMITING!
We did it. I did it. I did it. I did it. We made it to the top of Kilimanjaro. I am crying as I write.
I have never been so physically exhausted. The climb to summit and back to basecamp took 10 hours in total. That’s over a ½ marathon climb with real low levels of oxygen… and 17 out of 19 of us made it to the summit. Coming up to the ridge, the sun rose behind me. Pink and orange and red and clouds and I am in tears. Watching the day start again, the world wake up… This is the same sun that rose yesterday and the same sun that will rise tomorrow. But today, I get to watch the world wake up from over 19,00ft. I have never felt more alive.
And tears of joy froze to my face almost instantly. It was less than -10’F at the summit without wind chill. That’s right. Cold. Cold. Cold. We had to head back down after some climbers lost feeling in their fingers and toes. So, we had 20 minutes to dance around completely exhausted and delirious (without much oxygen at all) at the summit before making the climb back down.
And I have never been more in awe of Creation. It was me and the sunrise and the Creator of the sun and mountains and stars this morning. And I did it. Step by step. Following slowly slowly, trusting and going slow. We did it.
Monday 7/2 making our way back to Arusha
We had to climb for 5 more hours yesterday to get those who were experiencing altitude sickness down to a lower basecamp before dark. Now, my body is spent. And looking over my shoulder back at Kilimanjaro as we drove away, with fields of sunflowers on each side of the road, I teared up again and whispered “Thank you” the same way I have hundreds of times this year. There is so much to be thankful for. We did it. And today, the sun rose the same exact way. And now I know what it looks like to be above the clouds for sunrise. That feeling will be with me forever.
Thanks to everyone for your prayers and strength and support. Couldn’t have done this without you.
I will be home in one week from today. Enjoy the photos. I stayed with great family friends in Arusha. We got to go on safari the day after my climb….