Chris Simpson, Age 70, Wales, United Kingdom
Lemosho Route with Kosovo Camp, January 2020
So, there I was, 70 years old and about to climb Kilimanjaro!
I visited Tanzania many times over the years and discovered a wonderfully vibrant country, amazingly friendly people and that mountain, always imposing, always standing tall and proud. I had no desire to climb her but felt fascinated by her presence.
My daughter always talked about the mountain with fondness and respect. Many times, she told me that being on the mountain was where she felt at her best. She was at peace there and it sounded like a very special place to be. She talked about me climbing often and insisted I was fit enough. I thought about it but always came back with ‘why would I want to do that?’ I had never camped in my life, but I did have a desire to see what had her going back time and again. So, in a moment of madness one day I thought ‘why not?’
The actual climb was an incredible experience. We had atrocious weather, even though it was meant to be dry season, so be prepared for Mother Nature to put a spanner in the works!
There were aspects of the trip I was prepared for and some I was not. The constant nausea due to the altitude was extremely difficult and forcing myself to eat was a daily chore. Food is fuel and without it you won’t have the energy to continue, so don’t ever stop trying to eat. The private toilet was a godsend, I coped well with the camping but drew the line at the long drop toilets! The daily walking was a real mind game. Hour upon hour of literally putting one foot in front of the other. As we climbed higher each camp gave us incredible views of the summit, it always appeared so close and yet was still so far away. An amazing snow topped enigma, taunting and teasing and always out of reach. I truly wondered if we’d ever get there, but we did!
There was no sense of euphoria reaching the summit, just a huge sense of relief mixed with exhaustion and the knowledge we had another six hours walk ahead of us. The euphoria didn’t come until about two weeks later, once I had fully recovered.
Now I have an immense feeling of pride in my achievement. No one can ever take away the fact I reached the summit of Kilimanjaro, despite the adverse weather and my age. I have seen my daughter’s ‘office’ in the sky and have a much better understanding of how she feels about that mountain. It was the most mentally and physically challenging thing I have ever done, but I’m so glad I did it and actually very glad that I’m mature in years, or I might be mad enough to think about a second attempt, just for the hell of it!
On a final note, one of the hardest things to deal with was the transition back to home life. I felt as if I’d been on a different planet and didn’t think anyone really understood what I’d been through. It took time to return to Earth life, which was not something I was prepared for. So, if you are contemplating climbing Kilimanjaro, all I can say is just do it!