Ruth Jeffery ticked off another physical challenge when she climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.
The stars are out, but it’s dark and very cold. I take another slow step upward. Ahead of me I can see an endless array of headlamps moving slowly up the mountain. I suck in vain from my CamelBac mouthpiece – but the water in the tubing has frozen. I whistle a short tune and smile. I’m at 5,000m above sea level, it’s 2am and I have been 50 years old for two hours. I feel great!
It’s summit day on Mt Kilimanjaro and we are heading to 5,900m. We started at midnight, aiming to hit the crater rim for dawn and summit an hour later. My travel companions are all suffering to varying degrees from the effects of altitude, including nausea, headache, vomiting and breathlessness. I alone am symptom free and actually enjoying the climb.
Mt Kilimanjaro was on my ‘bucket list’ and after an in-depth conversation with my partner John (“I think we should climb Mt Kilimanjaro for my 50th birthday”–“OK”) and some extensive research we booked a trip. I looked for the least popular route over the longest possible time to allow for altitude acclimatisation, settling on the eight-day Lemosho route, with a max of six people in the party.
The tour package included porters to carry our gear, pitch our tents and cook our food and guides to get us there safely. Another friend came with us from New Zealand, and we were joined by two other women in Tanzania who were both great fun.
Training for altitude isn’t really possible in New Zealand (Kilimanjaro being over one and a half times the height of Mt Cook), so we settled on lots of tramping and day walks up as many hills as possible (easy in Dunedin!).
World Nomads provided the best solution for insurance for hiking with diabetes to altitude. We debated whether or not to take Diamox to reduce the effects of altitude, but the possible side effects with diabetes convinced me not to and John also decided to go drug free, but to carry some in case (interestingly everyone else we met used Diamox).