Some of the most beautiful places that I have seen in the world have been while hiking. From the lush forests and mountains of the Milford Track in New Zealand, to the high altitude of the Himalayas on the Mount Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal, my love for hiking has taken me to places that I would have never seen otherwise. I consider myself an experienced hiker, but all of the training, fitness and experience couldn’t really prepare me for what I would face on the summit day of my trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
After 8 hours of hiking the day before and three days of hiking before that, I had to get up before midnight to start the ascent to the summit. I had handled the trek very well so far, but in the darkness and freezing cold after having no sleep, the trek was grueling to say the least. The altitude hit me at about 5000m, and for the rest of the night I had to slog my way up the mountain with a headache, dizziness, nausea and overall exhaustion, and with the darkness I could never really know how much further I had to go. The mountain itself was messing with my mind, and that was what was really getting to me.
The trek seemed to go on forever, and we were all battling to push our bodies to the limit to make it to the top. Eventually though, as I basically had to will my legs to keep moving, I found myself at Stella Point, which is the rim of the crater at 5739m, and the hardest part was now over. Exhausted and pushed to the limit, the battles and pain of the last five or six hours was completely washed away as I looked out at the scene before me.
I had made it to Stella Point in time to watch the sunrise, and it was truly one of the most beautiful sights that I have seen in my life. The soft light of the first rays of sunlight burst up above the horizon, slowly lighting up the land around me. I was speechless.
This photo is a panorama of this particular scene, and although this really needs to be seen in person to truly appreciate it, I think that you will be able to see what I’m talking about from this photo. Click on the image to view it in full size.
After this point I then trekked on to Uhuru Peak – the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, and I felt on top of the world. You can read the full story here.
Have you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro or completed another challenging hike that pushed you to the limits? I’d love to hear your story.