Kathleen Hadden at the top of Kilimanjaro

Kathleen Hadden at the top of Kilimanjaro

Dear Gerry,

I have 3 words to describe my feelings when I reached the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro: thrilling, exhilarating, and emotional.  Tears came to my eyes when my fellow climbers hugged and cried.  It was the moment we all realized that we had done it!  After several grueling days, we had successfully climbed to Uhuru Peak.  

Truthfully, the climb was very difficult for me.  By day 3 or 4 I wanted to quit, but then I realized that quitting wasn’t an option.  The guides and porters were there to help and encourage you.  If it wasn’t for them, I know I wouldn’t have been successful.  There were a couple of reasons why I felt that I would not be able to reach the top.

1) I went 4 days in a row without getting any sleep.  

2) On day 4, I was nauseous all day and night, and I didn’t think I would be able to hike the next day.  I decided to stop taking the diamox, but other people had been nauseous, and they continued taking the medication.  So, I decided to start taking it again the next day.  The nausea eventually went away.  We all continued climbing….pole, pole.   Thankfully, the slow climbing pace was what made the climb a success.

I encountered a few misfortunes on this trip:  

1) There was no one to pick me up at the airport when I arrived in Tanzania.  

2) One night, the wind blew so hard that the toilet blew over.  This happened at the exact time I needed to use it.  I was experiencing diarrhea and needed to use it right away.  The crew was able to get it upright in the tent again, but I had to use it before they could clean it up.  I realize that there was nothing they could have done about this at the time, but it was a very unpleasant experience. 

3) The same night as the toilet incident, some of the stakes holding down my tent were blown loose and my tent started to blow over.  I immediately crawled out of my sleeping bag and tried to hold down 2 corners.  I was really afraid the entire tent would blow over against the rocks with me trapped inside.  The only thing I could do was scream and hope someone heard me.  This went on for about 10 minutes before a fellow climber heard my screams.  He started screaming too, and finally the crew came and secured my tent.  

4) I think the high altitude was one of the reasons I had a hard time sleeping.  Every time I got close to falling asleep, I felt like I couldn’t breath, and was jolted into taking a deep breath.  It was a very strange and scary feeling.  Also, during the climb, I was breathing so hard that I thought my heart would explode.  It was like this during the entire climb.

Of course, I am thrilled that I reached the top, but if I had known how hard this was going to be, I would not have signed up for the trip.  Actually, I’m kind of glad I didn’t know how hard it would be, because in the end, perseverance prevailed.  I succeeded, and I’m proud of that.  Wilbert, the crew, and my fellow climbers were all wonderful.  We truly enjoyed each other’s company.  I have some good memories and stories to tell my friends and relatives.

Best wishes,

Kathleen Hadden (Massachusetts, USA)