Son-in-law, daughter, and friend at Mt. Kilimanjaro summit
Okay, it’s confession time. Mama’s not a big risk taker. I like a little adventure for sure, but I usually play it safe. It’s true that Papa is a little bit more daring than me, but I still truly wonder from where our adult children inherited their ‘adventure genes.’
All three of them have traveled to other countries outside of our own. I have only been to Canada a couple of times, although Papa promises we will expand our horizons when he retires. All three of them have successfully and willingly jumped out of an airplane to sky dive. I’m definitely not planning that anytime soon. There have been episodes of helicopter piloting and waterfall rappelling. Um…no, not for me.
Mama seldom takes the path less traveled because she doesn’t want to get lost. Give me a map and I’ll be fine but don’t set me adrift without directions. But more than that, Mama just doesn’t have that sense of adventure. Papa can’t even get me on a cruise ship. Airplanes are fine but the thought of being on a ship out in the middle of the ocean sets my heart to racing and gives me visions of panic attacks.
So adventurous living might not be my forte but I do admire those who dare to be bold. That’s probably why I hate to miss any episodes of TV’s Amazing Race. And I enjoy exciting ventures vicariously through my own offspring as well.
Some of you may remember that my oldest daughter and son-in-law are on a grand adventure right now. They flew to Tanzania in Africa via Amsterdam (with a short sightseeing tour there) to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Prior to their trip, I knew some basic facts about this mountain. I knew it’s located in Africa and is the tallest free-standing (not part of a mountain range) mountain in the world at an elevation of over 19,300-some feet. I also knew that it would take several days of hiking to reach the summit.
Now, this Mama has been to the mountains. I’ve even hiked a little in some of them. But the highest elevation I’ve ever been (not counting airline flights) occurred when Papa and I took a vacation to western Colorado’s San Juan Mountains way back when we were young whippersnappers.
Hiking in Colorado mountains – 1979
We drove from the flat prairieland of Oklahoma to places where the altitude gave me headaches. Little did I know then that headaches are a symptom of altitude sickness. We traveled by railroad from Durango to Silverton (9, 305 feet), by car to Ouray and crossed Wolf Creek Pass (altitude 10,857 feet), one of the high mountain passes on the Continental Divide.
I’ve been on other mountains in the Pacific Northwest like Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens, to Mount Shasta in northern California, through the Appalachian Mountains here in the east and recently to the top of Mount Mitchell in North Carolina (altitude 6,683), the highest point east of the Mississippi River.
But I’ve never trekked up a mountain on foot like my loved ones are doing. I’m extremely happy and relieved to say that they reached the Uhuru Peak on Kilimanjaro sometime early yesterday morning (our time) and after an arduous climb to the top, they began their descent down the mountain.
My ‘kids’ assured me that the trek up the mountain wasn’t technical mountain climbing, more like hiking several hours a day for a week through different ecological zones starting in a tropical jungle and going through the savannah and the desert, entering forests, and finally reaching the alpine zone above the timberline. Click here to watch a video to see what a trek up Kilimanjaro is like.
Well, I’m glad that I didn’t google information about this trip before they actually left as it would have made me worry even more than I did about their safety. I mean this mountain is named Kilimanjaro (does anyone besides me hear that ‘kill a man’ part in there?
But seriously, I read daunting facts like these from National Geographic just yesterday that gave me a little pause for alarm: the overall average successful ascents to the peak is 45% out of the approximate 35,000 climbers who attempt the trek yearly. And that there are an estimated 10-15 deaths annually because of severe altitude sickness, hypothermia, falls or other medical issues. And that my loved ones would have a difficult scramble over something called the Barranco Wall (click on that for another video).
Or that even though it takes the average person a minimum of between six to nine days to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit, the real challenge is how altitude affects the body and the incidence of acute mountain sickness is high – a possible 75% of trekkers suffer from it on summit night.
I received a text from son-in-law last Friday that informed us that they had been up to 17,000 feet that day and were camping at 13,000 feet. So far the weather had been, in his words, “absolutely incredible.” But as they faced the Barranco Wall the next day, he asked us to pray for our daughter who had a slight headache and loss of appetite (some symptoms of altitude sickness).
Just like her mother, I thought, and then I promptly asked everyone I knew to start praying for her. Other than feeling occasionally a bit breathless, our son-in-law reported he was fine and their friend traveling with them was also doing well.
We waited on pins and needles (and that was before I googled information or watched these videos) to hear from them again. Yesterday early in the morning around 2:15, my phone awakened me with a text, again from son-in-law. They had reached the summit which was “incredibly hard, especially coming back down.” They still had three more hours to hike to get to the campsite from there and I spent much time in prayer for them.
On one hand, I was relieved but on the other hand, I definitely stayed on prayer alert until they got down off that mountain. I’m grateful that they experienced a mountaintop adventure and achieved such a lofty goal. From there, they will go on a safari in the Serengeti National Park and do more touring around Tanzania before they fly back to Amsterdam, where they will sightsee once more, before finally arriving back home.
For oldest daughter and son-in-law, this grand adventure in life is a dream trip. As the words to “Climb Every Mountain” from the musical The Sound of Music run through my mind, I can’t wait to hear all about this mountain dream of theirs that became reality.
“Adventure is not outside man; it is within.” ~ George Eliot