200 Days in the Life of the College

Tuesday, January 11

Another continent, another hill, another summit

By Joanna Fier ‘11

For a long time I have wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Hamilton has made it possible. When I discovered that I had a stipend as part of my Bristol Scholarship, I seized the opportunity to make the climb and write about my experience. Some journal excerpts:

1:00 a.m. In complete darkness, we wear headlamps and follow our guide. We scramble over rocks and follow a long, winding trail. My feet are all I can see other than the random groups of shining headlamps moving up the mountain. We walk slowly, or, as they say in Swahili, “Pole-pole.” Breathing is difficult. Somehow, I turn off my brain and walk mechanically.

4:00 a.m. We overtake a large group of hikers moving extremely slowly on the narrow path. They constantly stop and we are losing our pace. Suddenly, our group moves to pass them. Our guide leads us off-trail into deep sand. My feet are heavy. I begin to have trouble breathing.

4:30 a.m. As we climb higher, what strikes me most are the stars. Previous clear nights had provided a beautiful view of the stars, but now I feel right next to them. As we make our way up the winding path, I am walking into the stars.

5:15 a.m. Just when I think I can’t take another step, we reach the top of a ridge. We are on the crater rim, at Stella Point, about an hour from the summit. The wind blows hard. The temperature has dropped. My face feels frozen. I walk with my head down. The weather clears a bit as we near the end of our path and I can see the sign, “Congratulations! You are now at UHURU PEAK, TANZANIA…” It is the highest point in Africa.

6:15 a.m. At sunrise, I make it to the top of Kilimanjaro: 19,341 feet. It is an indescribable feeling of relief mixed with joy mixed with numbness and cold. With Hamilton’s help, I have accomplished my goal.