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The freshness, the freedom, the farness. My god how I am struck by it all.
Hans Meyer on the first ascent of Kilimanjaro

We begin the ascent of a scree slope that leads to Windy Ridge, about 30 feet above us. The slope is steep, unstable, our only traction a prayer. Near the top I hear the wind, a whooshing, end-of-the-world kind of tantrum that even has the rocks scrambling. It wallops me and my pack and I am down, but unfazed. Back on my feet, I finally drag myself up to the crest, into the full brunt of the wind, and hunker down into this brawling force. I'm not terrified mind you, but close.

An hour later and 500 feet higher we reach the notorious canaleta, the most famous scree slope in the world, every climber's worst nightmare. Above us towers 1300 feet of slippery rock blanketed by hypoxic atmosphere. It has broken the heart of many climbers and three more are now added to the list. Scott, John, and Paul have had enough and turn back, their dogged struggle and their dreams at an end. A group of 33 climbers and guides has dwindled to three. It is painful to behold in every way. The line between soaring like an eagle and crashing and burning is a fine line indeed. Chad, Tom, and I watch them go down for a few minutes, then have a drink and a power bar, and stumble onward and upward.

Again I follow Chad into battle, a spider crawl toward the summit. I am without concept of time except that it seems an eternity of hell. Finally, thirteen hours after we struck out, the top. Mission accomplished! I stand for a moment, speechless and flummoxed, too tired to cheer. Chad gives me a congratulatory hug, then goes to check on Tom. He is not far behind. I prepare my camera and snap his photo as he steps atop the Stone Sentinel, roof of the western world at 22,840 feet. There are more hugs and high fives but the scene is strangely subdued. There is not another soul in sight, just the three of us alone in the heavens. We savor the moment for a moment, then step off the summit and head back down.

© Danny Kimberlin 2015