The Bicksler7 summit attempt started off with a 24hr flight to JRO (Los Angeles - Detroit - Amsterdam - Kilimanjaro). My cell phone was lost somewhere in Amsterdam and therefore I had no contact with the rest of the world for the 10 days we were in Africa. However, there was nothing to worry about as I was in good company with my guide and team.
Once in Tanzania it was an easy check in with customs and then a scramble to see if our bags made it to the gate. It is unfortunately very common for bags not to show up until the following day and many have already scheduled the start of their climb for the very next morning. This is why I always give myself at least a 1 day buffer to get things organized. This is extremely important to consider before starting any climb where your luggage is critical to your success in climbing a mountain! Having to rent gear in Tanzania is not like renting in Nepal; here there are little to no options. My first day was spent on a quick tour of the village of Moshi. Back at the Hotel I grabbed tons of bottled water to start hydrating. The excitement started to really kicks in at this point. It is finally time to load up our gear and head to the Start of the Machame trailhead. The Machame trailhead starts at about 6000elv and we headed up the rain forest to Camp 1 (approximately 10,000elv) for the night. There was no rain and the temperature was about 70 degrees. After signing in with the Rangers at Camp 1, the rain started to fall. At this time of the year, it is very typical for Kilimanjaro to have afternoon showers. 70 degrees quickly turned into 40 degrees at 10,000elv as I ate dinner inside my tent. The freshly prepared food was excellent the entire duration of the trip. I woke up to test my blood sugar on day 2 and I am happy to see a steady 125 on the meter. This put a huge smile on my face. After all, keeping good blood sugar levels while trekking up and down the mountain is critical to a successful summit! As we climb and poke through the clouds the view is amazing. Camp 2 ends at about 12,600 elvation. Luckily there is no rain on day 2.
I started Day 3 with a little high blood sugar but after taking my medication and a hard day of climbing this was quickly dropped back to normal. Day 3 was an acclimatization day where we started at 12,600ft, climbed to 15,200ft, and then descended to 13,100ft elv for the night. We were fought both rain and snow while we climbed. By now I was getting a good feeling for how my body was going to do at high elevation. I was feeling great and ready to climb some more. The temperature had only dropped to a low of 30 degrees today- not bad at all!
Day 4 was literally a climb up the wall. A quick scramble up the rocks and we were on the way to the next camp. Both my Guide Sylvester and I were feeling good. After a quick meeting we both decided that a 5 day summit was best for our team and we would not need the full 7 days on the mountain to complete this trip. We arrived at base camp on the afternoon of the 4th day. Base camp was at 15,300elv. We were all smiles at camp and ready for a quick nap to prepare for a midnight departure for the summit. As I lay in my tent it started to rain very hard. Rain quickly turned into snow and it came down pretty good. I was instructed that we would leave; rain or shine, for the Summit at midnight. Midnight came and headlamps were everywhere. We quickly threw on our layers and followed a trail of light up the mountain towards the Summit. As we kept our steady pace, we quickly passed the train of people and made our way to Stella Point. It was very windy and nearing 0 degrees at this point. It was time for the down jacket and big gloves as the summit was only 45 minutes away.
Those 45 minutes came quicker then we realized and suddenly, it occurred to us “WOW, the summit is here!” It was only 5:15am- still dark, windy, and snowing hard. Unfortunately this made it almost impossible for a summit photo. We decided to hang out for a short time as the sun was rising quick and finally we got the sunlight and a few victory photos as well. The cameras were all frozen so we could only hope they would work. At this point it was time to return to base camp and enjoy the sunrise on the way down. We quickly made it to base camp for food and a short nap before heading to our camp for the night at around 10,000 elevation. Yes- that’s a 9000 elev decent in one stretch! We made camp for the night and settled in before the rain came. Then it rained for 12 hrs straight. This called for several card games and lots of cooking great food while we waited out the rain storm. Once the rain let up, we enjoyed a short hike back down through the rain forest.
What a great time and fantastic Summit. I diligently checked the status of my diabetes through the trip and came out with no issues on the mountain. Thank you to all who helped make this possible. I can officially write down 19,341elv as the highest I have climbed and it felt great. Sylvester and the Team were awesome, thank you all!