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She's 50 -- She Climbed Kilimanjaro


Every step is an effort...

It's getting considerably worse. I'm walking on snow and ice as I cross the glacier that's the top of Kili. It's only another 300 feet to climb, but it takes me almost two and a half hours to cover that territory. Every step is an effort.

Around me are others with headaches and nausea, but none of the usual symptoms of acute mountain sickness are affecting me; instead, every time I stop to rest I fall asleep. When I reach the summit, 19,340 feet, I struggle to get my camera out of my daypack, an action that requires every bit of energy I can muster. I pass my camera to another mountain hero, get my picture taken, and then begin the descent.

Never been more miserable...

Going down is at least as hard as going up. Boulders behind me, the scree now ahead of me ... an endless vista of bumpy sand. Scree run! No more zigzagging. Face straight down. I'm cross-country skiing. My feet glide as my speed increases. Too fast! Fall down. Hours pass. I reach Kibo, but this is still too high for resting; there's another set of huts 3,000 feet lower and that's the destination for the night. The sun is going down now. It's almost 7:30 at night. I've been walking for nearly 19.5 hours. I've never been more miserable in my life. Why am I doing this?

Watch out world...

I crawl right into my sleeping bag in a small, cold hut. I sip the hot broth my guide has brought me. I listen to the breathing of my climbing buddies, rub my legs, and slowly fall into a deep sleep. My last thoughts before fading into the night? "Someday I'll be glad that I did this. Someday. Not today."

On day six, after eight more hours of walking, I reach the Mt. Kilimanjaro Park gates once again. The rest of my group has been there for a couple of hours already and meet me with exhausted irritation. I climb onto the bus that will take me back to a hotel and hot showers. As I look out the window and see the profile of Mt. Kilimanjaro moving into the distance, I smile. I'm 50. I'm a woman who's climbed Kili. Watch out world!

Women's words on perseverance...

When you get in a tight place and everything goes against you till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the time and the place the tide will turn.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1947

Any road is bound to arrive somewhere if you follow it far enough.
Patricia Wentworth, 1938

You can eat an elephant one bite at a time.
Mary Kay Ash, 1981

Folk differs, dearie. They differs a lot. Some can stand things that others can't. There's never no way of knowin? how much they can stand.
Anne Petrie, 1946





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