Braving Kilimanjaro: The Senior Class Trip of a Lifetime




Shoving 100 soppy wipes into a spare bag with 3 liters of water, rain-proof pants, and a day’s lunch isn’t easy. Though my work “uniform” mostly calls for a back-bending container of gear, we felt like a fumbling disaster perplexing to make this tiny daypack of cave close. Tucked underneath a shutter from a cloudy rain, we attempted to lift myself together, baggage- and emotion-wise, to start mobilizing a organisation of teenagers toward a mountain.

Indiana does not typically multiply a world’s many adventurous adventurers, and we never had picturesque expectations of towering climbing flourishing up; we consider my hardest earthy plea from 3rd to 5th class was perplexing to master a toe-touch jump. It never happened, well.. solely maybe on a trampoline, yet that doesn’t count.

These days my picturesque expectations of adventurous feats have zero to do with many people’s clarity of reality. The realities of many of my friends and family behind during “home” mostly engage children of their own, homeowner woes, and Disney cruises. It’s here, in this frigid conflicting work universe of THINK Global School, that a late night email can surprise me that I’m participating in a bucket list opportunity.

“Ahh, a classical Kili spine twist. Breathe everybody! Breathe into a stretch!”

My technique as a administrator of general teenagers is to be definitely silly, and afterwards somehow they listen to me, substantially in pity. In a hours heading adult to a stand of Kilimanjaro, we pulled a kids into a turn to do some stretching. Behind us, somewhere past a obscurity and foliage, sat a gargantuan towering that was going to empty us of a egos; sitting in her shadow, a turn felt miniscule in comparison, yet we had to do something to ease a climb nerves. We had to pattern adult all a bravery in a reserves.


We stood behind adult from a stretches before a spitting sleet could moderate a belligerent and a bums. Fifty-five Tanzanian organisation fabricated into a line and stepped out to deliver themselves, followed by a discerning tongue of “…morning.” If they were distressed in a least, it was unbeknownst to us.

The porters –all internal organisation from Moshi, surfaced with ball caps and anchored with sneakers– were bustling weighing bags and steel boxes of kitchen supplies, clever to border their bucket to zero larger than 20 kgs. Our climbing charge seemed scanty in comparison to their pursuit of lugging a rigging to high altitude. Feeling guilty for enchanting in a charge that compulsory a personal porter, we was blissful that I’d triple-checked my bag progressing for any remaining items. My hook for Clinton, my porter, grew ever larger on a daily basis; hook that we attempted to uncover with many double-handshakes by a debilitating denunciation barrier.

I tossed on my tiny daypack and headed to a inhabitant park embankment for registration and launching. Our attack on a limit was within sniffing distance, no longer a suppositious challenge.

It was time to exam a lot of things, many of that remained unknown.




Within a notation of commencing a climb, we was blissful we splurged on a sleet hat. Those initial 4 hours-the ones spent whistling and accidentally chatting-subjected us to harsh jungle rain, that showered us with H2O from astonishing places-dripping mosses high adult in a trees and flicking ferns-as we fake onwards. For a time, we walked alone and excitedly wondered if anything in this African furious could kill me.

I could already feel my stomach respond to being 2,000 meters above sea level, and we craned my neck around any bend, emotional for a isolated symbol to find relief. The earthy fee from a start had all to do with a effects of high altitude: headaches, stomachaches, and other maladies trimming from a irritating to a life-threatening. Throughout a timberland and a moorland, we popped pills as nonchalantly as we would a handful of almonds. Downing so many pills positively didn’t feel healthy, yet it felt utterly required to means myself. Regardless of H2O intake, we had a headache, reminding me of a bulk of a challenge.

Making a approach down a towering on a final day (Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania)

Surprisingly, a walking was easy, always beautiful, and enjoyable. The atmosphere was delicious, a views relaxed and photogenic. My feet were thankfully blister-free, and all we could consider of was:

“Man, I’m blissful we worked those glow shun stairs…”

My training in a Hiroshima hotel had paid off. we felt means of doing good as prolonged as my physique could stop reacting to a ever-increasing altitude and ever-decreasing oxygen supply.

Pema takes in a clouds from above (Moshi, Tanzania)

On a dusk of day two, opposite my strongest wishes, my conduct was throbbing. The lasagne on my image seemed to be one one coherence and yet season to my compromised ambience buds. Sadly, we had to retire early for a night, and we missed a perspective of a nearly-full moon floating above a cloud sweeping subsequent us. The kids took a event to marvel during a landscape before bedtime.

Day 3 was prefaced as being “the humiliating day” for a howling, cold winds and prolonged stretches of land that clearly never shorten, yet we common some poetic walking moments with many of my pals. We marveled together during a initial unobscured sighting of a destination. We common iPods and aged favorite songs in a solitude of a Kibo/Mawenzi saddle, a space between a dual Kilimanjaro peaks. The students surprisingly went along with my egotistical renaming of Mawenzi to MaLindsay and referenced it with any peek eastward.

Mawenzi rise over an alpine dried on day 3 of a stand (Moshi, Tanzania)

Many students refrained totally from record or holding pictures, preferring instead to bond totally to a energy of inlet that surrounded them. It substantially helped that they had dual photographers movement with them.

The stand presented utterly a few debilitating hurdles –sun exposure, breeze exposure, high altitude, blisters, dehydration– yet their effects were frequency manifest in these teens. we witnessed implausible courage in those fifteen [former] students, zero of whom were weathered towering climbers nor even teenagers who’d had adequate nap for a dual months prior. They looked out for any other and pushed by a routine to season a specialness of a opportunity.

Liam and comparison beam Charlie make their approach opposite a saddle (Moshi, Tanzania)

Reaching a third hovel meant we arrived during a tip sleeping elevation. In a subsequent handful of hours, we were approaching to eat dinner, try to get some hours of (disorienting) sleep, and arise before midnight to dauntless a final stretch. The peak’s appearing participation was daunting to contend a unequivocally least, and it was during this time, after dizzying lavatory stops and an early dinner, that many strong-willed students finally uttered a tacit as of yet: they were scared.

My high altitude memory fails me when we try to remember if we common my fears or either we simulated to be positively anxious for a journey ahead, perplexing my best to be a support system. we trust we went with a latter, exaggerating my zeal to a indicate of transparent posing, and afterwards immediately went to bed with some melatonin and an Inception-like dream that had me fake-waking adult any 20 mins with anxiety.

Following Charis adult Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania


Lined adult like a Goretex-covered centipede, fifteen students and 6 staff members fabricated outward a hovel to start what was ostensible to be a six-hour trek to a limit by sunset. Sixteen guides surrounded us like a stars on an Indiana flag, available any manifest signs of high altitude sickness. They loomed like protecting superhumans, clearly unblushing by a altitude or cold.

We were finally in a “extreme high altitude.” we saw a mental switches go from “I got this” to complete hook of a planet.

Within 5 minutes, we stopped. Man down. Man recovered. A few mins later, another fell out of line. Some felt dizzy. Others felt nauseous. All we could do was glance during Charis’ trek and wish that we had it in me to follow any footstep with another until a Earth finally leveled. My nausea felt amiable adequate to ignore, yet it felt like a thick film around a functioning mind.

We were holding longer than was expected with all a stops and starts, so a organisation motionless to separate adult into a “Steady” organisation and a “Pole, pole” group. we shuffled over to a slower group, given any postponement in a stand afforded me time to sentinel off a dizziness.

One tyro in a behind of a line lifted his palm for a “Steady” organisation and afterwards proceeded to tumble to a ground. A circuitously headlamp bright his face to uncover unfocused eyes, and puncture oxygen quick came into view.

The journey became real. we watched my ego dump and hurl down a volcanic scree.


Here, in a full light on a roof of Africa, we were humans with a same indeterminate chances of descending ill from a pressures of this impassioned environment. It was equal tools scary, surreal, beautiful, insane, and special. we unexpected craved pot roast.

The tyro and one staff member scrambled behind down a towering face with a integrate guides before we could even hang a heads around that reality. The TGS twenty-two became twenty.

After saying one tyro descend, some in a “Pole, pole” organisation started to see that predestine as their unavoidable fate. With a widen downward ever-growing and a limit nowhere in sight, doubt became a accepted emotion, to that we responded with lies: “Guys, it’s closer to a tip now than it is to a bottom. If we summit, not usually is it a shorter travel now, yet we can go behind down in a daylight, that will be faster and safer.”

I looked during Pema, and she looked during me. Both of us knew this was a vast ol’ lie. Not usually did we have no management with that to contend such things, yet clearly summiting during this indicate was a worse route. Oddly enough, we don’t consider we would have left any serve from this indicate if we were usually a unchanging climber, if we didn’t have a purpose to fill.

Anat on a final stand of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

With these white lies, it became transparent to me that climbing Kilimanjaro is totally mental. My leg muscles didn’t bake a approach we suspicion they would. Other than my conduct and belly, my physique felt clever and fine. But an means physique was not a many critical item for stability adult that huge, dark, daunting incline. we incited off my mind to simply put one feet in front of a other and to enthuse others to do a same.

Before we even strike a median symbol of a ascent, another tyro showed signs of high altitude illness and descended a towering with some-more guides and another staff member. Twenty became eighteen. Again, we had to drown a doubt climb in others with certain meditative and a few some-more white lies. The tea mangle offering a possibility to comfortable adult and reboot, as good as a possibility to learn we were means of being so sleepy we could tumble defunct sitting adult and holding full teacups.

The snaking footpaths in a final hours seemed infinite, yet it was here where we witnessed a morning – a muted, dark light change that backlit MaLindsay. We paused… and afterwards continued on shuffling.

Sunrise on a final stand of Kilimanjaro's Kibo peak

The scree gave approach many times underneath my feet, call one tyro behind me to lift my insulated crippled behind adult and a beam to lift adult my rapacious hand. Once we was behind on my feet, Kili Guide Alex didn’t let go.


With any switchback, we switched hands and tightened a reason that kept me honest and relocating on a towering face. At first, this assistance done me feel like a weakling, assistance we would have hissed during in my childhood for fear of being mocked by a neighbor kids. But given my ego had left me during 5,000 meters, we incited behind to Charis behind me and winked, sanctimonious like this was a poetic forgive to reason a fella’s hand.

My memory of a final switchbacks is fuzzy. Had we been mentally intent and meditative about this experience, we would have face planted in a sand during a start. we wasn’t truly there to feel a discomfort. The altitude wouldn’t let me truly be benefaction to my possess biggest earthy feat.

I listened voices from above and craned my conduct to see a finish of a “Steady” group. Without unwavering effort, a dual groups converged, clearly demonstrating to us that reworking was successful during one rate, and that wasn’t a rate anyone could rush.



Kili Guide Alex, my horseman in pompous red armor, expelled my palm usually when both of my feet were organisation and turn during Gilman’s Point, an entrance indicate to a void rim. we listened a hoots and hollers of chilly, achieved teens, yet we couldn’t see them. we had to hang lifelessly for 5 mins on my walking hang before realizing how distant we had come.

There were smiling selfies and high fives circling. There were bodies slumped on a rocks and on any other, bodies incompetent to entirely demonstrate a emotions felt somewhere amidst a high altitude cloudiness.

I had to remind myself we was there to constraint this moment, this surreal impulse on tip of Africa. It was tough to take a step behind from a feeling of fulfilment we common with them in sequence to snap a photograph, usually like we would on an “ordinary” work day. Of course, this wasn’t such a day, not even when compared with work days during a Taj Mahal or in a Amazon rainforest. we wanted to bottle a common honour and postponement a impulse so that we could season it during a after time that afforded some-more mental clarity.


It was all we could do to simply smile, pose, pee, and conduct behind down a towering yet descending defunct on a thespian slope. Dancing was twice as tough with half as most oxygen benefaction (although thrice as waggish to film).

And after no some-more than twenty mins of “celebrating,” we grabbed a daypacks and delicately took a initial stairs downhill. Before we knew it, we changed on from a finish in a dreams.


Kili Guide Alex was a usually one left on a limit with me when we returned from a tip land “bathroom” I’ve ever used. He didn’t wish to risk anymore of my swerves and teeters on a sleek scree, so he grabbed my palm nonetheless again and descended.

I was slow. we paused mostly to splash water. He grew impatient.

Pushing my palm toward a opposite direction, Kili Guide Alex led me block off a towering face, true down a slope. One footstep would lift wheelbarrows full of tiny volcanic rocks down, obscuring a switchbacks like a toothpick by latte foam. In seconds, we was meters reduce yet most bid during all.

I was skiing! No… we was screeing!

Students deplane a towering while holding in Mawenzi rise (Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania)

David’s face, as we flew past him, was one of worry. we exclaimed in passing, “I consider he thinks we need to get down fast.” Kili Guide Alex’s explanations were mysterious and finished with, “Let’s go,” so we kept on screeing, pausing usually to rest my seldom-exercised skiing muscles. In a fragment of a time it took to labor adult a towering in a full moonlight, we was behind during a hut, pants and boots lonesome in a dirt of an earth-changing tear of another era.

Even yet we done it behind down to a reduce altitude, a effects still wrecked a bodies and pushed us to keep going. Those of us who could stomach it scooped adult a comfortable dish they had prepared for us during a hut-of all things, pot roast-and afterwards retraced a trail to a home among a clouds. It was here where we rejoined some of a depressed soldiers, who now recovered during a some-more pleasing elevation.

Lindsay and Anat are happy to conduct to reduce altitudes (Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania)

Morning greeted us with cups of comfortable tea and discontinued headaches, a bodies no longer as tired as they were on limit day. We were invigorated adequate to celebrate. A turn of organisation photos, hugs, and giggles started us off on a final day of a descent, one that took us from God-like heights above a clouds by a moorlands and into a jungle. Blisters grew like sixth toes, yet we didn’t care. A tiny limping during larger speeds meant service was that most closer.


Running by a jungle and regulating dual walking sticks to pole-vault over tree roots, we found myself alone with my mind. This physique enabled a journey for me, and my mind hold adult in annoy of a pill-popping and antagonistic environments. we managed to tarry AND support, opposite utterly clever yet tacit self-doubts.

A gorilla squeaked in a trees. we gasped and stopped in my tracks. A integrate mins later, we speckled a lady in a clearing. we slowed down, blinked, and waved. It was formidable to accept being behind in multitude all of a sudden, yet her call in response felt like victory.

Hanging adult a boots

Freshly scrubbed and dressed like a lady, we sat on a porch during a Hotel Marangu essay postcards to a immature adults with whom we had usually common a summit. A vast bee swooped toward a flower during my side and nuzzled a stamen while still afloat. we watched it with full interest. It looked some-more like a tiny hummingbird than an insect. Murmurs from circuitously conversations were pale by a sound of a buzz. Another outrageous insect darted to my left.

I usually had eyes and ears for nature.

I consider record is great, even yet we know that widen from it (and complicated society) gives me super senses and reduction anxiety. Five days with zero yet a camera, associate trekkers, and inlet managed to dumpy a soil off my windows to a world. Of course, we don’t know to what border depletion lopsided my concentration toward a tiny or a healthy things. we was positively knackered, as a Kiwi says.

Kibo and Mawenzi peaks from Hotel Marangu, Moshi, Tanzania

As were a kids. Our prior month was draining: a towering trek, an overlanding adventure, an general flight, an emotionally-overwhelming graduation weekend, an Amazing Race by 6 cities in Japan, and of course, a culminating exams of their high propagandize career. Imagine a make-up involved. And a mental rigor. And a goodbyes.

Lindsay celebrating a limit with a seniors (Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania)

If you’re lucky, many of a stories we live by will feel so absolute that a charge of retelling them feels too great. This story was one we couldn’t detach myself from. we couldn’t see a journey by a students’ eyes, since it was already too immoderate by my own, too severe and new, and we felt like a tyro myself.

We all left feeling a good clarity of accomplishment, a believe of a limits, an recognition of a tender humanity, and a strengthened clarity of ubuntu, to be utterly specific. These lessons will enthuse opposite stairs for any of us toward new hurdles –new charities opened, personal goals never before considered, earthy feats formerly deliberate usually for those fit people or those from Colorado– and I’m unequivocally vehement to see where those stairs lead to in a years to come.

Follow Lindsay Clark on Twitter @nomadderwhere

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