While I had been asked by people what I would do when I reached the top, I never had a good answer for this and thought that I would wait and see what inspired me in the moment. Although, I did bring a sign for the obligatory picture at Uhuru peak the rest was a mystery.
I think that I surprised everyone, including myself and especially Timothy, when I broke into tears upon reaching Stella Point. It was very bitter-sweet reaching the summit without Blythe and Japhet; this was not how it was supposed to go. At the same time, I was overcome with happiness for what I had accomplished. Just a few hours earlier I was fairly sure that I would not make it. I was also thinking about all the Kilimanjaros that people have told me about and how supported I have felt in mine. I felt very thankful to have achieved this.
With tears freezing on my glasses we hiked on to Uhuru Peak, the tallest point in Africa and taller than any point in Europe. The sunrise was amazing! It was like watching the sunrise from an airplane with no walls. We were several kilometers about the clouds. The glaciers were impressive and it is sad to think that they will likely be gone in two or three decades. I was too tired and cold to take pictures but it was amazing to look at the dormant crater. About half-way during the 45 minute walk on the summit to Uhuru the reality began to sink in and Nelly, Gizaw and I celebrated. Once we reached Uhuru peak, which means “freedom” in Swahili, we took pictures. On the walk back we saw Japhet and Wambura and then later, Blythe and Patrick. We had all made it to the summit! Our earlier sadness turned to pure joy!
While we wanted to stay on the summit and celebrate with the others, Nelly, Gizaw and I knew that we needed to get to lower elevation quickly as it is not recommended to stay at the summit very long and we were cold and having difficulty breathing. The descent was fast and in a couple of hours we were back at Barafu camp. We celebrated with our wgumu, shared stories and eventually took a quick nap. My breathing rapidly improved as we descended.
Though we were all exhausted, we did not want to stay at this altitude for too long and so we hiked another 4.5 hours. Patrick decided that it would be better for us to get to a lower altitude given the difficulty that some of us were having earlier with altitude so we by-passed Millennium Camp and stayed at Mweka Camp (3100m). We arrived exhausted just before dark after 18 hours of hiking.