The Kili climb over 6 days was great fun - damp, wet, cold, dusty, tiring fun accompanied by large doses of banter and yuk-it-up! I didn't make it to the summit which was a slight bummer. Summit night (starting midnight) was stymied by a high fever and chills which in addition to Altitude Mountain Sickness (pounding headaches, nosebleeds, projectile vomit) made it a fool's errand to attempt a slope which at many places is a vertical climb with opportunities to go right off the cliff. At that point, its not physical endurance but mental fortitude that counts, and with a fever – this would have been a definite disaster. Like a good B-schooler, I would not have recognized when to call it quits and turn back, and would have kept pushing myself until I made a mistake and at the very least came home in a cast, if not in a casket. So I happily camped out at 4660 meters with others, while a few of my more able LBS colleagues successfully attempted the summit (both Stella Point and Uhuru Peak @ circa 5900 meters). I feel reassured that I could have made the summit (roughly 1300 meters more), the climb being about the same as Ben Nevis which I had successfully climbed in earlier this year.
I won't bore you with the usual story regarding the different terrains one experiences – rainforest, alpine desert etc. and the climes – cold, v. cold, raining, hot, v. hot etc. There are many blogs that tell that story. The only advice I would give potential climbers is a) 10-15% of the route is actually quite dangerous and b) attempt the summit over seven days using the Machame Route. Six days is a killer and the other routes do not allow for acclimatization.
Kili was followed by a safari in Ngorongoro Crater and then in the Seregenti. We stayed in tents, with the local fauna prowling outside, within meters of where we slept. The entire Africa trip was incredible – being so close to nature, being elemental. I've never seen a night sky so filled with stars. And the people we encountered were simply fantastic. Having read Guns, Germs and Steel and then having experienced the continent was a happy serendipity! I have great hope for where Africa is headed.
In the meanwhile, I finished reading "Bad Science" and "Predictably Irrational". I would not recommend the former. Now, I'm on "What got you here won't get you there" (see below, comments left by the author Marshall Goldsmith on my blog post). Its an amazing reckoning of the hard-to-self-diagnose interpersonal behavioural flaws that hold us back in our personal and professional lives. I needed this long-overdue nudge, and am using it to structure my resolutions for 2010. All in all, I'm pretty psyched about 2010, finishing up B-school by mid April and travelling more before starting work full-time in July. I'm looking forward to strengthening new friendships and renewing old ones. And I hope to catch up on a few lingering hobbies – brush up on French, play the two guitars which I bought off my flatmate and of course, hitting the links.
With that I wish you a prosperous 2010! More adventures to come!