I’ll do it or die: Life lessons from climbing Kilimanjaro

Stephen Lynch
12 min readOct 19, 2018

“Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,340 feet high and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its summit is called the Masai ‘Ngaje Ngai,’ the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.” Ernest Hemingway

Mount Kilimanjaro lies across the borders of Kenya and Tanzania in east Africa.

While it is the highest free-standing mountain in the world, and the tallest on the African continent, Kilimanjaro is a popular climb with tourists because it involves no technical climbing.

Despite this the success rate of reaching the peak is around 50–70%.

She will test your endurance, your strength, your will and your spirit.

The climb is compared to walking from the Equator to the North Pole in a week, where the scenic changes in vegetation and climate presents a feeling of traversing through different worlds in just a few hours.

You trek through five climate zones: cultivated farmlands and fruit plantations; tropical rainforest; heather-moorlands (savannah plains); alpine desert (with volcanic rocks); and an arctic glazier summit.

More zones than a Sonic the Hedgehog video game.

Of the seven main routes used to climb Kilimanjaro (‘Kili’), the Machame route is the most popular path because it provides impressive views and a variety of habitats.

The Machame route is also known as the ‘Whiskey’ route, given its reputation for being a tough climb, in contrast to easier paths known as the ‘Coca Cola’ routes. Climbers on the Machame hike face steeper trails and for longer distances while sleeping in tents, rather than more luxurious hut accommodation available on the mountain.

In August I was part of a group of seven climbers from England and Hong Kong attempting to hike up Kili. We did this following a week-long social action project in Moshi and Arusha.

Stephen Lynch

Published online in The Times, Daily Telegraph, and the Indepdendent. Former Conservative adviser. Eject the Autopilot: Choosing Self-Mastery over Safety.