Exceeding Limits at Kilimanjaro, 19,341ft
“The Rockiest Roads, Lead to the Highest Peaks.”
Sunday, February 26, 2017, 6:30am
“Patty, look over there,” said Emanuelle pointing across. In the small time he knew me, he timed my pace perfectly just in time to see the sun rise as I neared the summit of the Tallest Peak in Africa. I completely stopped and I felt the warmth of my tears stream down my frozen cheeks. It was almost as if the Sun and I had been waiting to meet and I stretched out my arms and I welcomed its warm embrace.
“Are you okay Patty? Lets keep going, we are almost there!” said Emanuelle. I was stunned by the beautiful sight but then I realized, I was a few hundred feet from the summit. As I kept walking and saw the summit sign getting closer, the tears flowed down like a river. “I DID IT?” I asked in disbelief. What day is it? “Its Sunday morning 6:45. You are a very strong woman Patricia, Hakuna Matata!” I dug my face in my gloves and started sobbing. “Please, just give me a few minutes to cry and take all this in.”
Back track to December 12, 2016, Ecuador, 5 Mountains in 10 Days
I DID IT! I gave myself the most amazing birthday gift. A second chance to try again. I was able to successfully summit 5 Mountains in 10 days:
Cerro Pasachoa-13,800ft, Rucu Pichincha-15,696ft,Cayambe-18,996ft, Antisana-18,714ft,Chimborazo-20,702ft (technically the tallest mountain in the World when measured from the center of earth).
I knew that I did not want my journey with the mountains to end. I have so much to learn, to give, to grow and the only way life has taught me to do this is by challenging myself in a way that very few a willing to do. Climbing the 7 World Summits:
HIGHEST peaks in each Continent: 1.Kilimanjaro- Africa 19,341ft 2.Acongagua- Argentina 22,841ft 3.Mount Denali -Alaska 20,310ft. 4.Elbrus- Russia 18,510ft. 5.MountVinson- Antarctica 16,056ft. 6.Mount Pick Jaya, Indonesia 16,024ft 7.Everest, Asia 29,029ft
Only about 300 people world-wide have successfully completed this and I knew after Chimborazo, this is what I wanted to strive for and I announced my intentions to a few of my closest contacts and was awarded a 5k grant towards my new Goal at the end of December.
Someone believed in my abilities and I was going to make the very best out of this opportunity. I began my research immediately. I have learned the hard way that its not only about being physically, mentally and spiritually prepared, but educating yourself about where you are going is essential.
Through my research, I learned that Tanzania has a rainy season that starts in March through June making climbing Kilimanjaro extremely dangerous and chances of reaching summit very low. Most of the reputable companies offered guided expedition for over $4k not including airfare. After a few more days of research, I found a small company named Trekking Hero that offered a 6-day expedition for $1600. The reviews were decent and they had an opening for February 23rd- March 1st. Perfect!
I found a flight for $950 and booked it right away. Now, I had enough money left over for required vaccination ( Hep A, Yellow Fever, Typhoid & Diphtheria), any additional gear & perhaps something left over for future climbs.
I knew I wanted to be well prepared for this First of 7 World Summits. Being physically prepared helps, but it is no guarantee of a summit if you get severely affected by AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). I ran 5 times a week, strength trained, hiked every weekend with a weighted pack, meditated & went to church consistently for 8 weeks. I am ready!
I made arrangements for my Mom to take care of my dog while I was gone and met her for dinner a few days before. She had a look of concern and made it clear that she was worried and did not want me to go. I reassured her that I was prepared and asked her to pray for me. I finally got her blessing and my dog Jack’s traditional approval lick right before I left. I am all set!
After 30hrs of Flight, I arrived in Tanzania at 3:45am on Thursday. I was transported to the Keys Hotel in Moshi where I passed out and woke up at 11 am and met my Guide, Emmanuel Said from Trekking Hero for lunch and brief of upcoming 6-day climb.
I was definitely a little too excited despite being jetlagged and little sleep. “Do you think I can make it to the top in 5 days?” I asked. “Well, I really dont know how strong you are and most people need time to acclimate to altitude to avoid getting very sick…Pole, Pole( which means slow & steady) is key to success” Although, reaching the summit is an important goal, I thought to myself, it’s not enough if I feel I can do more.
We drove around Moshi town and picked up some souvenirs and snacks and I learned that the exchange rate was $2,000 Schillings = $1 USD. “I will pick you up at 8am tomorrow so you can have a good breakfast and we can drive to National Park Entrance Gate where we will start our climb.
Friday, February 24, 2017
At 3am, I was awakened by the nastiest of stomach cramps. I hobbled over to the bathroom and discovered that my “red best friend” decided to pay me an unfriendly visit 2 weeks early. Once again (3rd consecutive time), my hormones get affected this exact same way by the mountains. I remember this happening before my Nationals Boxing Final Tournament. My Coach said, “You are prepared, don’t let this period thing mess with your head. NO Excuses!”
I got down on my knees and prayed, “Please God, help me be my best and be safe,” before I drifted into a final 2hr sleep. I packed and waited for Emanuelle in the Lobby. I am Ready! “You look so Happy Patricia,” said Emmanuel. I felt bloated and nervous, but throughout my Boxing/Athletic career, I was taught to put your best face forward. Even when the odds are against you, you absolutely can never ever give up hope.
I had a great breakfast of scrambled eggs and super strong Arabica Coffee from Africa. The drive to the entrance gate was almost 4 hours. In the ride over we picked up, 2 of the porters and cook who would carry the food, extra water and cooking supplies. I also met a Chameleon for the first time!
After registering at the National Park’s office and drinking half a litter of water, I was ready. I gave a fist pound to Emmanuel and said “Lets Do this!” We would start in the rainforest where it was really warm, muggy and sticky and around 80 degrees. That’s shorts and tank top weather for me but I guess not really for the rest of the real hiking community. As I was trekking, I heard all sorts of comments like “Did you lose your clothes?” The porters we passed along the way would say “JAMBOOOOO!” which was Hello but not just a regular hello.
None of that mattered. I was finally in the beauty of the mountains working towards a dream. “Patricia! Pole, Pole! You are going very fast! I have to almost run to keep up,” said Emanuelle. My eyes filled up with tears. “I feel good, please don’t try to slow me down. I got my period last night, so this is a good sign.” It was dead silent for a while and he allowed me to set the pace. As I kept my pace, we bumped into a Tanzanian Elite Running Team who were very encouraging.
We were supposed to hit the first rest stop (Mandara) in 5–6 hours. We reached it in 2 hrs & 20 min. I smiled and said, “So do you think I’m strong enough now?” I didnt wait for a reply and walked away. We had dinner and we met and saw a number of groups come way after. He sent me to sleep early to get ready for an early start. I closed my eyes inside my sleeping bag with so much gratitude. “I have so much more to give. I can do this.”
The African forest at night can be nerve wrecking with all the sounds of the wild. I’m not sure if I got any sleep, but I was up by 4am and had a good cup of coffee and was ready to get started. While we started on Day 2, I told Emanuelle that I wanted to keep going as much as possible without the required/mandatory stops. He looked at me and said, “okay, I have never met anyone as strong as you. I will call the HQ and notify porters. We will go straight to Base camp and attempt a summit at midnight.” I held my head in disbelief! I jumped up and down and high fived him! I didnt even have to argue! YES!
The next target was Horombo which was suppose to take 5-6 hrs. It took us 3 hrs and we had lunch and I changed into a whole new set of dry heavier clothes. We would now go straight to Base Camp (Kibo)which was another 6 hours away. I refueled and was ready to go. “Patricia, everyone knows what we are doing. You set the pace and let me know anything you need.”
I felt this incredible energy. I definitely felt a bit tired but not affected by altitude and the annoying cramps were just there. I was distracted by what I was living. The next stretch was the hardest one for me thus far. The rocky sections were endless and the incline was unforgiving at times. “Patricia, are you human? People usually cry during this section and you have not complained once.”
I will share something with you Emmanuel. I had a very hard childhood and a very challenging life. Suffering is not new to me. I know how to deal with pain. It was dead silent again until we reached Base camp way ahead of schedule again.
Sunday, February 26, 2017, 12:30 am
It was freezing at Base Camp! We were at over 15,000 ft and now, the nerves were kicking in. I was suppose to take a 2hr nap until 11 pm, have a meal and be all geared up by 12:30am. My final meal was rice porridge and coffee, a prayer & full mountaineering gear and supplies. I am ready!
“Okay, Patricia..you have your head lamp, batteries, water, food, sun glasses, extra layers and snow poles. I will lead the pace this time. Follow my lead. Many teams left starting at 9pm. We are the last ones,” said Emmanuel. For some reason he preferred calling me Patricia. The only person that does that is my Mom and usually when I am in trouble, but him calling me by my full name, got my full attention which is not always easy.
This was the real deal and a relentless steep incline from the start. However, we kept passing teams that started hours before us. We saw so many people struggle through the crazy steep rocky and soft sand sections with now a significant wind in our faces.
We saw teams sitting in the sides of the mountain resting, depleted and some with AMS. I wanted to just keep moving even though my legs and body were now feeling very fatigued and I had noticed a change in my breathing. We were much higher so pressure breathing and staying focused was more important than ever.
“Patty, look over there,” said Emmanuel. For the first time, he called me Patty and I saw the sun rising. My cheeks were numb, but the stream of warm tears made me feel again. Lets keep going, we are almost there!
I fell to my knees and was filled with emotion“You did it Patty! 2.5 days! I dont think any female has ever done that!” I think Emmanuel was overwhelmed as well. He gave me my space and then took the unforgettable summit picture!
My body, mind and spirit had stayed so strong and focused despite menstrual cycle, stomach cramps, little food & rest and now, I was finally starting to feel it. As we started to descend, my legs felt like jelly and I had started to feel nauseous and incredibly cold. It was about zero degrees and windy. I was still able to appreciate the beauty on the way down.
I got back to the Keys Hotel around 10 pm in disbelief. I collapsed in my bed fully dressed with tears rolling down the sides of my cheek. “I DID IT!”
My expected summit day was Tuesday, so flight was not until Wednesday afternoon but thankfully, the National Parks offered a day for a Safari.
And the next day a very beautiful hike with a rewarding Waterfall!
“The most splendid achievement of all is the constant striving to surpass yourself and to be worthy of your own approval.”
I am grateful to God, Mother Nature and the Mountains for allowing me a successful record breaking summit and continue on this incredible journey.
Special thanks to my sponsor, Trekking Hero, lead Guide-Emmanuel, Porters, Safari Guides, Waterfall Hiking Guides and Coffee Tour Guide Honest for showing me the beauty of Africa safely.