It is January 16, 2009 at around noon local time, and my son Chris and I are sitting quietly propped up against a large rock. We are trying not to move too much as we enjoy a well-deserved sandwich, because every movement we make requires us to dig deep to draw a breath. The wind is howling and to our left, the sun is glistening off a glacier. We have climbed for seven days through a number of ecological zones, including steaming vibrant rainforests, moorland bursting with extraterrestrial-like trees, alpine desert where only the strongest, most determined of vegetation survives, and finally, to our current location where nothing grows. Perhaps the word “climbed” doesn’t sufficiently describe it, as we have also scrambled, struggled, clung, slipped and slid. We’ve experienced extreme exhaustion and in the last few hours, the feeling of suffocation, as if someone was clamping a towel firmly over our noses and mouths.
I’m shivering, not so much from the cold or fatigue, but from the exhilaration of achievement and anticipation. But now it is decision time. We have made it to Stella Point on Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the African continent. Our destination is tantalizingly close, yet there are two factors that will determine what happens next: the weather and -- more importantly -- the state of our health. Where we go from here is in the hands of our guides. We await their decision.
-- by Barry Finlay, from Kilimanjaro and Beyond (A Life-Changing Journey)
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