Standing on Top of the World

Standing on Top of the World

Climbing Kili | Tanzania 2018

Kimberly Markowitz is studying Neuroscience and Communication of Science and Technology and Vanderbilt University.

All photos have been provided by Kimberly. Read her story below!

In the summer of 2018, I traveled to Tanzania to summit Mount Kilimanjaro with Rustic Pathways. As I look back on my trip, I can without a doubt say it was the most incredible and rewarding experience I have ever partook in.

I went into this trip not knowing anyone else in my group. When we first arrived in Tanzania, I felt timid and apprehensive about what lay ahead. Little did I know that the other people on my trip would soon become my lifelong friends who now continue to bring light to life. From the moment we arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport my group members expressed their friendliness as we huddled together introducing ourselves.

During our first week in Tanzania we participated in smaller hikes in preparation for our enduring climb, and we met with local community groups with kids our own age. It was incredible and fascinating to learn about their culture and values as they welcomed us into their home. In the evenings, we would go back to hostel and have information sessions about Mount Kilimanjaro and what to expect about the climb.

None of us really knew what we were getting into as we entered the gates for Kili. We felt anxious, yet mostly excited about the hike. Already feeling exhausted on the second day, we caught a glimpse of the far away summit, and instantly I felt absolutely amazed about the fact that in four more days we would be standing on that snowcap.

As we gained altitude, and the hike became more strenuous our leaders continued to express their optimism. They always put our health as first priority by monitoring our water level intake, our health, and altitude symptoms. The views were the most beautiful and unbelievable sights I believe are on the planet. It is hard to even describe what it feels like to sleep above the clouds because it is such an unworldly experience.

As we trudged up the mountain in the midnight darkness to the summit we used only our headlamps to guide us forward. We were 7 hours away from reaching our goal, and this motivation motivated me to keep placing one foot in front of the other as I tried to distract myself from the coldness in my toes. Around 4:00 am, we were taking a water break. One of my group members pointed to the lights below and asked one of our leaders if that is Moshi, the town neighboring Kilimanjaro. He nonchalantly responded “No, that is Kenya.” I was in utter disbelief. The fact that standing on this mountain we could see into the next country is mind altering!

Soon, the warmth of the rising suns’ rays warmed my fingers and toes and gave me the finish push to keep moving forward. Later into the morning, as we tried not to slip on the glacier’s mountain top, tears welled up in my eyes as I finally saw the sign in the distance. This was the proudest moment I have ever experienced, and being able to conquer the tallest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere proved to me that I am capable of anything I set my mind to.

Rustic Pathways provided me with the most supportive group I could possibly imagine, and there is no other group I could have imagined helping me achieve such a pivotal moment in my life. Not a day goes by that I do not think about hiking Kili because it had such a profound impact on life, changing my perspective for how I take on new challenges. When faced with an obstacle I always remind myself that if I was able to summit Kili, and I can overcome anything that comes my way.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs in Tanzania, or view more Alumni Stories here