I Conquered Kilimanjaro for the Big 4-0
When Ann Abel’s life imploded she chose climbing a mountain over wallowing. She’d lost her job, her husband and her beautiful apartment and still opted to spend her fortieth birthday summiting Africa’s highest peak.
If you missed part one of her story, check it out here.
I’m not going to make it. Who was I kidding? Why did I think I could do this? I’m a spoiled princess, not a girlie badass. This is only the first night and it’s just going to get colder and lonelier and harder. I’m going to fail. I hate failing. That’s going to be humiliating. I’ve been talking about Kilimanjaro for years. Everyone knows I’m doing this. It’s my Facebook status. It’s my out of office message. It’s going to be so awful when I have to tell people I didn’t make it. My return flight isn’t until two weeks from now—what will I do until then? How will I ever get all this muddy gear clean?
But then I saw light from coming through my tent, heard my porter saying good morning as he delivered my tea, and realized that I had made it through the night. At breakfast, a few of the other women confessed to having similar thoughts, and one pointed out that while the guides would take down anyone who was genuinely sick, they weren’t going to take us down just because we were uncomfortable or had changed our minds. I found that strangely comforting. I was going to finish this because it would be my only choice. Kind of like my whole Brooklyn blogger reinvention thing, which I’d done because there was no alternative.
Climbers, porters, and crew in the last camp. (Photo: Susan Paley Abramson)
From there it got easier, though I still cried every night and occasionally during the day, out of panic over losing my footing and out of thoughts of the magnitude of what I was doing. The terrain was beautiful and different each day, the encouragement from the porters and guides was motivating, and my companions were interesting and lively, especially Susan, who had also just turned 40 after a tumultuous year and became my instant soul mate, and Candace, who inspired us both by uncomplainingly climbing the mountain at age 69.
Almost there. Our last ascending camp, at 18,600 feet. (Photo: Susan Paley Abramson)