As a physician, I strive to diminish the expanse between myself and those who suffer. It is through enduring pain and suffering helps me better understand and advocate for those in need. Particularly the last seven hours of the climb to Kilimanjaro’s peak induce all manner of suffering: difficulty breathing, extreme exhaustion, bitter subfreezing temperatures, gusting dusty winds, crushing bone, joint, and chest pain, cramps, severe headache, sore throat, and nausea. These forces battle with you to send you back down to the bottom of the mountain. You fight just to keep your balance.
The reminder of the diversity and complexity of pain and suffering is one of my main motivations to periodically trek Kilimanjaro. Climbing the “Big K” takes you through climaxes of pain and self awareness, ultimately shaping you into a more responsive and hopefully more humble person.
But the climb is not all suffering. Many moments are overtaken with admiration and appreciation of the beauty of this magical mountain. You are stunned by the sunrise on Mawenzi, the tip of Mount Meru puncturing the clouds that float thousands of meters below your eyes. You are graced by the astronomical number of stars revolving around you and the dance of sun rays on 22,000-year-old glaciers. You are humbled by lobelias and impatiens kilimanjari, exhilarated by colobus monkeys and ravens flying over Uhuru, and moved by doting Serinus striolatus birds in love.