When Alexandra asked me to share this adventure of mine, the title couldn’t be any other. A few years ago I would have considered impossible, I would classify it like that in almost every way, but above all for the challenge of overcoming and effort it would represent.
But that would have been a few years ago, not now.
I have always loved Trekking and the Mountains, having in recent years done the Picos de Europa (2015) and the Ascension of Toubkal (2017). In all these adventures, my only preparation has always been exclusively our Yoga, and Alexandra’s challenge to start the Practices in the Intermediate classes at the end of 2015 was also worth mentioning. , and now, more recently, reinforcing/compensating these practices for 3x/week in some periods. This happened in the months leading up to Kilimanjaro.
The ascent of Kilimanjaro represented for me 3 challenges, very divided in time and space:
- The first days to Ascension night
- The Night of Ascension
- The descent
1) The first days until the night of Ascension
The first 4/5 days of initial walking did not represent extraordinary physical exertion, given that the routes were covered mainly in the morning, and therefore easy to recover. The fact that we only carried what was necessary for that period (~4/~5 kg) also contributed. In this regard, the 10/11 kg that we carried on our backs in the Picos de Europa (for a week and almost 60 km) were exhausting on a daily basis.
I remember Alexandra and Paula’s reaction well, when on the way back, they saw my feet… and nails.
During this period, and also because we were always climbing in an arid but very intense landscape, and at a naturally increasing altitude, all awareness of deep breathing was essential, particularly above 3,000 m.
A weekend workshop in 2016 (also in preparation for the Toubkal and later in 2017) were key. My lungs have literally never been the same.
The mental control during these first days and nights, sensing the approach of the Final ascension day, was also increasing. When, on the day before the ascent, we became aware, through the Guide, of the average success rates of achievement (~75%) and fatalities (~15 per year), we had a shock with reality. A shock with the possibility of failure. Fitness at altitude actually has many variables.
Fortunately, in the end, in this first phase, I did not experience any discomfort, and I was therefore quite confident, above all because of the awareness that I thought I had done everything. Here I recognize Alexandra’s motivating and demanding role, both in those classes where I felt totally confident and everything happened almost effortlessly, and in those where I felt like an initiate with my pulse at 140.
2) The night of Ascension
That day we lay down in our tents of 2, around 18h to wake up ~22h, eat something quick, and start the ascent around 23h, aiming to reach Pico at 8-8:30 with the sunrise.
At this altitude, snow was already a constant presence, so the use of Crampons (metallic traction piece for snow, with spikes) was fundamental.
The Pace was obligatorily slow, the altitude, the slope, the snow. “Poli Poli” (Swahili expression for “Slow”) was repeatedly remembered by the Guides (there were 3 Guides, as there were 5, thus guaranteeing maximum safety, and in the event that one of us had to go down…).
The whole journey was made in single file, with short stops due to the intense cold, water freezing in the canteens, almost without exchanging a word.
The first hours were undoubtedly the most important for me, as they ended up marking the entire ascent. This is due to a decision I made, also directly related to our Yoga, and the help it gave me in the recovery of my Back/Cervical.
On this occasion I became aware of the importance of Posture during these 9 hours, trying to assume a posture as vertical as possible, which is why I asked the Guide not to use poles right away. He agreed and ended up letting me walk a good part of the most demanding journey, completely straight, with my hands behind my back and my shoulder blades in traction, also helped by the backpack with about 4 kg.
When he remembered to tell me to use the Wands, well over 4 hours had passed since the ascent, made almost without feeling any special effort, and managing, occasionally, to look at the stars, and hear… Ludovico Einaudi on the Phones. He was somehow also hypnotized.
The last few hours, with the day already starting to lighten up, were magical, and clearly with the adrenaline already pumping knowing that I was going to make it.
Arriving at Pico was an explosion of sensations and feelings, enhanced by the fact that I didn’t feel any discomfort, due to the effort or altitude.
Fixing the CPYOGA Logo there was, therefore, a mixture of gratitude for what assiduous practices have allowed me, but above all for continuity. The best is yet to come 😉
3) The descent
The return journey was also remarkable and exciting, with a clear blue sky. In these first 2-3 hours, we had a real sense of the incredible landscape that surrounded us… Crater and Glacier at 5000 m altitude…. Canyons as far as the eye can see …but also the potential fatal risk of a fall. Here the sticks together with the crampons were fundamental.
In this period, I was also clearly still enjoying the way in which the rise had gone, in which I had somehow spared myself. It was a very long day with a total of 14/15h of walking (9h uphill and 6h downhill). First going up from 4730 m to 5985 m, then descending to 3705 m.
The last day corresponded to 5/6h, about 20 km, always descending… from 3705 m to 1860 m.
It was an incredible adventure with about 80 km covered and that ended with a few days in Zanzibar.
A remarkable adventure for all the processes involved. Including our practices. The preparation, the anticipation, and the unbelievable Group of friends that accompanied me.
Kisses and hugs