I'm down from the mountain. I almost made it to the top, but unfortunately at 15,000 feet the head guides decided I was showing signs of HACE (high altitude cerebral edema) and, despite being administered emergency oxygen for two hours and swallowing handfuls of Advil, my condition failed to improve enough to continue climbing. Reaching Uhuru Peak was not an option for me this time around.
I was guided down Kilimanjaro on a five-hour rescue hike from Lava Tower Camp and formally evacuated by ambulance (not really ... more like a white safari van thank goodness!!!). Not long after, three others (Leslie Burns, Melinda Culvahouse Hardy and Sandy Stein) came down with AMS (altitude mountain sickness) and were evacuated in the same manner. All are in good spirits and fine health now we are at lower altitude.
The four of us will wait in Arusha at the Kigongoni Lodge for the twelve climbers still heading towards the summit--a punishing but unbelievably exciting endeavor. We know the winds will increase and temperatures decrease as they make their way on the steep path up to crater camp at 18,750 feet and then on to the summit of Uhuru Peak at 19,340 feet.
Despite not personally reaching the summit, hiking the slopes of Kilimanjaro was an amazing experience (and crazily one I am already planning to redo!!). I spent 35 hours over five days trekking to a high camp just shy of the summit of the highest free-standing mountain in the world. I am also thrilled to have so far raised over $20,000 for the Red Ribbon Foundation in its fight against the ravages of HIV/AIDS.(Please know that we are still in the midst of our Kilimanjaro 2010 Charity fundraising at www.redribbonfoundation.org).
Lastly, I love the bonding that has happened on the women's team and will surely duplicate on the men's team, which is now preparing to climb Kili from October 21-30th.
I'll keep you posted as reports are sent down from the mountain from the team above!
A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.... Oliver Wendell Holmes