I never got to climb all of life’s mountains together with my Dad, but he left me with the tools to reach any peak I want to.
Johannesburg, South Africa – 4 years ago today, I summited Kilimanjaro – the roof of Africa – after a week of strenuous climbing.
I was entirely out of my comfort zone, doing something I had never dreamed I would have the opportunity to do. I had never climbed a hill before, let alone a mountain but I took the challenge head-on, putting one foot in front of the other.
It was really tough. We were climbing for a week in incredibly cold conditions. We had found ourselves climbing the highest peak in Africa in the middle of massive snowstorms. We hardly slept and spent most of the time trying to keep warm.
It was all so surreal.
Somehow I made it to base camp without giving up, getting sick or needing to be air-lifted out like so many incredible climbers who came before me.
That final night we snuggled into our sleeping bags at 6 pm. The wind was howling all around us, forcing the cold from the snow to pierce through our skin.
We were woken up at 11 pm, just five hours after going to bed to start making our way to Uhuru Peak, the highest part of this crazy climb; 5,895 metres above sea level.
Little did we know that this last part of the hike would take over 9 hours up the steepest part of the mountain, we also didn’t realise that we would be hit with another snowstorm that would turn any exposed hair into ice.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done, ever! And all I could focus on was putting one foot in front of the other.
I remember the last 45 minutes of climbing vividly. That final stretch to the final peak.
I had left my group & it was just myself & a guide. I couldn’t keep up with everyone and needed to walk slower and take more breaks. I was tired & cold & didn’t think I would make it. Every step was harder than the one before, and all I could think about was my Dad.
It had been 5 years since I had lost my Dad, but it felt like he was right by my side… right there next to me, coaching me, helping me get to the top.
I sobbed for those last 45 minutes, with every tear forming another drop of ice on my cheek. And every step I took, I kept thinking about the love of my life who was taken from all of us so suddenly.
But through a snowstorm and tiredness, and almost giving up, I somehow made it; I reached the roof of Africa!
When I got to the top, I took stock, and felt a warm sense of gratitude to my body, to my Dad, and to this beautiful world we live in. That climb and that moment also made me realise one of the most important things; something I will carry with me forever.
I never got to climb all of life’s mountains together with my Dad, but he left me with the tools to reach any peak I want to. And I will continue to face all of life’s challenges and mountains, one step at a time knowing that he has given me the ability and strength to succeed at anything I put my mind to.
I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart).