On reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro at 10.30am on Thursday 7th October, group members let off a kirtan that resounded into the ether – a chant for the welfare of the devotees in Africa. Having battled altitude sickness, meager provisions and bitter cold weather, the group members had had their personal limits tested to the maximum. The gruelling climb and descent took a total of six days – and was no ordinary climb: it was a dedicated effort to raise funds for a nursery at Krishna Avanti School.
Travelling through varying terrain along the route, the group climbed through tropical forest, open moorland and finally through alpine desert where intense weather conditions and temperature fluctuations are so dramatic that hardly and vegetation grows. From the third day onwards, the team were literally walking through clouds, and were becoming increasingly fatigued.
Being both physically and mentally challenged, all members on the climb experienced varying levels of altitude sickness. With available oxygen at around 60% of normal levels at 3000m and decreasing higher up, no one in the group avoided the customary nausea, sleeplessness and shortness of breath. Each member of the team had the necessary courage to reach the top yet the physical toll on the body could not be ignored. After climbing for several days, five members of the team began to experience the tell-tale signs of dizziness and disorientation that were clear signals from the body of imminent danger to health. Wisely they took the decision to not proceed further and descended to lower altitude to recuperate.
In total, 19 members of the party arrived at Gilman’s Point, which is generally the target for most climbers. Standing at an impressive 5681m above sea level this in itself is a tremendous achievement. The final trek, from Gilman’s Point to Uhuru Peak (5985m) was completed by nine intrepid travellers, Akhandadhi das, Srutidharma das, Saurav, Kamal, Dr Lalit, Nilesh, Mukhesh, Kaushik & Dilip. On arriving they offered a prayer on behalf of all of the devotees and raised a loud Hare Krishna kirtan – which proved difficult due to lack of air and exhaustion.
“We’ll never do it again”
Sleeping in tents in the freezing cold, without heat, water or toilets – everyone put up with lack of dignity as well as physical austerity. The final 36 hour period of climbing and descent was an intense experience. During that period the group walked for a total of 28 hours. Walking up very steep slopes of scree – slipping and sliding – everyone’s energy was sapped. Some fell asleep as they sat down for brief rest – and the feeling of exhaustion was unlike any experience imaginable. However a special favour was bestowed on them as the thick clouds that normally shroud the peak dissipated during the final trek of the journey, providing a breaktaking view from the summit.
A Lesson Learnt
An experience of extreme endurance often brings out many realisations. For some it is the understanding that within God’s amazing creation, we are actually very tiny. The sheer scale of the features of Mother Earth’s surface are awe-inspiring – yet they comprise a miniscule percentage of Lord Krishna’s power and opulence.
“This trip required extensive planning, and demanded the best from all the participants at every moment – yet reaching the summit was by Krishna’s grace only. If such personal effort is required simply to climb a mountain – what level of personal preparation and integrity is necessary to reach the spiritual world?” – Srutidharma das, Temple President.mukham karoti vacalam pangumlanghayate girim ya krpas tamaham vande sri gurum dinataranam
“By the mercy of the guru even a lame man can climb mountains, and a dumb man can speak eloquent words or poetry.”
The group had a target of raising £100,000 for the Krishna Avanti School.