View from the summit: Climbing Kilimanjaro | Sunday Observer

View from the summit: Climbing Kilimanjaro

“We started climbing the summit from Barafu Camp at midnight. It was pitch dark and extremely cold. We all had head lights and we were only following the one ahead of us, as the night was misty. The biggest issue was breathing. I panted so much even after I took only a few steps

Rising above challenges is part of life. We often talk about overcoming mountains and obstacles. Chithranga Edirisooriya is one young man who literally climbs mountains. In his latest challenge he endured the harsh climb to conquer the Kilimanjaro Mountain.

A student of D.S. Senanayake College, Colombo 7 from Grade 1, he entered the University of Peradeniya and graduated after which he completed a master’s degree in Business Administration from University of Colombo.

The young man explained “I was not very physically active during my school days. My focus was on studies. University life gave me a bit of freedom being away from home. That is when I began travelling around the country specially to villages around Sri Lanka. That is where my passion to travel began.

During one vacation we decided to climb Sri Pada from Deraniyagala which was not the ordinary route taken by others.

This was a turning point where we had to go through a thick jungle, face leech attacks. I was generally not physically fit. But this journey made me realize that I was capable of more than what I imagined. The first proper hike I did was Great Western Mountain (2212m in height). This was a difficult hike for a first timer. I did it with a group of strangers, but it was a hike that I will never forget. I have climbed many mountains in Sri Lanka including Kirigalpotta, Thotupala, Namunukula, Gombaniya, Mahakudugala, Lakegala, Hunnasgiriya. In Dec 2016 I did the Everest Base Camp (5364m) trek in Nepal which was my first overseas experience.

The young man paused and added “My Experience in EBC inspired me to do more. Kilimanjaro is considered the ‘Roof of Africa’ and is one of the seven summits. The idea of climbing was triggered by my friends Senpathi and Madawa but finally it was only I who could make it. It was a 4 day climb. We took the Machame route. Total length around 65km. We started off at Machame gate and the first day was through a rain forest and we reached an altitude of 2980m on the first day. During the rest of the 3 days we passed moorlands, rocks, ridges and plains. There was a descent on day 3 to help in acclimatization. It was rainy most of the time and the weather was not conducive for climbing.

The package includes food and all camping utensils. We had to sleep inside tents. The food was prepared fresh by the porters who guided us throughout the journey. Our team consisted of 10 and I was the only Sri Lankan. It was very cold at night and only the sleeping bag kept us warm inside the tents. The food was okay and always included soup and some African dishes that gave us the necessary nutrients.

Explaining the climb Chithranga said “We started climbing the summit from Barafu Camp at midnight. It was pitch dark and extremely cold. We all had head lights and we were only following the one ahead of us, as the night was misty. The biggest issue was breathing. I panted so much even after I took only a few steps. There were moments where I felt like giving up but the guides kindly encouraged us. As they kept saying “poly poly” which means slowly- it really was the only way you could reach the top. By the time we reached the top it was around 8 a.m. the following day.

The feeling at the summit is difficult to express in words. It was as if all the hard work done so far had finally paid off. The height is 5685m. I just stood there for a couple of minutes contemplating because it was difficult for me to believe that I did this.

The entire area was covered with snow. When I held the Sri Lankan flag at the Stella point (the highest point) I felt as If I was indeed at the roof of Africa an achievement that I would not have dreamt of even when I was a child.

The climb down was easier but as we were so tired by the climb up it was rather strenuous. Our only inducement was to reach the base camp and get some sleep before we began to climb further down.

The feeling of accomplishment kept us going and it was indeed a celebration.The greatest inspiration I got is that you never know what you are capable of achieving until you really try. A journey like this make us look at life in a different perspective. It teaches you endurance, how to manage your resources, how you learn to listen to your body and it tests your determination and patience.

Every step towards the summit is a mini achievement that keeps you going”. Having reached the summit the young climber added “I want to do Mount Kinabalu, Annapurna andMount Elbrus one day. Balancing your work, studies and passion for mountaineering is a big challenge and of course you need to save some money and engage more in training and preparing yourself”.

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