Perseverance climbing mount kilimanjaro

The lesson in perseverance I learnt from Mt Kilimanjaro

 (hint: its not what you think it’ll be!)

In 2006 I decided I would climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  Yep, like that.  I had just finished watching Kochie (from Sunrise) summit Africa’s highest peak and whether it was the chance to see snow in Africa or the opportunity to test myself physically and mentally, right there on my second cup of coffee I decided that year I would climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

And I did.  But it was hard.  Bloody hard.  Not just ‘ow I have sore feet’, or ‘this bag’s heavy’ kind of hard… more like the ‘I seriously think I am going to die”, “where has all the oxygen disappeared to”, and “there is no fucking way Kochie did this unassisted” type of hard.

Perseverance africa
Where the f*ck did Kochie go?

The “perhaps if I click my heels three times and wish hard enough I will wake up at home.  Or in Kansas, or in freakin Oz for all I care just get me off this mountain” type of pain.

To put it into perspective, Kilimanjaro reaches temperatures of -30 degrees celsius.  Summiting at a height of nearly 20,000 feet you will well and truly experience altitude sickness, in fact around half a dozen people die each year attempting to climb this mountain.

Prior to the climb, the greatest mountain I had summited was Mount Coolum with a girlfriend and a can of rum and coke to watch the sunrise when I was nineteen.

After being assured by my travel guide that it was a non-technical climb, I proceeded to not train and not purchase any technical equipment, unless you call Kmart’s fleecy jumpers technical?

Now you’re probably thinking that I am about to launch into a blog on preparation, and yes you’re right I could and should and one day will… but this is not THAT blog post.

This is about perseverance people.

One of the greatest things I learnt climbing Mount Killi, and it in fact applies to any mountain with altitude, is the need to push hard, and then retreat for the night.  In order for your body to adjust and respond its not uncommon for mountaineers to push up 1000 metres in a day, before retreating 500 metres (in altitude… not actual length) to sleep for the night.

It might feel like a counter-productive move, but this strate

Perseverance in Africa
No, the tents on Mt Kilimanjaro were NOTHING like this!

gy pushes the body to an extreme level, before giving it a chance to rejuvenate overnight.  It may take longer to reach the summit, but your chances of summiting are vastly improved by having the diligence and maturity to recover.

Our daily activities may not take place in Tanzania, but many of us continue pushing onwards and upwards, ignoring our mental and physical need to rest and rejuvenate.  Prolonged stress demands that we take a step backwards sometimes, but we live in a society that loves the extreme (even our recovery activities are extreme… um, think Bikram) and devalues rest.

When I was a child I remember my dad pottering around the garden and watching AFL on his weekend’s, and I wonder how our kids view me as I rush from one errand to the next, couriering them from netball, to birthday parties to the supermarket.

I respond to rest in almost the same manner I responded to Mount Kilimanjaro (oh my God, I am so out of my comfort zone) and have to remind myself that that is PRECISELY the reason I need to practice.



Jonty is still in recovery from learning how to recover, and would love to hear your strategies on how you take time out.  Connect with her on Facebook.