“Surreal,” is how Javi Arango ’16 felt about reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro having completed a week-long trek up and down the highest mountain in Africa.
Arango and Aria Sarnoff ’16 spent the first weeks of their summer hiking up the 19,000 foot tall mountain with Rustic Pathways.
“I’ve always been interested in climbing,” Sarnoff said. “A few of my family members have climbed mountains in different places of the world and so between hearing all of their stories and finding this opportunity, I knew that this was something I wanted to experience myself.”
In order to climb the mountain safely, 10 local experts led the group of 12 American high school students along with two guides from Rustic Pathways.
Neither sophomore had accomplished anything as physically or mentally demanding before, and being the youngest members of the group, both describe the experience as the most challenging thing they had ever done.
“It was six days of endless hiking, and the last day was just treacherous,” Arango said. “You wake up at 11 p.m. the night before and hike 12 hours consecutively. There is [little to] no oxygen so it gets difficult, but somehow you get down and think ‘Wow, that was fun somehow.’”
On the four-day ascent to the summit, many in the group considered turning back due to altitude sickness.
Although both exercised and hiked regularly to prepare, Arango admitted nothing could train him for the altitude.
“Some of the kids were passing out so much that they had to stop at a certain altitude while we kept going,” Arango said. “One of the leaders stayed with the kids who couldn’t make it.”
Despite the difficulties, both shared that arriving at the summit was worth it all.
“Reaching the summit was one of the best feelings in the world,” Sarnoff said. “After constantly working so hard at one thing for a week, seeing the sign that told me I had finally made it was the most accomplished I’ve ever felt.”