As the shuttle drove me closer and closer to the base of the mountain, Kilimanjaro took up more and more of the front window. This thing is huge. I am overcome with excitement as I check to see that I have all my gear. I have been training for these next few days for months and planning it for even longer.
The first leg of the trip is beautiful. A lush rainforest with many types of monkeys and tropical birds everywhere. As I sit down for dinner I can tell there is something wrong. I am feeling mildly lightheaded and notice that my hands are a little numb. I have only reached an altitude of 2,790m of the almost 6,000 I plan to climb.
My doctor in Toronto told me not to get my hopes up, as a guy of my size with an extremely high lean muscle mass percentage would definitely have problems at altitude. He was right.
Apparently, muscle requires a lot of oxygen in order to function. So much in fact that if your ratio is too high, it can actually starve the brain of oxygen at high altitudes.
Knowing this, I went to sleep, hoping that I would acclimatize by the morning and i would be ready to continue my ascent. I did not get much sleep as a mild headache and many stomach issues plagued me throughout the night. In the morning, my guide Stanley came to check on me and saw that I was not doing well. He told me to rest for a few hours and he would see how I was doing then. 2 hours passed and I forced myself to get up and continue. We started ascending once again to the next camp that was at 3,700m. I would never make it.
As soon as my Suunto watch read over 3,000 metres, I started experiencing major headaches, dizziness and I was finding it extremely difficult to breathe. Stanley kept looking at me as asking how I felt, but I knew this was as far as I was going to go. If I was feeling this horrible at 3,000m, I did not want to know how I would feel at 5,500m.
I was a little disenchanted, but knew it was the best thing for me. As you know from a few entries back, I am a very cautious person and when it comes to my life, I never gamble. It is just a mountain. Maybe someday, when I am a skinny old man I will try again.
For now, I am happy telling people that I am too muscular to be a mountain climber!