It finally happened. I got there first. I’m never first. Not when it comes to mountain peaks. No, I’ll make it, to this day I only have one “white whale” and it stands above six thousand meters high in Bolivia. On the bright side, I now know the limits of my body when facing elevation sickness.

I’ve decided to climb Mount Kenya as independently as possible. Just with a guide, no porters, and carrying food and all my stuff by myself. The twist was that I only had three days instead of the four that the hike usually takes, because I was supposed to meet with a friend in Ethiopia in a few days. The hike was easy enough, but after more than six month of African safari game drives (excluding Madagascar because there all I did was hike) it was a bit of a challenge. Pacing myself on the way up to avoid altitude sickness, I did only nine km the first day, twelve on the second day, but on the third day I got up at two in the morning with the rest of the hopefuls, drooled over their all-inclusive breakfasts while gobbling down some instant noodles, and set off to the top. Another 12km – a steep climb over volcanic rock in the dark.

I had a group of Stanford grads on my tail, but I wasn’t going to let them pass me. Yesterday, the scenery was distracting enough for me to arrive to the high camp last. Giant cabbage-like lobelia plants were at my feet at the start of the day and Syke’s monkeys hung from mossy trees; then the lobelias moved on to grow on thick stems and were joined by more of their sort that looked like giant candles of ostrich feathers. Finally, the peak itself loomed on the horizon. Far, but there. Now, however, hiking up in the dark to meet the sunrise, carefully stepping on frozen puddles and gasping a bit for air – feeling the five thousand meter mark approaching, I only wanted to be the first. Just this one time.

“Aha, ha-ha!” I yelled down to the rest when I was finally on top, but the hikers below did not share my enthusiasm.

After the sunrise, I left the peak to overflow with climbers and headed all the way down. I ended up walking over fifteen hours that day, and my sore feet somehow drowned my little victory, but this is what we have memories for. Climbing mountains for the sake of getting there, turning around, and getting back down, is (at least for me) only fun in retrospect.

Location: Mt. Kenya, Kenya
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Born in Ukraine, raised in Israel, and acquiring her higher education in the US, Sarit Reizin is proud to call herself a citizen of the world. However, to stay worthy of the title, she felt a nomadic lifestyle was in order, and in November 2005 left the comforts of the first world with no desire of coming back any time soon.