A woman who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro several years ago was kind enough to show me pictures of her hike. Near the front of her album is a picture of the Mt. Kilimanjaro summit above a layer of clouds. She said she took it from the window of an airplane. =O
Yes, I know the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro is approximately 19,000 feet. But knowing that and actually visualizing it are two different things for me.
When one of my daughters was about to turn 17, I suggested we climb Half Dome for her birthday which was on August 17. Since the hike is about 17 miles round trip it sounded like a fun thing to do. All those seventeens. Who could resist?
I have been to Yosemite more times than I can count beginning when I was a child. I was familiar with Half Dome. I had gazed up at it often enough from the Yosemite Valley floor. It had been a long time since I viewed it from Glacier Point, however. My daughter's friend came with us on the hike. She had never been to Yosemite before. We set up camp near Glacier Point, then wound our way down to the viewpoint to give the friend an opportunity to see what we were proposing to climb.
When we pointed out Half Dome, sticking out like a hitchhiker's thumb, she was amazed that we actually hoped to get to the top of it.
I must admit - seeing the 8,800- foot dome from that angle took me aback as well. Maybe there was an easier side that we just couldn't see.
The next day when we got to the base of the dome, after passing the top of Nevada Falls and continuing through Little Yosemite Valley, I realized there wasn't an easier side. Hikers were pulling on leather work gloves and starting up the final 425 foot climb to the top. Without the steel cables to grab on either side of the three-foot wide "trail", it would be impossible to tackle the nearly 45 degree angle unless climbing equipment was used.
If I hadn't already hiked eight and a half miles to get to that point, I probably would not have continued. It was a scary experience - a lot more frightening to me than crossing the windows on the Mt. Whitney trail - and one that I don't plan on repeating.
As for Mt. Kilimanjaro, I might just close my eyes if the pilot of our airplane points out the famous summit before we land at the Tanzanian airport. Maybe I will be lucky enough to be on the side of the plane that doesn't have the view at all. =)