Kilimanjaro Day 4 – Oh, God, Help Me!

  • Journey: From Shira Camp 2 to Barranco Camp
  • Hours Walked: 7
  • Starting Elevation: 3,850 m
  • Highest Elevation for the Day: 4,600 m
  • Final Elevation for the Day: 3,950 m

My whole perspective on this trek changed on day 4.  It was a hellacious day.  I made it through sheer prayers.

This was the day we went to the highest elevation we would get to before arriving at base camp at Barafu on day 6.  This was a really important day to test for altitude sickness.

We left camp at around 8:30 am as usual and 4 hard hours later, we got to Lava Tower, 750 m higher than where we started out.  I became hyper aware of my body.  I kept checking myself for signs of altitude sickness – dizziness, nausea, headache.  None of these symptoms appeared, thank God, but I felt every single breath I took.  Every one.  I thought we’d never get there.  My body was feeling the stress of the higher elevation and it made each step labourious.  We kept having to stop so I could catch my breath.


See how I look relaxed and like everything was cool and easy? It totally wasn’t. I was exhausted! Oh, and that’s Lava Tower behind me.

I prayed and prayed and prayed in my mind (I would have done it out loud but I had to use my breath to propel my body to our destination).  Psalms, scriptures, songs, my own words, it didn’t matter as long as it was a prayer.  That’s how I made it to Lava Tower that day.  I kept going over and over James 5:16 in my mind, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much;” or  singing that Hillsong song, “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.  Take me deeper than my feet have ever wandered and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Saviour;” or just begging the Holy Spirit to keep propelling me forward.

By the time we got to Lava Tower, I realised that this was no birthday celebration journey.  This was an allegory for my relationship and my life with God.  He had carried me through 4 hours of the toughest physical challenge I had ever endured and I knew without the shadow of a doubt that I would not have made it under my own strength.  And it occurred to me that this is exactly what God does every day of my life – He strengthens me for the journey and carries me when I can’t carry myself.  When I can’t even bear up under my own weight, somehow He carries me through.

We stayed at Lava Tower for about 30 minutes to eat the packed lunches that James had given us before we left camp that morning, then we were off again.  That afternoon was even worse than the morning for me.  The morning was a struggle but the afternoon was sheer torture.  Although it was basically downhill, my mind was just done.  Done!  I had used up every reserve I had getting to Lava Tower and, though my body was strong enough and willing to go further, my mind wasn’t.  I got right back to praying because I knew that was the only way I’d make it to camp 2 1/2 hours away.  All I wanted to do was lay down, I was so exhausted.  But I had to keep going.

I stumbled my way down and up and around hills and ridges and eventually almost slipped right down a stream because I was so tired I lost my concentration and footing.  But we got there.  I was so thankful to eventually see Tumaini because it meant we must be close to camp.

When I got to my tent, I lay down on my sleeping bag and cried as I sang with what breath I had left:

Where would I be if not for Your grace carrying me in every season?   Where would I be if not for Your grace?  You came to my rescue and I want to thank You for Your grace that restores, grace the redeems, grace that releases me to worship, grace that reclaims visions and dreams, grace that releases miracles.  Your grace!

I cried because I knew that only the Holy Spirit had carried me through that day and I was so thankful to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that He was right there with me.

Dinner, oxygen level and heart rate, debrief, Bible, prayers, bed.  Day 4 was over but I had changed and because of it, my primary relationship had changed.  I knew it and was glad for it.

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