Bucket Listing: Flying High Atop Mount Kilamanjaro
*This article was originally published in Men’s Health. It was adapted for Lean It UP.
Where’s your head at? Because mine’s up in the clouds.
When the words “bucket list” nuzzle into earshot, I immediately think HUGE. Not quite rocket-off-to-Mars huge, but borderline attainable. Inclusions should be challenges that truly transport you out of your comfort zone, plunge into the realm of physical impossibility, and push the boundaries of what your mind, body, and spirit are capable of handling.
They should be the diametric opposite of your day-to-day life, and next level from the excursions you jetset off on every 3-4 months. And a credit card shouldn’t be the primary catalyst.
So when I think bucket list destinations, my mind automatically wants to sprawl out on the azure beaches of the Maldives, get lost in the whimsical streets of Paris, climb the Egyptian pyramids, or scuba dive through the depths of the Great Barrier Reef. Those all merit consideration.
But they’re too easy.
The challenge that sits tucked deep in my back pocket of awesome adventures—and the one that I believe everyone should attempt while they’re physically capable—is one that’s larger than life itself. Quite literally.
Nestled in the outskirts of Tanzania lies Mount Kilimanjaro (aka “Kili”) — a mammoth stratovolcano that towers above the clouds at a stunning 19,340 feet, the highest point in Africa. To me, conquering Kili is the epitome of what a bucket list item should be. You’re taking down a behemoth.
So what makes it such an intriguing challenge?
- Real People. You need to do it—and should want to do it—with a group of people. It’s about survival, camaraderie, and forming real human connection, three things that barely exist in our sheltered era of social media. And what’s better than crushing an incredible achievement with friends? The lifelong impact is profound and invaluable.
- The Length. Each climb to the apex is an epic 7-10 day adventure. Are you capable of living in a tent, sans showers, with only a few pairs of underwear for that long? I’ve gone camping for like, all of 2 nights, and I consider that roughing it. It’s challenging being displaced from the familiar for an extended period of time — once you survive that you’ll have the confidence to do basically anything.
- The Physical Gauntlet. You’re trekking almost 20,000 feet, with the summit hike being particularly difficult. Altitude sickness, unexpected injury and sickness, minimal nourishment, sleep deprivation, and hypothermia are just a few of the obstacles any given person might experience on a climb. A Tough Mudder is cake in comparison.
- Extreme (and Schizophrenic) Climate. One trek up to the summit crosses 5 different climate zones—farmland, rainforest, heath, alpine desert, and arctic—each with drastically different temperatures, precipitation, and weather patterns. One climb to the summit ranges from 90º to -10º — that means packing the right equipment and adapting to everything from wet, scorching heat to blistering cold. Get comfortable with discomfort, Bear Grylls.
- Extended Disconnection. Gasp, you might go a week without Facebook, Gmail, or Tinder. The horror. But seriously, disconnecting gets increasingly harder once you have a family and career responsibilities grow. Take advantage while you have the personal freedom. And if this point alone scares you away from a Kili trek, rethink that.
Combine all of that and you get, in my opinion, the ultimate challenge and one of the pinnacles of human achievement. It’s truly living and adventuring in a way that’s unparalleled anywhere else — and one that you can talk about and relive with the people you experienced it with for the rest of your time on earth.
Plus, you get an official congratulations at the top. What beach or sunset offers all of that?
What’s your #1 bucket list item? Drop it below.
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto.
I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP
, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid
, and all-around fitness junkie.
I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine
When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses
and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.
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