Chinese women climb Kilimanjaro

Updated: 2014-04-15 07:16

By Wang Ru (China Daily)

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What can middle-aged professional women do after work? Visit the hair-dresser or go shopping?

How about traveling to Africa and climbing the peak of Kilimanjaro?

At the end of February, 12 Chinese women between 37 and 54, from different professions including a partner in a law firm, a TV producer and entrepreneurs, spent over 120 hours climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Dubbing themselves "the first amateur women's mountaineering team in China", they have begun to plan their next adventures climbing the highest mountains on other continents.

Wang Jianmei, 43, editor-in-chief of a tourism magazine in Beijing, the organizer of the special climbing team, proposed the trip because she saw the growing need of professional women in big cities.

"Women like us handle career and family well, but sometimes we feel so stressed and exhausted that we have a strong desire to escape from routine life and discover ourselves, in a totally different ways," Wang says.

Due to altitude sickness, two members quit at 4,600 meters. The remaining 10 women set out in the windy night, tramped over rocky cliffs and advanced through a sudden hailstorm. Finally, they reached the snow-covered Uhuru summit, the highest point of Kilimanjaro.

The 10 women, like other climbers who reach the summit, received certificates from the Kilimanjaro national park.

"It felt like giving birth. You suffered from pain and fear in the process, but the ultimate happiness at that moment is incomparable," Zhuang Yan, 54, a lawyer and the oldest member in the team, describes the feeling standing at the peak's altitude of 5,900 meters.

Kilimanjaro offers seven different routes for tourists and climbers. Though not as challenging as climbing the Himalayas, the high elevation, low temperature and changeable weather makes climbing the roof of Africa a difficult and dangerous trek.

People who want to climb Kilimanjaro need to ensure that they are physically capable and properly equipped.

Some deaths of climbers have been reported in recent years on Kilimanjaro, most due to hypothermia and rock slides.

"For us, the biggest challenge was not the mountain but ourselves, our confidences to meet the challenge in our ages," Wang says. "I hadn't climbed any mountain except the Fragrant Hill (in Beijing) 10 years ago."

"People often say that climbing Kilimanjaro is not very hard, but we must be well-prepared."

"I read Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro, but I refused almost any sport, let alone climbing up one of the highest mountains," says Qin Lei, a TV producer .

The 12 women took up jogging and swimming, and received physical training from professional climbers since September 2013.

Besides the physical challenge, they had to persuade their worried family members.

"My daughter begged me to think over about my decision, and she even sent me a long letter to persuade me to quit," says Zhuang Yan, who became ill with tonsillitis before leaving for Tanzania.

 Chinese women climb Kilimanjaro

Members of the team enjoy their time at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily 04/15/2014 page19)