68-year-old Rita Mathur's journey to Mt Kilimanjaro is one that breaks the concept of each and every version of the word “drawback” in your mind as she sets another milestone for people to follow.
Just a couple of years ago, then 66-year-old Rita Mathur rose as an example of grit when she completed a 21-day trek, all the way up till the Mt Everest Base Camp. Ever since Rita Mathur made it to the Everest Base Camp, her heart desired another challenge.
Two years after her Everest triumph, 68-year-old Rita Mathur defied the idea of age being a limitation as she completed another iconic trek to the Gilmans Point of Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa.
With just a bit of family support and a whole deal of courage, Mathur completed this eight-day trek all the way to the 19,341-ft high destination and in-exchange, establishing that the concept of striving towards a “goal” is ageless.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro presents a considerable challenge. There are even studies which show that a staggering amount of people fail to complete the trek to the summit. More than half of those who attempt the ascent experience mountain sickness, and just slightly over 65% of trekkers actually manage to reach the summit.
The reasons for their failure vary from altitude-related issues to the climber's mental state. Kilimanjaro is an extremely high-altitude mountain, towering at 19,341 feet (5,895 metres); subsequently making adequate preparation and training essential before one can even think about going through with the journey.
Though Kilmanjaro is regarded as one of the easier treks, the game entirely changes when it comes to the summit night, which is marked by frigid temperatures and relentless winds - the most arduous segment of the expedition. This was the exact challenge that was ringing in 68 year-old Rita Mathur’s ears.
The ascent involves scaling 4,084 ft with a 49% reduction in available oxygen, followed by a descent of nearly 6,870 ft. This test of tenacity can demand as much as 12 to 14 hours of continuous walking and sometimes, even beyond.
Mount Kilimanjaro's summit can be reached via seven established routes in Tanzania. These include
After ticking off numerous hikes within India and then finally checking the dreambox for every trekker - Mt Everest Base Camp - Rita figured that she wanted to challenge herself and the stigma around age, all over again.
Then, after one and a half years of both mental and physical preparation, on August 15, 2023, Rita Mathur embarked on the expedition to reach the top of Africa’s tallest mountain. She took the Marangu route to the summit, which took her eight full days.
She embarked on this journey as a part of a climber group under the leadership and guidance of Lt Col Romil Barthwal. The group itself was a mix of all ages, with the youngest member being 15 years old and the oldest being Rita, 68.
During our conversation, Mathur shared the fact that initially, the climb did not feel that difficult. But, when it came to the summit night, she felt that the weather and the altitude conditions imposed more of a challenge than what she experienced during the Everest base camp trek.
One of the most challenging parts of the trek for her was when she had to walk for approximately 26 hours (including the occasional chai break) to reach the volcano walls from the alpine desert.
Upon reaching her destination, Rita Mathur couldn’t find a single nerve in her brain that complained about the difficulty of the climb. Instead, all she could feel was a sense of accomplishment that came after eight full days of determination.
Fully aware of the fact that she will be considered as an example by everyone, mostly the people of her age, she emphasises the concept that having a goal and working towards it can be done by anyone at any age.
Even after completing two iconic treks, Mathur still feels that she has much more to do and much more to achieve. And she won't let age be the factor that stops her from it.