Most celebs would prefer spending their vacations sprawled out on a beach, mojito in hand, but Mandy Moore had other plans. The This Is Us star spent her free time checking off a major bucket list item: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
I miss the mountain already. I miss the daily rituals and customs that became forever engrained in the fabric of what this experience was; the “water for washing” every morning and evening, our instant coffee at breakfast, the constant peels of laughter at all of the inside jokes, finding the rhythm of packing and unpacking at every new camp site, the high fives and pleasantries and shorthand exchanged with our porters.... I also miss the simplicity of it all. We were only tasked with one goal every day: to find our breath and put one foot in front of the other. No distractions, no other responsibilities. How liberating! Our phones didn’t work and it forced us all to be completely available to the practice and meditation of being present- with one another and with the climb. Even though it’s not real life, we all have jobs and families and our regularly scheduled lives to jump back into, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to apply that principle on a more regular basis because this journey was about so much more than simply checking off some item on life’s To-Do list. I’m endlessly amazed and grateful to my body for getting me up that mountain. I’m grateful to share a deeper bond with some of my closest friends and to have made new pals that will be family for life. I know that on days when I’m feeling especially overwhelmed with whatever lies in front of me, I can close my eyes, remember Kilimanjaro and pole pole. Slow and steady does win the race. #uttergratitude #liveyouradventure #ebcontributor #sponsored
The 19,341-foot Tanzanian mountain is the highest peak in Africa and the ninth tallest in the world—and Moore has dreamed about climbing it since she was 18-years-old. "When Eddie Bauer reached out and said they wanted to partner with me and take a trip anywhere in the world, it was a no-brainer," Moore tells Shape. "I had to jump at the opportunity to climb Kili because who knew if I'd ever get the chance again."
So, Moore started planning the trip and decided to take her fiancé and some of her best friends along with her.
The hike itself, as you can imagine, is long and demanding. It took Moore and her crew a week (yes, seven whole days) to reach the summit and back, hiking up to 15 hours a day and sometimes even through the night.
It goes without saying that some of the physical prep for that needed to be done beforehand. "I was so busy filming prior to the trip that I trained as much as I could given the time that I had," she says. "I made an effort to incorporate more time on the Stairmaster while I was in the gym and did more leg focused work like lunges and squats. I also did some of my workouts with a weight vest to mimic what I would have on my back while I was hiking."
Given Moore's fitness level, however, she decided not to stress about training too much and focused on the experience as a whole instead. "I had heard that it wasn't necessarily an entirely arduous hike, but that people tended to have a difficult time acclimatizing," she says.
I have dreamed the dream of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro since the age of 18. Thanks to @eddiebauer, my partner in this adventure, this past week saw #1 on my bucket list come to fruition and I lived out one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life with a few of my best friends. There was no reception on the mountain so I’m going to dole out some pics of our trip over the next few days. Stay tuned-it’s worth it! #liveyouradventure #ebcontributer #whyihike #sponsered
Moore says the fifth day of the hike was particularly draining. The crew had to wake up at midnight and start climbing in order to reach the highest peak of the mountain just in time for the sunrise. "My body was so bone tired and exhausted," she says. "I was just trying to put one foot in front of the other, was focusing on my breathing and peeing as much as possible since that helps with acclimatizing."
"When we finally reached the summit, it was still pitch black," she says. "We had already been hiking for seven hours and were technically at the top of the mountain but still had another hour and a half around the ridge to reach the highest point. By the time we got there, it was still dark and I remember thinking that maybe this was going to be the first day the sun doesn't come up."
But it did come up and it was everything Moore could have imagined and more. "All of the sudden it was like there was sherbert all around us," she says. "You're like up in the clouds and out of nowhere there's this light all around you, encompassing you—it was totally indescribable." (Related: Learn How to Plan the Most Epic Adventure Vacation of Your Life)
On the night of our ascent to the summit, we woke up at 11pm (after a few hours of napping) to enjoy a couple of nervous minutes together with a cup of coffee before it was time to gear up in my our warmest layers and start the nearly 8 hour trek to highest point in Africa- 19,341 ft. In total darkness, we took it pole pole (slow slow) and trudged through rain, sleet and snow, where seemingly everything on our person managed to freeze (water bottles, backpacks, our eyelashes, hair, fingers, toes, etc...) Oddly, I’ve never felt more determined to tackle such a physical challenge before and yet the combined elements of exhaustion and extremely cold weather made it much trickier than any of us were prepared for. All of that aside, ultimately reaching the threshold of the true summit was more emotional and overwhelming than I had thought possible. Kilimanjaro demands a lot from those who traverse her trails. You have no choice but to show up. And we did. There’s nothing more empowering than realizing that we are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. #whyihike #liveyouradventure #sponsored
It was because of moments like that that Moore was so grateful to be surrounded by the people who loved and supported her the most. "We were all in it together," she says. "Experiencing that week with the people I love was the deepest sense of bonding you could hope to share with your closest friends and I wouldn't have it any other way."
Last year, Moore told Shape that she actually hoped to scale the mountain on her honeymoon. "I do want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro," she said at the time. "That's a bucket list item, maybe on the next hiatus; I've already told Taylor that I may incorporate it into the honeymoon."
While the couple has to yet to walk down the aisle, it's great to see them share this incredible experience beforehand.
Breathtaking views and bonding time aside, Moore's biggest takeaway from her adventure was what she learned about her own capabilities. "I have never really considered myself as athletic—and beyond wanting to climb Kili, I have never had an outdoorsy goal or even gone camping. But now, I've definitely been bitten by the bug and totally have a love affair with the outdoors and adventure in general." (Related: The 20-Mile Hike That Finally Made Me Appreciate My Body)
"It's crazy to me that my legs and this body got me up that mountain and I really didn't know that I had it in me to do that," she says. "It's safe to say I will never underestimate my body again."