Love was in the air (19,341’ in the air, that is) for Thomson trekkers Leigh and Tommy, who recently got engaged at Mt. Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak!
Calling the moment “surreal,” Leigh said it was the perfect culmination of a week of trekking: she had a ring, a fiancé, and views of the Tanzanian plains stretching to the horizon.
For some, the idea of getting engaged at Uhuru may seem as lofty as the peak itself. We spoke with Leigh and Tommy to hear how they did it!
From the start, Tommy and Leigh knew they wanted to get engaged on Kili. Uhuru Peak was the perfect spot–often called the Roof of Africa, it’s a fitting elevation to match their new emotional height!
“You’re probably not going to get any higher altitude in your life,” Tommy said. “And it was a good photo opportunity: the Roof of Africa.”
Leigh and Tommy took Thomson’s Western Approach to Uhuru Peak, a 9-day route offering the most acclimatization time possible and a daytime summit bid. With five climate zones ranging from tropical rainforest to frozen tundra, it’s one of the most accessible yet consistently challenging routes of the world’s Seven Summits.
Leigh and Tommy in the rainforest at the start of their trek
In many ways, Tommy was surprised by the trek: as an experienced backpacker, he’s used to carrying his own pack, tent and food. Thomson provides porters on every trek to carry those things for you–they’ll usually have your camp set up by the time you reach it!
“For me, this was a luxurious event,” Tommy said.
Bonding at Barranco
Leigh and Tommy quickly discovered getting hitched on Kili wouldn’t go off without a hitch; long trekking days and mental challenges stood between them and the peak.
“We spent a lot of time in very close quarters in the tent at night, not having showered,” Leigh said. “The joke was I was either coming back single or engaged!”
Leigh’s greatest challenge came at the Barranco Wall, a steep cliffside path regarded as one of the most challenging parts of the trek.
“I did not like the Barranco Wall,” Leigh said. “I do not like height.” She was very upfront with her guides about this beforehand. They helped Leigh up the wall by staying with her the whole time, supporting her and staying close to bolster her confidence.
Feeling accomplished (and relieved) at the top of the Barranco Wall
Ultimately, Leigh and Tommy passed the Barranco Wall and felt a sense of accomplishment–and realized the trip was creating a deeper bond between them.
“What I like about adventure travel is that it allows me to put myself in situations where I need to challenge myself,” Leigh said. “This trip brought us closer. We were able to do something very hard together.”
And the Ring?
The thought of carrying a precious stone on Kili is enough to get anyone’s hearts pumping. Tommy devised a smart strategy to keep it secure.
“In my daypack was an interior small pocket with a zipper,” Tommy said. “I put the ring in there and tied this ribbon to it, then tied that ribbon to the zipper. The ring was double-tied down. I think I checked every day just to make sure it was there.”
5 Tips for Proposing on Kili
Leigh and Tommy woke at 4 a.m. on summit day. They spent seven hours hiking to the summit–much of it in the dark–before finally reaching Uhuru Peak. Exhausted and bone-weary, they snapped photos with their group, took in the sights and celebrated their success in this incredible endeavor.
And then, Tommy got on one knee.
“Tommy got up there and I kept thinking, ‘Oh God, don’t drop the ring in the rocks!” Leigh said. “At the end, when he does ask me to marry him, on one knee, in front of the sign, of course I said yes.”
As Tommy asked Leigh to marry him, their guides and porters sang the Tanzanian wedding song in Swahili. Leigh took photos with a cardboard sign that said, “I said yes!”
“I had very high expectations,” Leigh said. “I felt like everything came together perfectly.”
The trek may have ended, but their engagement had just begun! After descending, Leigh and Tommy extended their trip to Zanzibar for some well-earned rest and relaxation.
“Coming off of Kili newly engaged, after being dirty for nine days, it was such a lovely way to celebrate,” Leigh said.
Kayaking off the Zanzibar coast
What’s next for Leigh and Tommy?
“We are eloping to the Canadian Rockies in June,” Leigh said. “We’re going to get married on a mountain pass. Then we’re honeymooning in October in Nepal, trekking the Himalayas.”
Talk about an itinerary! Congratulations to Tommy and Leigh. We are so incredibly happy for you both and excited to have been a part of your engagement!