Conquering Day 1 of Kilimanjaro climb

Editor's note: ESPN football analyst Tedy Bruschi will chronicle his climb up the 19,000-foot Mount Kilimanjaro (May 13-19) for ESPNBoston.com. Bruschi, former Titans coach Jeff Fisher, former Eagles tight end Chad Lewis and four injured military service members are climbing the mountain to raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project. You can follow the progress of the group on the Wounded Warrior Project site.

TANZANIA, Africa -- The team met for breakfast in the hotel at about 8-8:30 a.m. and then we took a two-hour drive to Mount Kilimanjaro. Being on the bus fired me up because the Wounded Warriors are treating the climb like a mission. It's an undeniable courage that fires me up. It's great.

I didn't realize how daunting this task would be until I finally saw Mount Kilimanjaro for the first time from the window of the bus.

They said it was out there, but I couldn't see it at first. I was looking to the cloud line. I tilted my head and looked above the cloud line, and there is was: the peak.

It was past the first row of clouds, above that, and under a second row of clouds. I literally asked myself, "Is that heaven?" It was so high.

I was awestruck. I've never seen anything like that. I spoke out loud and said, "This is a moment I'll never forget the rest of my life, the first time I saw Kilimanjaro."

Everyone agreed.

I liked hearing the Wounded Warriors talk about "kicking a**" on the mountain. It reminded me of who we are with: men and women who take on any challenge with undeniable courage.

We arrived at the Machame gate. It was rainforest terrain, a gradual climb with some difficult inclines. We were hiking for about 4 to 5 hours when the rain came. Everyone put on their rain gear and continued on.

Walking by us all the time were porters who were carrying heavy bags on their heads. Our guys used a term -- "emara cam simba," which means "strong like a lion." So when I saw these very good climbers, I'd say, "emara cam simba."

By 6 p.m., we signed in. It was official that we all successfully made the first part of our climb.
We all sat down for dinner -- zucchini soup, pasta, potatoes and vegetable stew. The Wounded Warriors shared war stories and we did our best to contribute with our stories from the gridiron.

Tedy Bruschi played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots and is a member of the franchise's 50th-anniversary team.