but has anyone been up Kilimanjaro?
Day 5: ascent to Mawenzi Tarn
Woken as we were every day with a cup of 'bed tea' brought to our tent - actually a plastic beaker of sweet Kili coffee as described above. Then a bowl of water to 'wash', then into the breakfast tent whilst our own tents were swiftly dismantled by the porters.
Breakfast was always a bowl of hot porridge - a rather watery affair made from ?wheat or maize and made palatable with a big gloop of Tanzanian honey. This was accompanied by toast or bread with blue band margarine/ honey/ jam/ peanut butter, and then followed by bacon and eggs and usually fresh fruit...again totally exceeding my expectations every time.
We then set off up the increasingly rocky and sparsely covered side of the mountain - through an area damaged by a serious forest fire a few months ago. Probably set off just a bit too fast as I felt just a bit too out of breath and later started to feel waves of nausea.
We reached out third camp at Mavenzi tarn 4330m by lunchtime feeling pretty ropey with a hint of headache by now. Very inmpressive campsite in a little sheltered area at the foot of the towering Mawenzi peak beside a small 'lake'
Felt even worse after lunch and a rest, but perked up after an acclimatisation walk to 4550m to a ridge where we go an incredible view across the barren plains of the saddle separating mawenzi and Kibo.
Temperatures that night were utterly freezing - I slept in my thermals, padded trousers, 2 fleeces, wooley hat and polar sleeping bag drawn tight around my face - and I was still cold!
Day 6: crossing the saddle
Very short (5km) walk from Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo huts - now at a snail's pace - it took nearly 5 hours I think including rests. Arrived early afternoon feeling strangely exhausted for such a pitifully short walk. By now had quite a bad headache - aspirin from the guides had shifted it the night before but didn't seem to be doing the trick anymore.
The 4th camp at Kibo huts 4700m, lies just at the foot of the crater and is the case from which the final ascent is made.
Spent the rest of the day attempting to stomach lunch and dinner, and resting in between.
After an early dinner we were briefed about the night ahead and then went to our tents supposedly to get some rest, but in fact I just lay wide awake worrying about the final ascent to the summit. I had on all of my clothes that I planned to walk in inside my sleeping bag in an attempt to stay warm - once I get cold i struggle to warm up again.
Day 7: final ascent
Woken up at 11:10pm to get ready, have a final cup of sweet tea, ginger biscuits to settle the nausea, aspirin and paracetamol for the lingering headache.
Water bottles filled with warm water and wrapped in socks to prevent freezing (the usual platypus bladder was no good as any water in the tubing just froze)
Finally set off at about 0045h - it was supposed to be midnight, but Tanzanians don't really do punctuality!
Walked painfully slowly, one foot after another, like a row of Michelin men and women, with our head torches on, weaving in a zig-zagging snake up the side of the crater. We knew the journey would take at least 5 hours of painstaking plodding - in fact I think we took 5 and a half in the end.
We were told that we would only take a small number of five minute breaks to avoid getting too cold....I think we only had 3 in the end at 1/4, 1/2 way and 3/4-way up - those 'breaks' couldn't come fast enough!!
I think those 5 and a half hours were (physically) the hardest of my entire life - not because it was a hard climb - at sea level it would have been a doddle - but purely because of the altitude. I felt increasingly nauseated and had a worse and worse headache. I recall seriously questioning why on earth people paid such huge sums of money to put themselves through this torture...this was far harder mentally and physically than any marathon i'd done!
I do remember having a little mental 'lift' at the half way point - 5151m - set in alittle cave from where we got an utterly incredible view across to Mawenzi peak, however..
by the time we got to the 3/4 of the way up 'break' I was wondering if I could actually carry on and was very close to tears! That was shortly before I had 2 impressive vomits - pebbledashing the side of the mountain in bile and iodised water.
Felt a lot better after vomiting - and after the anti-sickness meds they gave me - and soon we were at the top. Gilman's Point on the crater rim - 5681m. I think we were supposed to see the sunrise from there - but I actually don't remember it at all. it was dark during the climb and daylight at the top - I don't recall any transition at all. I was still alive and for that i felt strangely thankful! The view was not at all what I expected - the crater was vast and totally filled with snow...there were huge glaciers and this little wooden sign perched there saying Gilman's Point...quite surreal actually!
At this stage we had to make a decision as to whether we wanted to proceed to Uhuru Peak - the highest point on the actual crater rim - a 3 hour round trip from Gilman's Point. 2 of our group were keen, and feeling very revived i decided i would join them. The other 3 descended the mountain at this point - one was showing clear signs of pulmonary oedema (and was given no option of continuing) and the other 2 had both been vomiting too!
After a cup of hot tea that one of our guides miraculously produced, and after rest I felt a whole lot better. At that stage we had to
Day 7: Uhuru Peak
The walk to uhuru was ever so much easier than that up to the crater rim....not a lot of ascent, and we completed it relatively quickly - walking past an astonishing array of vast glacirs and ice fields, pecariously close at times to the crater edge.
Arrived finally at Uhuru Peak - 5895m - the highest point in Africa at 0750h 26/01/08.
The weather was closing in in a somewhat worrying manner with clouds, snow, and worsening visibility, plus the snow was starting to melt and become slippy in the day light - despite the temperature being -20!!
Spent only minutes there - photographed Jackson my guide by the sign, didn't get one of myself stupidly, and then turned and sped back towards Gilman's point. By now starting to feel very exhausted and worrying if i'd manage the walk back down. Jackson pointed out the Kibo huts below - just dots, way way down in the distance - it looked impossiby far away - but there was no option but to keep going!
We clambered gingerly over some pretty slippy rocks and ice and reached a huge area of scree - which we basically 'ski-ed' down with our feet - and ran quite a bit too...my first run for a week!
Very hot by the time we descended - I was still wearing layers and layers of clothes, and stupidly wore no sunscreen - only my face was exposed - but boy did I get burned (despite your advice to wear factor 50 - very stupid). My face later fell off as a crispy fried face-shaped shell...
Got to Kibo huts, exhausted at 9:40....collapsed unconscious in my tent, head pounding and heart racing for 40 minutes - before being woken up for food - didn't think I could stomach it, but felt a whole lot better after some soup and something akin to fried bread!
No rest for the wicked - we then had to pack up our gear and set off immediately on a 3 hour walk to camp 5 at Horombo 3720m. Head still pounding and feeling a bit sick, but a lot better than earlier. It was a pretty easy and quick downhill walk, passing people coming up in the opposite direction. Once at the camp - we were all desperate to sleep but were prevented to by repeated calls to get up - tea, wash, dinner...
Finally settled in our tents by about 7pm, knackered, but actually starting to feel well again - my headache had GONE.
Slept like a baby for over 10 hours before being woken at 6 with bed-tea.
Day 8: final day
Early breakfast was followed by the opportunity to thank our wonderful porters and guides for their incredibly hardwork and to give them their tips - which they all deserved every penny of.
The final day I felt SO much better - positively euphoric as we descended! I guess that's the point at which I started to appreciate what we'd done and feel satisfied!
The walk was 5 or 6 hours but downhill and easy - legs felt surprisingly fresh - the vegetation was fantastic - evolving in reverse order through moorland, alpine and then very tropical rain forest. Bit of heavy rain descended in the early part of the day, but it was warm and good. Stopped for a picnic lunch at Mandara huts 2700m, then continued, arriving at the Marangu national park gate 1830m by about 1:30.
Signed ourselves out, received our respective certificates and then a short drive back to the hotel for a very much needed shower - it was awsomely good - and then a few Kilimanjaro beers, plus a belated birthday party for myself and 2 of the others who'd also had birthdays on the mountain.
It was a tremendously good feeling to smuggly sit there enjoying the memories of our trip. We were joined by our cook and head guide for beers which was nice, and we got to thank them again - they really were fantastic and looked after us SO well.
So, that was that...
The next day we got a morning flight to Zanzibar for a bit of R&R - it was nice - relaxing, good food etc but possible a little too short to really get into, and not the true focus of the trip for me. Managed one run along the beautiful beach outside the hotel - joined 2 Italian tourists training for a triathlon, which was fun. Spent the last day in Stonetown for a bit of shopping and more chilling out before the long journey home...
One of the most satisfying moments of all came during the flight from Zanzibar to Nairobi when we actually flew right beside Mawenzi and Kibo - and we were level with the crater rim in the plane! We had a fantastic view of it - and it really looked monstrous rising up from the ground that we could barely see - I couldn't quite believe we'd actually been there on that summit - it was too huge to get my head around!
So....finally - as I wallow in satisfaction, i'd just like to say thankyou to you all for your advice and stories - which helped me no end. (yes, I should have listened better to the sunblock advice). Hopefully also some of you may get around to reading some of this and remember your own journeys again...
I will read through all this properly tomorrow.
K9 - absolutely awesome!! A fantastic adventure.
Thanks Iron Snorks and NZC
Hello Big Dave - hope you are well.
I am not too sure on the well question at the moment.At least the days are getting longer.
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