The clouds and mist had dispersed during the night and when I emerged from the tent, I realised we had camped at the base of the ‘Barranco Wall’. It was a nice surprise yet daunting to see that I had to climb this almost shear rock face. It did look menacing.
I woke with a bit of wind, but this was alleviated with a stop to the long drop. After a bowl of porridge, we began our ascent of this lava rock fortress. The ascent is 300m to the top and calling it steep was an understatement.
It was tricky to climb, I had to ensure my hand grip was secure and my foot hold was strong to propel myself up the rock face; it was slightly beyond scrambling but not full-on rock climbing. It was challenge but so much fun, I was having the time of my life! Once I reached the top, I was ecstatic, I felt good and strong. The summit would be no problem!
The views were amazing, and it was here I got the ‘picture of the adventure’. With the help of Graham, I posed on top of the wall looking out over the clouds at Mt. Meru. I know it is a little egotistical, but I got this picture printed out onto an Aluminium sheet and it is currently hanging in my Kitchen, I’ve never looked more like an adventurer in this picture, than ever in my life!
After a short break on the wall, we continued to Karanga Hut (4100m) where we stopped for lunch. It was the most surreal lunch I have ever had to date. The porters had laid out the tables, again complete with tablecloths, outdoors with the views above the clouds.
We were served chicken and chips, very civilised; it couldn’t have been more British even if they erected the Union Jack! I couldn’t believe it, I was dining at 4100m, way above the cloud level. There were smiles and disbelief over everyone’s faces as we tucked into our food.
What was even more surreal, was I turned on my mobile phone and it pinged with messages. I had signal!!!! I couldn’t resist but had to share the moment and I phoned my dad. How unreal, I was able to speak to home 4100m above sea-level, eating Chicken and Chips at a dining table on the side of Kilimanjaro! (For those fiscal natured readers, I had an international roam deal with my phone company, so the call cost me no more than a £2 – I know, amazing for 2010!)
I sent my love home before heading on towards our next camp at ‘Barafu Hut’. The clouds started to come in and envelope us, dropping the temperature. My stomach started to rumble, and I again had wind, to the point it was becoming very uncomfortable.
We all stopped for a water break and my guts were screaming. I threw down my bag, grabbed my toilet roll and raced to the nearest rock (there are no convenient bushes at this height). I ducked behind it knowing I’m out of view from my group. I drop my kegs down to my ankles and leaning against the rock, I offloaded the package to much relief.
It was at this point I look up to find the path I had just ascended snaked below, where another group was making their way up. I was mortified! But, when you got to go, you got to go! It was some comfort that, I was probably too far for the group below to be able to identify me, and if they did, it’s highly improbable I would meet them ever gain once I returned home.
Yeah, I had gone from one of my life’s highest points to its lowest in a space of 2-3 hours! Nether the less, it is a funny story to tell years later!
I sheepishly returned to the group who had waited for me, to continue our journey. I was feeling awful now, I had become lightheaded, and I was getting motion sickness concentrating on the ground and the feet of the person in front of me, as we progressed in single file.
It was a long hard, slog to Barafu Hut (4600m), which by the time I reached it, my headache had returned. In the ‘Mess Tent’ for dinner, I didn’t have an appetite. I had a ‘Dehli Belly’, I cursed myself of forgetting the hand santiser. I was so religious with it on my Himalayan Adventure, it prevented me getting the stomach bug that did the rounds.
Luckily Tronel is a pharmacist, so I asked if she had anything that could help. She gave a blister pack of pharmacy grade Imodium, telling me to take two now then one after every movement. Tonight, we would begin the summit, and I didn’t want to have to deal with having to finding a convenient rock, so I took 3!
William gave us a brief for the summit, and he meticulously got everyone to list their kit and advised us what to take and wear. He stated that the temperatures would be the coldest we’ve experienced so far and stressed the importance of keeping warm. Basically, we had to wear everything we brought with us, even down jackets. Having experienced the Himalayas, I stuck to the three-layer system I had employed and packed the down jacket in my rucksack.
We returned to our tents to try and get some sleep, but it was only a few hours before we would begin our ascent at midnight!