My phone alarm woke me at 1130pm giving me time to get sorted for the midnight start (I took another of Tronel’s Imodium). It was pitch black, no light at all, and William was right, it was cold! -15 Celsius! I couldn’t wait to start moving to warm up. Other groups had already set off, noticeable by the line of torches, snaking up the mountain.
Armed with only our headtorches we began our ascent. It was very hard work and laborious. The path consisted of frozen scree, which is the reason for starting so early. With the ground frozen it made the footing more secure and easier to traverse. I had my head down concentrating on my foot placement, maintaining a constant pace and controlling my breathing.
Hours later, climbing the devilish zig-zag path, at dawn I reached ‘Stella Point’, one of the principal peaks of Kilimanjaro. The hard work had been done. From here, the route follows the rim of the volcanic crater to ‘Uhuru Peak’, the summit.
I could only walk a few paces before getting short of breath, the wind was bitterly cold sapping my energy. I was getting frustrated at my seemingly slow progress and at one point I had lost my patience and exasperating out loud, “Enough!” I picked up the pace to get it over with, only to cover a pitiful 10m before almost keeling over gasping for air, much to the amusement of Jeremy.
The landscape appeared so barren, alien and inhospitable. I was in awe with the view and experience. I persevered making it to ‘Uhuru Peak’ arriving at 8am. I made it to the roof of Africa!!!
I was one of the first from the group to reach the summit and I waited for the rest to join me. There was a queue at the summit with other groups taking pictures. We all waited patiently for our turn before assembling below the sign, that’s when I noticed there was one missing. Harry hadn’t made it.
Once we had the group photo, I wanted one of just me and the sign. However, at this point there was an inconsiderate and impatient climber who made a snide comment at me. Scowling at me, she said to me “Come on, there are other people wanting pictures!”.
This angered me; we had all waited patiently for others to get their pictures, and it was our turn. The summit wasn’t going anywhere! She could have just chilled out for a bit and savor the moment, and after all it was a great experience, and certainly wasn’t exclusive to her; but instead she decided to throw a bad comment at me. I couldn’t believe how antagonizing and selfish she was; I hoped she would step on Lego when she returned home! Because of her whining at me, I wasn’t concentrating on the person taking the picture, thus I was unable to direct him on how I wanted the image. The result was a composition I wasn’t fully happy with.
The descent back to camp was just as difficult but in a different way; the scree that was frozen only hours ago, had now thawed. Every foot placement slid a few inches down making it a challenging balancing act. I had a few moments resembling Bambi’s first steps and almost ending up on my back! The dust was something else, I was covered in it from head to toe; when I took a drink from my water pipe, it was like taking a mouth full of sand.
It was in my eyes and nose, bypassing my snood. I reached the camp to be greeted by my porter Moses, who cheered and congratulated me. His big beaming smile was a welcoming sight after the unrelenting summit of the tallest free standing mountain in the world.
I relaxed in my tent to update my journal before heading out to find Harry to see if he was ok. I found him with a sullen face, clearly disappointed for not reaching the roof of Africa. Turns out just before ‘Stella Point’, he was struggling to breathe, his head was pounding and feeling dizzy. After informing William, it was decided he needed to descend back to camp.
I sat with him for a while just chatting until Jeremy returned and I passed the baton to him. Soon it was time for lunch, however my stomach wasn’t up to much and I only had an appetite for a less than half of my bread roll and soup.
Shortly after midday we began our descent to Mweka Hut where we would be spending our last night camping on Kilimanjaro. It was exhausting work as by this point, we had been walking the better part of 17 hours. There was no respite from the dust and my left eye was irritating something fierce due to it.
The dusty alpine clime eventually gave way to jungle as we approached camp at 3100m. My tent never had been so welcoming on this entire trip. I soon fell asleep with a smile on my face. One of the 7 conquered!
One thought on “Kili Day 5 – 16th September 2010”
This is a great article that highlights the hardships and rewards of the Kilimanjaro climb. The author describes the climb in great detail, providing a unique perspective on the experience.