Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mt. Kilimanjaro - part 3

Frosty ground at Barranco Camp the morning of day four

The fourth day of our trek started off frosty, with a coating of white on the ground and our tent.
Our walk for the day began with the dreaded Barranco Wall. This is a fairly steep climb up a rocky bluff, which involves a fair bit of scrambling (especially for short legs like mine).
The top of the Barranco Wall

Thanks to the altitude it was more tiring than it should have been. It took us two hours to reach the top. However, I really felt for the porters who were scaling the same bluff, but carrying heavy loads on their backs, or heads, or both!

The top of the wall got us up to around 4,200m, which was our high spot for the day. But it was by no means the end of our climbing. The rest of the day's trek involved lots of up and down, some of it quite steep. However, since we didn't climb too high I managed to get through the day without a headache or nausea - so that was a bonus.

On day five we were off to Barufo Camp, which sits at around 4,600m. This is the launching point for the summit, so the excitement was starting to grow.
Cairn marking the way to Barufo Camp, summit in the distance.

We got there by early afternoon, and found to our surprise that there were folks up there selling t-shirts, sodas, chocolate bars, and even beer! All for greatly inflated prices of course - after all they had to drag the stuff up to 4,600m.

The campsite was long and narrow, and on a fairly sloping ridge. We camped at the far end, which was fine with me as it meant less walking later on, when we started for the summit.

After lunch we were sent off to nap in our tents for a few hours. Then we woke at 5pm for an early dinner, then more napping. It was freezing cold at this altitude, so there wasn't much sleep to be had. And of course we were getting anxious about the summit attempt.

Sunset from Barufo Camp, summit of Mt Meru in the distance

We got up at 11pm for tea and cookies, then put on all our layers to head up. I was wearing a silkweight shirt, a thermal shirt, two merino layers, a fleece, and my rain jacket on top. On the bottom I wore thermals, hiking pants and rain pants. I also had a warm hat and fleece gloves. We set off at midnight.

It was the day after the full moon, so although we had our headlamps with us we didn't really need them. It was preferable to climb in the moonlight, so we could see beyond the few feet in front of us.

It was a steep, rocky start, which meant I had to scramble up onto the rocks quite a bit. This left me winded at altitude after the first half hour. Our guide insisted on carrying my pack after that. He and the assistant guide were not carrying anything - not even water! This didn't seem terribly bright to me, but it does give them the ability to carry our crap when we can't any more.

We continued up, feeling exhausted, nauseated and cold. The rocks changed to ash and scree. The steep angle never really changed. G was not looking well, and I was concerned that he might push himself too far, not wanting to quit if I was still going. Eventually he handed over his pack to one of the guides too.

We tried to drink our water, although a couple of sips now and then was all I could manage. Our pockets were stuffed with snacks, but we felt to awful to eat. I think I had 3 dried apricots on the entire climb. Eventually, all I could think about was sitting down to rest. Somehow I convinced myself to keep shuffling upwards.

Around 5:45am we reached Stella Point, which is the end of the steep climb. From there it is almost flat to Uhuru Point, which is the summit. There is only a 100m vertical difference between the two. Along the way you pass the top of a glacier, and you can feel the icy wind blowing off it. Very pretty - but I wasn't stopping to get my camera out!

We got to the summit at around 6:25, just after sunrise. The sign at the summit was the congregation point as climbers posed for the obligatory picture there. Around 20 others were on top when we arrived.

The obligatory summit photo

We posed for our summit photo, and it was absolutely freezing up there! I was glad to have made it, but not particularly interested in lingering up there. Down seemed like a great way to go!


Rick McCharles said...


Kili is still on MY list to do.

What was the cost for the 7 days on the mountain?

Maple Kiwi said...

Cost varies greatly depending on the company you use, and how much "luxury" you want.

Our trip was combined with the 5-day safari we did afterwards, but just the 7-day Kili trek is a little over US$1600 plus tips through Zara. This includes guides, porters, food, cook, tent, etc.

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