Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Africa blog part 2: Kilimanjaro Climb -- Day 5

Day 5: Karanga Valley to Barafu Hut (4,600m)

Hike time: 3.5 hrs, Elevation change: 600 M
Estimated distance: 4km, Final elevation: 4600 M

Today involves gaining a little more elevation, acclimatizing and resting for the summit attempt the next morning. This day will take us 4 to 6 hrs of walking.

Me and Sean at Karanga campsite, in front of Uhuru Peak

We started off as usual, waking up to see a cloudless Uhuru Peak on one side towering above us, but not looking as menacing as it did before, Mt. Meru on the other side, breakfast, then packing up.

According to the description for this day, I thought it did not seem too horrible. We were not gaining too much elevation in comparison to what we had gained previously. Doable. And as always, with the estimates...damn, I'm slow...

I went straight to the back of the pack, where my place was. We ascended from camp on rocky terrain, once again. It was such a sunny day that it did not remind me of the other rocky terrains we encountered on other days. The rocks, everywhere, small, medium, large, boulders with a walking path worn down amongst the rock landscape. Freddy, in his bright neon pink/orange jacket, led the group..and we hiked in single file, one by one. The group started to separate pretty quickly..the fast ones, and the pole pole. Sean took his place in the medium-fast group, while I stayed back with the pole pole group.

Our gang, led by Freddy, hiking one by one

Soon enough, the clouds started rolling in. They swept up the mountain across us, and up to Uhuru, where the clouds swirled around magically. We grouped up and took a break for a little bit. The girls found a huge boulder to squat behind for a bathroom break. Then we continued on. We ascended to a high point -- you could see the trail continuing on in front of you through a low, flattish spot for quite a distance. The trail, a line, surrounded by rocks everywhere. The result of the previously pyroclastic nature of Kilimanjaro when it was volcanic.

The scenary doesn't change that much

The fast group was way ahead of the pole pole group. I hung out with Daisy and hiked the rest of the way with her and Godlisten. We descended to the flattish area for quite a while. The trail was nice, a worn away footpath. There was not much cover if you had to go to the bathroom, though. We found a few boulders to take a resting stop at. None big enough to be fully concealed from the path for a squat break. But well, it had to be done, so a few porters saw my brown ass. That's okay. By this point, a lot of the modesty had dissipated.

The trail became rockier. The rocks, broken fragments of what looks like exfoliated rock -- in sheet form. It was great hiking with Daisy. We kept each other company, talking, and listening to the clanking of the sheet like loose rocks as we hit our trekking poles on them as we hiked. Sometimes it was hard to hear because of the winds, the clouds rushing by us to be swept higher.

The rocks that made the clanking noise

The rockiness of the trail cleared a bit back to the worn footpath. And kept going...

The trail

We could see the fast group, as indicated by Freddy's neon jacket, way ahead of us and uphill. They were taking a break. Daisy and I took short breaks, and took it easy. Enjoyed it. We were after all, at some 15,000 feet in elevation. We had already gone higher than Mt. Elbert, the tallest mountain in the Colorado Rockies. Something I never imagined would happen.

The fast group resting (taken by Sean)

The fast group continued on, as did we. They were long gone. We could look up and see huts. Camp??? It didn't look too far. Distance, as we knew, was deceiving (the valley separating us from the Karanga Camp!). We trucked on, talked, panted, panted more, laughed, smiled, panted more. Then it was time to ascend. The path grew rockier again. We clanked our poles against the rocks and made music. Every rock made a different noise. We crossed a part that involved some scrambling as well.

The fast group resting again(taken by Sean)

The path grew steeper and rockier. Every step at this altitude grew more tedious, my feet grew heavier. We had to ascend quite a bit to even get to those things that looked like huts.

Looking back at the low trail from a higher point

And then damn..where the hell do we go? Where is the path? Godlisten had to direct us the right way. The path became very steep, rocky. All we knew is that we had to go up...and it was not easy...

We finally saw tents. They were not ours. Where were our tents? No one knew. It was me, Daisy, Godlisten. He kept on hiking higher and higher, and we followed, tired, fatigued. We were in the high alpine desert - extremely dry. At one rocky steep stepping point near the first tents we saw, it reaked of old urine. Not as bad as a smell as the long drops. But a stench nevertheless. Godlisten hiked on, we followed, wondering where the hell our camp was.

Mawenzi in the distance

In the distance, we saw a beautiful jagged peak -- Mawenzi. We passed by a really fancy longdrop. And finally, our campsite! Now...finding the partners in crime was one thing. The campsite was extremely rocky, the chances of stumbling were..well..pretty high. I had no idea where Sean was. And in a campsite of 27 hikers...that's a lot of tents...I went uphill..nope...finally, someone directed me downhill..all the way downhill by a valley and a cliff ledge.

Fancy longdrop with Uhuru Peak as the backdrop

The sun was so strong here. The clouds sporadic. The winds, very strong. The tent acted like a dry sauna because of the sun. I stripped off all of my clothes down to a tank top and lightweight long johns. It was hot. Damn hot. And windy like hell.

We had lunch uphill at in the meal tents. We also had briefings. Donovan had the approval for a slow group to start the summit hike at 11pm. The fast group would start at midnight. Even talking about this made me nervous. Wow, I'm actually doing this. I told myself that I would be happy to get to 17,000 ft, knowing how my body reacts to altitude...and if I do fine beyond that, I'll push for the summit. But if I didn't make it, I wouldn't be upset. Some things just can't be prevented. But I was going to give it my all...

After lunch, we retreated to our tents to take a nap till dinner time, which was a few hours later. Our tent was sweltering and it was extremely windy out, so I had a hard time napping. I got a few winks.

Then dinner time came around sooner than I thought. I tried to eat as much as I could, but it was difficult. The higher in elevation you go, the less your appetite is. Plus, I was nervous, had a lot of thoughts on my mind. Not everyone made it to dinner. A few people chose to sleep through it. Dinnertime was over. We retired to our tents once again for a few hour catnap for before the summit push. Again, I tossed and turned on my Thermarest. I did get a few winks and had a dream that no one woke me up for the summit push...


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