11 February 2012

CW Climbs Kili: Day 10A (Summit! to Barafu)

Note: check out my Kilimanjaro page to read about the entire trip.

Note: This is the second post written by my climbing partner and friend Chris. You've met him in all of the previous Kilimanjaro posts, and I asked him to write about his summit night. Even though we summited on the same route at the same time, he had a very different experience which I think is important to share. I have made no edits (besides adding pictures). 

DAY 10A / 23 JANUARY 2012 / MONDAY

START: Uhuru Peak of Mount Kilimanjaro (5895m or 19341') 
END: Barafu Camp (4700m or 15400')

After losing my second contact it's only another few minutes until we are back at Stella Point. On the way we pass one or two more groups on their way to Uhuru. I'm feeling cheerful enough to shout encouragement to them, letting them know that they're almost there and they've basically made it! 

At Stella we take another picture break. Some Americans are there and take some pictures for us. Once we're done we start the steep decent the way we came. We are passing more and more groups now and we are urging each of them on as they make their way to the top. I'm feeling extra proud of us knowing we were the FIRST ones up the mountain that day. The toll that our faster than normal pace has taken on me feels (only a little) like it was worth it.
Sunrise on Kilimanjaro, after we summited and re-passed Stella Point.
It may be the altitude, but the people we are passing look like half man and half machine. They are moving so so slowly. Their faces are all covered with ski masks and goggles. Their covered hands are all gripping trekking poles. I mention this to Emily, but the scene doesn't have the same effect on her, giving me the thought that my oxygen deprived brain was playing some tricks on me.

At some point (I'm really not sure when) we stop seeing any more groups. Again, given my dizzy state it takes me a while to realize that we are not on the same trail that we took up the mountain. I also realize that we are not so much walking as SKIING! The path that Mareme (who is leading now) has taken us on is essentially just an extremely ashy and sandy slope. We are basically letting one foot slide in the sand then switching as it get's more and more buried. Every so often one foot will catch a rock and I'll fall backward. But falling backwards is not bad as the slope is so steep that one easily sits down and gets right back up.
Godlisten with my pack, and Mareme on the scree field at sunrise.
We are making excellent time, but the wind at our backs is making things twice as hard as they would be otherwise. My legs soon start to ache and let's not forget that I STILL haven't had any food or water for hours. The only thing that I can see ahead of us is more and more ash. The "path" does not seem to end anywhere in sight. I'm starting to get more and more frustrated. I want a landmark or something that will tell me where they heck we are and how far we have to go. I start to ask Mareme where the camp is. He kind of points into the distance and says, "Over there. Can you see?" 


I don't want to explain about my contact lenses so I kind of just smile and nod although I'm sure I didn't look as friendly as I think I do.
Instead of descending on the trail between Stella Point and Barafu Camp, we skied down "South East Valley" and then caught the connector trail (dashed line) back to Barafu.
We finally reach a flat part and Mareme points out that we're almost to the place where we finished our acclimatization hike yesterday afternoon. Finally a point of reference for me! Now knowing how far we have to go puts me in a much better mood. It feels like no time until we are again walking through the cliffs of the camp back to our tent. The wind looks like it has taken a toll on many of the taller dining tents around. None have blown away, but many are severely dilapidated. 

When we arrive back at our camp I am too tired to even feel happy. I need to climb into that tent NOW and get some sleep. I'm asleep within maybe 5 minutes after having one bit of cookie and some juice. I sleep for an hour and wake up feeling refreshed, but my headache is not gone yet. I get yelled at by not only Emily but also Mchame to finish eating the snacks and have some juice and water.

Back in Barafu, our tent is still standing. Good work, Kitao!
Every sip of water seems to make me come back to life. The wind is still whipping which is annoying, but it doesn't seem half as bad as a few hours ago. It maybe that we're surrounded by rocks, but also it's because my mood has returned to normal. The sun is out and we pack up to descend to 10,000 feet which to me feels like we're going back to sea level. 

It may not have gone perfectly smoothly, but we did it and I'm feeling great as we hit the road once again.
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