02 February 2012

EK Climbs Kili: Day 6 (Mti Mkubwa to Shira II)

Note: click on the "kilimanjaro" label to read about the entire trip.


START: Mti Mkubwa Camp (2900m or 9500')
VIA: Shira I Camp (3500m or 11500')
END: Shira II Camp (3800m or 12500')

I wake up only a few minutes before Mchami's first "hello" at 6.50a. He has water for washing so I throw on an extra fleece and go outside to clean up and eat breakfast. Godlisten and Mareme join us at the ground cloth for hot drink, toast with peanut butter and jelly, and oatmeal. We talk a little bit about today's route, and Godlisten recommends that Chris and I each bring 4-5L of drinking water. I finish eating my oatmeal (called "oats porridge" by Mchami and looks like steelcut oats, yummmmm) and start to get up and pack my things, but Godlisten informs me that there is another breakfast course on its way. Indeed, soon Mchami brings over a platter with 4 small omelets (no cheese or veg, just egg), 4 sausages (that look like hot dogs), and a bunch of sliced cucumber and tomato. Even though I'm a little full already, I eat some more to get a little protein in my belly.

Mareme and me, soon after leaving Mti Mkubwa camp. One of my fav pics from the trip.
 We give our water bottles to Mchami to fill and he brings them back with cold, delicious-tasting water. (It is standard practice on the mountain for the cook to boil water at night for the tourists, and then it sits out to cool down so in the morning we don't have to worry about foreign "stuff" in the water making us sick. The guides and porters are all used to Kilimanjaro water so they just fill up their bottles directly from streams on our route.) It takes a few extra minutes to get everything together but we are able to hike out of Mti Mkubwa at 8.30a with Godlisten and Mareme. The trail is similar to yesterday: dirt, undulating with some very steep sections, but still bordered by tall green trees. Early in the hike, we cross one of the streams commonly used as a water supply and take a few pictures while Mareme fills his bottles.

Me and Chris, near a stream, on Kilimanjaro!
The rest of the morning is spent gaining and descending small ridges as we make our way up and over Shira Ridge, which is the only remainder of the Shira Volcano which collapsed on itself 500,000 years ago. Often we top out on a sub-ridge, only to see porters ahead of us on the next sub-ridge over, cruising along with their big loads. We finally gain the main Shira Ridge about 11.30am and I stop to pee and take this video:

After that stop, we regroup at a small boulder field where I pass out an entire bag of Reese’s peanut butter bells to whatever porters and tourists happen to be around. Chocolate needs no translation! We decide to hike about 30 minutes more and then stop for our lunch break. Peter has made a delicious assortment and each of our bags contains a cooked chicken leg, hard boiled eff, roll with butter, cheese triangle, potato chips, small banana, peanuts, pound-cake muffin, a piece of orange, and a mango juice box. What a spread! And the view isn't bad either. I eat everything except the peanuts, juice box, muffin, and orange, which I stash in my pockets for later.

Post-lunch glamour shot with the mountain.
 Now we descend into the Shira Crater where the vegetation has shrunk. Now everything is shorter than 2m and boulders of various sizes start to appear. We pass through Shira I Camp (3500m or 11500') about 2p, which makes me glad that Godlisten re-arranged our itinerary since this would have been the original stopping point. Instead, we have a few more hours of hiking before we reach Shira II Camp (3800m or 12500').

Along the way we cross a dirt road (don’t worry, I looked both ways before proceeding) which is used only by the Park Rangers for medical evacuations. This is a theme during our trip - it seems every camp has one or two routes for evacuations - either a helipad or a special access road. Each hut is armed with a crazy mountain stretcher that is part wheelbarrow, part stretcher, part mountain bike fork. The Park has taken a lot of time and effort to make sure their tourists are safe. Thankfully, we didn't need to test any of their plans.

Chris gets his turn with the mountain after lunch.
 About 30 minutes after crossing the road, the four of us take one last mini-break before the final push into Shira II camp. I am feeling the general fatigue induced by a 6 hour hike (at altitude nonetheless!) but Godlisten’s pole-pole pace has served us well. Having crossed the entirety of the Shira Crater, we are able to see the Ranger Hut at Shira II on the ridgeline. We are quiet for the remaining hike into Shira II and I take time to soak in the silence. The thick, straight-to-your-heart silence that comes only when the nearest car is hours away, and plants are the only things absorbing footfalls.

Take a moment of zen to gaze at this picture and contemplate silence. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Godlisten breaks the silence by singing parts of the Hallelujah chorus and I join in too. It’s appropriate because we are all standing anyway, and a good way to pass those last few meters into camp. We sign in about 4p and then find the tents which are all set up, with our bags inside! I change quickly and then go use the bathroom.
After the trip we took an informal poll (2 voters, me and Chris). Shira II bathrooms won hands-down for best toilets on the mountain. There were men’s/women’s sides, tile glass block interiors, certain stalls had actual seats, and those things were CLEAN!
I also take a video showing a brief tour of camp and you can meet Mchami! He is waiting for Chris to finish changing so he can use the wash water in the green bowl.


We have a quick snack after washing which is hot drink, popcorn, and shortbread cookies. We eat outside. The clouds clear out and BAM. There is the summit. It is tall. TALL. I am intimidated.

View of the summit from Shira II. Dang.

Dinner in the tent, first course of leek soup! Srsly...leek soup on a mountain?!

We have an hour or so before dinner, and the wind is picking up so we move inside the tent. Dinner is an amazing creamy leek soup, then pasta with tomatoes, cabbage, and carrot/pepper/meat sauce. Chris and I stuff ourselves and still only eat half of what Peter has cooked. After dinner, Godlisten and Mareme stop by to chat about tomorrow, another big day. I am exhausted by 8p so I just fall asleep, but wake up again at 9p with enough energy to finish my day’s writing. As I write, I listen to the camp sounds decrescendo back into the earlier silence, and I sleep.

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