06 February 2012

EK Climbs Kili: Day 9 (Karanga to Barafu)

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

DAY 9 / 22 JANUARY 2012 / SUNDAY

START: Karanga Camp (4000m or 13100')
END: Barafu Camp (4700m or 15400')
PLUS: Acclimatization Hike (4900m or 16100')
Morning at Karanga Camp - clear and cold!
We wake up to frost on the tent and ground in Karanga Camp - it was cold last night but our hired sleeping bags did a pretty good job of keeping us warm. (As a gear side-note, I am also using a thermal sleeping bag liner since I tend to be a cold sleeper, and you never know what goes on in hired bags.) Even though it's cold, we eat a leisurely breakfast outside since the sun is out and there is no breeze. We take our time eating and packing since it's a very short hike to Barafu Camp, which will serve as the HQ for our summit launch later tonight/early tomorrow morning.
The trail from Karanga to Barafu - short and sweet! 
Only some of the porters are coming with us today: Mchami, Kitao, Richard, and Maolid (plus Peter the cook). Because Barafu is so high, no one likes going there much. Plus, it's near the end of our trip so we don't have as much food to carry. So, Isidor and Michael are dispatched to Mweka Camp to hang out and wait for us. The hike to Barafu is uneventful. We travel on some of the same trail as yesterday's acclimatization hike, and then keep going. The porters pass us about 90 minutes into our hike and Godlisten makes Peter walk with us for a few hundred meters and speak English. They grew up in the same village (Marangu) and Godlisten knows Peter doesn't like to speak English very much, so consequently thinks it's hilarious to pull rank and make him do it. Of course Chris and I are in on the joke and try to ask simple questions - how old are you, how many kids do you have, etc. Peter is so good-natured about everything and eventually Godlisten releases him to his preferred faster pace.
More of the day's hike. 
After what seems like only a few more minutes, we arrive in Barafu Camp. It's not even noon! Upon our arrival we see a few groups of bundled up tourists walking through camp with their guide. Godlisten inquires and finds out that the winds on the summit are fierce, but this group was successful. With any luck, that will be us tomorrow! The weather in camp is also very windy, which makes setting up the tents a difficult task for Kitao. They had arrived earlier and set everything up in a small cove about 10m below the toilets, but when we arrive with Godlisten, he decides that site selection is sub-optimal and orders everything moved closer to the toilets. This is again no small task for our crew, since the wind is whipping around the camp and is threatening to steal the tents even when they're staked down, much less being moved around.
Our final camp location at Barafu, quite close to the toilets and with a view of Mazenzi .
Somehow, they manage to move everything successfully and Chris and I check out our newest home, snugged up against a rock face with a good view of Mawenzi and the toilets. We have a light lunch of vegetable stew, bread, and watermelon, and Mchami instructs us to eat everything. After eating, we are again directed by Godlisten to nap/rest for a few hours until it's time to do an acclimatization hike. During this time, the winds die down to a light breeze, the sun warms the tent, and I bank a few hours of real sleep.
The view of Mawenzi from the toilet. 
Mareme wakes us up at 3p to get ready for our mini-hike. As we leave Barafu Camp, the terrain is unlike any camp we have stayed in. Most other camps were spread out over a relatively flat area; Barafu is tucked into rocky nooks and crannies dotted all over a narrow ridge. There are small, winding, rock-lined pathways that connect areas together. It seems like it would be easy to get lost in the dark, and easier to trip on an unseen drop. It's a good thing our tents were re-located nextdoor to the toilets.
Another teams' tents nestled among the rocks of Barafu Camp.
Also as we leave camp, we see my favorite animal of the whole trip: an juvenile African Hawk-Eagle. Up until now we've seen copious amounts of white-necked ravens, but now there is a huge bird of prey soaring around the camp, presumably hunting. Due to the timing of the bird's flight and our hike, we are able to view it from all angles; we spotted it from below but it hung around until we had climbed above it. Really really amazing and also lucky!
Chris and me at the top of the Barafu acclimatization hike.
The rest of our hike is calm and enjoyable. We match Mareme's polepole pace and the elevation doesn't hammer us. At the top, we take a few minutes to rest, eat Honey Stinger stuff, and take pictures. This is the closest we've been to the summit, and it still looks huge. I am still intimidated. Chris take the opportunity to share the observations of R.A. Dickey, a pitcher for the Mets who summitted Kili just before we left New York and wrote about it in the Times. He paraphrases the actual quote below, discussing the reason most of the summit approach is undertaken in the dark:
However, I believe that there was a third reason, one the guide intentionally never discussed. Psychologically, if we were able to see the sheer steepness and distance of the trek, it would have been defeating.
Oh, great. Thanks, R.A. Dickey. 

The descent back into Barafu is also enjoyable, and we teach Mareme his favorite phrase of the trip by imitating the eagle's flight with our hands..."hunt-hunt-hunt-ATTACK!". We have an early dinner about 5pm of chicken soup, bread, rice, hot cabbage salad, and tuna sauce (which sounds gross but is actually very delicious). Godlisten and Mareme review the plan for tomorrow - our job is to get our gears sorted tonight and go to sleep as soon as possible. Mchami will wake us up with tea and a snack about 11p, and then we will get ready, aiming to leave Barafu at midnight. 
Barafu Camp from above.
Of course I am excited and it takes me a while to get everything ready, finally settling down about 7p. I decide to wear my intended summit baselayers as pajamas, and it's a good choice since about 10p I wake up needing to pee. The wind has picked back up and it's cold outside the tent, but the stars are the most incredible I've ever seen. They are bright, crisp, and VIVID. They remind me of some footage from BBC's Planet Earth series about glow worms in a New Zealand cave. Seriously, the stars feel that close. I am sad to go back into the tent but it's quite cold and blustery and I don't have any outer layers on. 
Everything ready?
After my trip outside, the wind keeps me awake by lifting the edges of the tent enough that my pillow is moving. I'm worried that our summit hike will be called off due to the conditions. These two factors, plus the excitement of the summit, banish any intentions I had of sleeping so I just lay awake for the next 60-ish minutes and try to rest. Finally, Mchami 'wakes' us up at 11p and a take a quick video before putting on final layers and heading outside for our summit attempt!
omg summit excite!!!!!

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