After dinner we got into our sleeping bags for 4 hours’ ‘rest’ before leaving for the summit of Kilimanjaro.
The task ahead is suddenly very real as we climb into our tents with the glacier on the blown-out crater above, glistening in the evening sun. An invitation and perhaps a threat. At dinner we had presented a unified, confident group. But apprehension and concern was running close beneath the surface for us all. We all had minor aches and pains, nausea and headaches and I think we all worried that we were about to experience mountain sickness when we reached high altitude. Although we’d already climatised well to 4,850m. My own concern was Continue reading
After 3 hours’ tough slog, we’ve made it to Base Camp at Barafu. We’re back up at high-altitude, around 4,650 and we’re all feeling confident.
Leaving camp this morning, we were overtaken by ‘speedies’ flying off up the mountain like trains. As I stared at my dusty Meindl boots and concentrated on getting my breath, I couldn’t help notice the fancy gaiters on one pair of dancing legs, as she swished her blond hair out of her Oakley shades calling ‘pole pole’ (slowly slowly) to her team as she flounced past in a cloud of volcanic dust.
As the day wound on, our slow steady pace began to eat up the ground and we passed them out again. They seemed to need more stops than us. We stopped every hour for a couple of minutes, with no other breaks in between and it seems to be working. We reached Basecamp a few minutes before them and I wondered for a moment if it was wrong to feel smug. Then I just felt smug… One of the team commented that Continue reading
I slept badly, I had a couple of nosebleeds and I felt my chest wheezing… Looking out of my tent at daybreak I saw the Baranco wall hidden from the sun, brooding in darkness and menace. I stared at the tiny ant-path like trail, barely visible in the shadow, reaching high towards the heavens and I felt scared.
I often wonder how religious I am, and it seems to be proportionate to the amount of trouble I’m in. Now I’m regretting thinking of Pat Falvey as the ‘God’ of the mountain yesterday. I think I’ll Continue reading
For me, there’s a pecking order here on the Mountain. Pat Falvey is ‘God’, Freddie the head guide is the Chief, and Able our leader and pacer is my guardian angel. He’s going at a steady, medium, pace and I love him for it.
I underestimated the cold of the first two days and today, thinking of how high we would be going, I underestimated the heat! I spent an hour trudging uphill under an African sun, in a fleece lined trail pants. It was like doing cross-fit in a Bikram hot yoga class, but it was my own stupidity and all I could do was slog away until our first water break. An hour later Kilimanjaro was subjected to my pink-nickered butt as I struggled out of Continue reading
Ravens and Ravens…
We’ve made it to Shira Camp. Another 1200 metres gained today and we could be feeling the effects of altitude any time now. Today was a full 5 hours and more of scrambling. The pace was slower but the exertion greater. I loved it.
The red dirt track has changed dramatically to the tan sand of volcanic rock. The trees have all disappeared and the monkeys that thrilled us in the woods yesterday have been replaced by huge White Necked Ravens. The massive birds hover close and follow us hungrily and they’re freaking out some of the girls, myself included. They are shiny and magnificent but seem far too interested in me Continue reading
May the road rise up before you..
I’ve always wondered about that famous Irish blessing. It certainly was delivered in spades today. We left Machame Gate at Kilimanjaro National Park around lunchtime and wound our way up the red dusty trail through the rain forest in the foothills of the mountain. The pace was steady and the conversation good. I was puffing away like a little cart horse but occasionally whinnied or snorted a reply to my chattier colleagues. Mountains would be easy if it weren’t for the hills….
As we passed through the trees with long trailing lichens sweeping down around us, I was surprised at how like home this felt. The trees were different species and the lichen far more abundant, but the moist, mossy spell of the woodland reminded me of home; apart from the slightly narcotic scented aroma of some of the herbs that we brushed past. Another surprise was how cool it felt. I was generously basted in sun-lotion and mosquito repellent, but it felt misty and cool, like home without the midges.
The track kept winding up, with breaks for a pack lunch and visits to some of the ‘drop’ toilets along the way. Wooden huts with planked floors and a hole, where you squat and erm, ‘drop’ your waste. A little over 5 hours’ trekking brought us up 1,200 metres. I always feel a sense of relief when I see the tents. Job done for the day and no ill affects from altitude, no sickness, no headache. All is good.
Dinner followed in the mess tent and the conversation had us in stitches with quick-fire puns intended and accidental, and the almost inevitable stories about toilets and toilet malfunctions. The more experienced expeditiousness unable to contain their glee at the look of horror on the faces of the uninitiated.
Most of us shivered as we nibbled popcorn and waited for our plates of steaming hot beef and vegetables and even chips. Most of us were surprised at how cold it felt, and I realised our expedition boss, Pat Falvey, had been right as always when he advised me to pack the heavy duty down jacket that I had been tempted to leave back in the hotel. Day one on the mountain and I’m cold. I wonder what summit night will feel like. We’re also wondering how we will feel if it rains; which apparently it does a lot.
As if reading our minds, Freddie our head guide sends us off to our tents with the command to ‘sleep well and forget about the morning’. No worries, no thoughts about what to wear, or concerns about altitude. “Forget it all he said” just sleep and the day will follow.
The day will follow soon enough. It’s 10pm now. We rise at 6.30.
Night all. Xxx