Finally we make it to Hans Meyer cave at 5,150 m, the halfway point up today’s climb of the mountain. I try to drink a little and suck half an energy gel sachet. We continue up the mountain not long after. There is a bit of confusion because some people turn back and it is not until I arrive back at the hut later that I learn that Brett has turned back with pulmonary edema (he is coughing frothy blood later), and Dave has also turned back with concerns for his heart, and the consequences of him having a third heart attack and us having to drag his lifeless body back down the mountain. At this point I do not see Tracy and Suzette anymore as I am so focused on what is ahead (it is still dark), but since I can see Johann with us I assume that both of them have turned back.
Our group at Hans Meyer Cave. Pammie is in brown jacket, red pants, and black gaiters
We continue walking and the stopping is getting too much. Dr Hennie is behind me and keeps groaning the classic Afrikaans phrase of despair, “Ach, no man” every time he sees the Dutch people ahead of us stop. I finally work my way to the front of the bus and push our guide John in the back every time he stops and tell him in Swahili that stopping is very bad. He says we must wait for the others. I tell him we have three guides so they must separate us up, the slow people in one bus and the faster ones in another bus. Eventually we do break into separate buses but I don’t really appreciate it at this stage since I only look back once, to see the sunrise at the crater rim.
I look up every once in a while and am surprised at how the top of the mountain continues to stand directly above us, and I can see pretty trains of headlamps shining from the people winding their way above us. The sight of them so far above ought to depress me, but I like the looks of the lights. We constantly ask John how much further to the top. Eventually we reach some large rocks requiring relatively large steps. The hotel owner had told us to take heart at this stage, because the top is very near. We were glad to see them. We keep clambering up, at this stage it is so light I can turn off my headlamp, but it is not quite sunrise yet.
John, Luiz, Johann, Dr Hennie, and Pammie at Gilman's Point. Jules is taking the photograph.
Eventually we see a mass of people at what looks like the top, taking photographs of a glacier off to the north. Our guide pushes us forward and eventually we reach the sign that says Gilman’s Point, 5,685 m. I start sniveling and crying (I’m a weenie that cries when other people go through the finish line at marathons or stand up to accept their Olympic gold medal with the US national anthem playing). Dr Hennie, Johann, Luiz, and Julie and I take photographs of each other. Photos of us show all of us completely whacked but John the lone compus mentus face. It’s only at this stage that I realize who is actually around me, previously I had lost track of everyone except for Hennie right behind me, groaning ach no man.Receeding glaciers near the top of Kilimanjaro
John points out Uhuru, the highest point on the mountain, in the distance. We ask him if we have time to make it, he says sure. It’s strange to think that even going as slowly as we did, we still reached Gilman’s point in the average of 6 hours. I’d thought we’d gone much slower than that. I am tired and sleepy but still feel strong and I am ready to push on for Uhuru. The hotel owner had told us that only a splitting headache or altitude sickness should turn us back at this stage, and not to turn back for only nausea, slight headache, or laziness or sleepiness, since we would kick ourselves later, he knew this from experience. It’s only 210 metres further up.
The view onto the glaciers and the valley plain below the cloud cover. Unfortunately views from Kilimanjaro are not that spectacular, as it is an isolated volcanic cone in an otherwise flat plain.
Amazing what a difference that small distance makes. I am very sleepy, I have no energy, but no headache, and no stomach problems. It’s just that I feel so tired, every step takes such exertion, the thought of the steep slope is depressing, and my heart is racing. I stop often to let my heart beat get back to normal, but the others don’t seem to mind, they stop also. Johann & Hennie push slightly ahead. Julie and I are walking roughly together, and every time we stop and I look back, Luiz is flat out lying on his back. We call out to him to continue and he barely lifts his long arm and flicks his wrist, waving with his fingers dismissively, saying, go on without me. We cajole him into following. At one stage I bribe him with a cookie and a Diamox at the next rest stop. He comes up, collects his Diamox, eats part of his frozen cookie, and continues on. A photo of him taken around this time shows him dragging his feet like a zombie with John walking behind him, looking for all the world like a shepherd patiently driving his charge along.
TO BE CONTINUED....