Climbing Kilimanjaro Part VIII
Day four (beginning at 11 pm on day 3): Kibo hut to Gillman’s point at sunrise. 5 km, 4,703 m to 5,685 m, 6 hours (3.1 miles, 15,430 ft to 18,652 ft). On 1.5 km (0.9 miles) to Uhuru peak at 5,895 m (19,340 ft), elevation gain 1,193 m, 1:5 gradient. An hour’s rest at Kibo hut then back down to Horombo hut. Total 27 km (16.7 miles) distance, 16 hours on the trail.
We are awoken at 11 pm. We grimly put on our summit clothes and try to eat some cookies and have something to drink, with my nausea I can only manage one cookie and a cup of cocoa. We make an unbelievable racket, which must surely disturb the people in the rooms around us, who are scheduled to depart an hour after us, because they have walked so quickly the previous days. Jules, Brett, and Luiz, getting dressed the morning (actually the night) of the summit attempt.
Andrew announces that he has pulmonary edema and is going to descend. This upsets Dave who now wants to accompany Andrew back down the mountain; Andrew has saved Dave’s life twice during heart attacks before and now he feels bad for abandoning him. Julie convinces her dad that it will not help Andrew any for him (Dave) to give up at this stage, and so Dave prepares to climb.
We assemble at the door of the hut at 12 midnight and set off up the mountain with our headlamps on. It’s just as well we are leaving at night because the sight of what is ahead of us would be very depressing. The first few hundred metres is relatively flat and then the mountain begins a series of switchbacks crisscrossing up the face of the mountain, the path is made of loose crushed ash and vesicular basalt. We take only baby steps to avoid sliding backwards.
Dave, the only one of us looking fresh, getting dressed, with Andrew behind him, who has not yet made his announcement.
We make an early toilet stop that seems to last forever. We assume it is Tracy since she always stops but we discover she is amongst us. We wonder why are we waiting. We all train our lights on something moving in the dark and can see only a faint outline. Is it one of us? Let’s go. No, someone says to wait. We wait forever. No Tracy is here let’s go. Is there someone out there? We all sweep the area with our lights. Finally Luiz appears, appalled that all of us have had our lights training on him when he needed some privacy.
Dr Hennie gives a thumb up while getting ready for the climb. There are no photos after leaving the hut until sunrise, since none of us use a flash outdoors.
We continue on, our bus goes very slowly, too slowly for me, and we stop often, this is when I feel the cold in my toes and my fingers. I feel strong but sleepy and feel the constant stopping is sapping my strength. The owner of the Marangu hotel told us to set a goal in our minds, like 100 steps, then have a rest, but never to sit down. We are having a rest perhaps every 20 steps, we’ll never make it at this rate. We have a set time at which we have to turn around and descend the mountain in order to make it back to the hut before the following nightfall.
Suzette preparing for the climb, looking very apprehensive.
The Americans march cheerfully past us, their guides singing Swahili songs of conquest and singing the praises of Irvine, Colorado, and Kilimanjaro. We are on the same portion of the trail with the 9 Dutch people and some others we don’t know making a bit of a traffic jam, and we are out of synch. Every time they stop they stand directly in the trail and we have trouble passing them. When we want to stop they want to get past us, but at least we stand aside to let them pass.
I am now thinking murderous thoughts about why I would be so stupid as to not only choose to do this unpleasant thing when I don’t even care about climbing mountains and what’s more spend $700 in the process. Mauritius, why didn’t I go to Mauritius instead. White sand beach, girlie drink with umbrella in it, swimming, sun, sleep, sleep, sleeeep…. I tell myself that when I make it to the crater rim I will stop and go back. The rim is the top as far as I’m concerned, the 210 extra metres is just a geological freak of nature, right? I still feel strong though, no headache. But every time I take a sip of water I feel nauseous and feel like I will have the runs soon so I stop drinking, although the prospect of a dehydration/altitude headache worries me. So we are ascending very slowly.
TO BE CONTINUED....