|AFRICA DAY 6 - MT. KILIMANJARO|
Thursday, June 30
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There's not a whole lot more discomforting than the thought of leaving a nice (semi) warm tent and sleeping bag for a trip outside to the bathroom. At around 2:00 am, after getting to sleep around 9:30 the night before, this is the predicament I found myself in. I braved the subfreezing temperatures (it was really cold this night) to do just that, but upon returning to the tent I had difficulty getting back to sleep. Despite a large dinner not too long ago I was now very hungry again, no doubt an effect of all of the hiking the day before. I awoke several more times between bouts of restless sleep until waking up for good around 5:45 am to get up for the sunrise.
I reluctantly got dressed (basically adding another layer) and stepped out with my camera, trekking out to a spot I had picked out the night before no more than 100 yards from camp. Randy came out and joined me not too much later, braving the freezing cold as well with his camera. While leaving a warm sleeping bag for the cold outside is not fun by any stretch, watching the sun come up is quite the opposite - it's always an energizing event for me to witness, and not just because the warm rays chase away some of the lingering cold. Once again we had a very nice sunrise, with the sun a glowing purplish orb rising through the lower layer of clouds and lighting up the mountain in warm shades of light.
The show was over around 6:45 am when I headed back to camp to get ready for the day. Breakfast was served just like yesterday, only this time with oatmeal instead of porridge. I once again ate some eggs and sausage, with bread and peanut butter. Mike also took this opportunity to helpfully remind us to fart freely along the hike as it's one of the ways your body acclimatizes to the altitude.
I headed back to the tent to get everything packed up and put on some sunscreen and lotion for a light sunburn I picked up yesterday on the back of my neck, despite repeated applications of sunscreen. For the first time on the hike there was now a cool light wind blowing along with the cooler temperatures that come at higher elevations so I put on the long-sleeved hiking shirt for the day. After filling (and UV-zapping) our water we put on our boots and gaiters and headed out just short of 9:00 am.
Today our destination was Kibo Base Camp, from where we would climb to the peak. We started out extra "pole pole" today, climbing up the slightly ascending trail away from camp. We took a break after almost 1 1/2 hours of hiking during which I was feeling pretty good despite the altitude of over 13000 ft. The cool wind had also picked up a bit so I rolled down the sleeves for a little warmth. We continued on after a while through the increasingly barren landscape - desert-like with volcanic rocks of all sizes scattered everywhere with small shrubs and flowers clinging to life. We were now in the Alpine Desert eco zone - where life became increasingly scarce as we climbed.
Today we crossed the saddle between two of the peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro. As we headed south along the trail the Mawenzi peak was on our left to the East, and the Kibo peak was on our right to the West. Mt. Kilimanjaro is composed of three distinct volcanic cone peaks. Shira is the oldest and now stands at only 3962m (13000 ft). Mawenzi is the middle "child", a steep and jagged peak that very few climb due to the extreme difficulty and danger; it stands at 5149m (16893 ft). The Kibo peak is what people recognize as "Kilimanjaro" - the wide flattish mountain that towers over the landscape; it stands at 5895m (19341 ft) as the tallest mountain in Africa.
We walked into base camp around 2:00 in the afternoon and registered with the park rangers before finding our tents. The whole hike today wasn't too hard - there were no tough climbs and we took it very "pole pole" to make sure everyone made it without issue. The only symptoms I really felt were slightly fatigued legs (though not very bad) and a very light headache. Headaches are very common at high altitudes and usually go away by the next day as your body acclimates.
Kibo Base Camp sits at 4708m (15450 feet) above sea level in what seems to be the last flattish land before the summit. We are pretty high up here in elevation - especially considering we've now climbed higher than any location in the lower 48 states.
Lunch was served shortly after arriving. We had a vegetable mix with chicken served over spaghetti pasta with fruit salad (mango, papaya, watermelon, banana, and carrots) on the side. Although it's not usually my thing - I ate most of my fruit salad, seeking the benefits of the water and vitamin/mineral content. As we were finishing lunch the clouds rolled in and the temperatures dropped. The clouds had been slowly building over Mawenzi throughout the day but now also reached Kibo. As is common with the mountain weather systems, it dissipated almost as quickly as it arrived.
After lunch I explored the camp area a bit, and then spent some time getting everything together for tomorrow's climb. The plan is to leave before the sun rises so warm clothes (in layers) are a must. I'm optimistic about the climb tomorrow - I'm feeling pretty good so far and haven't had any major issues. I did have a close call from a bombing run from a local bird - but escaped with only a bit of "munitions" to wipe off my arm.
For a while before dinner Randy and I both laid down in the tent for an hour or so to rest for the long day tomorrow and to help our bodies acclimate. It really did help, as my headache was all but gone when we headed over to the food tent for dinner. Given that the sun set behind the Kibo peak, it got very dark and cold early - much more so than at previous camps. We ate around 7:00pm, eating pasta served with vegetables and chicken. After eating everyone went straight to bed to get as much sleep as possible for summit day.
That afternoon and evening since arriving at Kibo camp Alan hadn't been feeling well (and didn't join us for dinner). He had headache and stomach problems and basically decided he wouldn't be able to join us for the summit climb.
Hike Start: Rongai Camp 3 at 3950m (13000 ft)
Hike End: Kibo Base Camp at 4708m (15450 ft)
Hike Coverage: 6-7 km (4-5 miles) distance, 758m (2500 ft) elevation gain
Crescent Moon and Venus at Sunrise
(Rongai Camp 3, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
First Light on Mt. Kilimanjaro (viewed from Rongai Camp 3)
Along the Trail (Rongai Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Rocks and Mountain (Black & White)
(Rongai Route, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Kibo Base Camp (Mt. Kilimanjaro)
In the Clouds (Black & White)
(Kibo Base Camp, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Across the Saddle (viewed from Kibo Base Camp, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
Mawenzi Peak - Castle in the Sky?
(viewed from Kibo Base Camp, Mt. Kilimanjaro)
More pictures from today:
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