A few years ago, I, my brother-in-law and a group of half a dozen or so others, headed off to Tanzania to climb Kili, as a fund raiser. This is my story:
Kili!: The story of a Tanzanian adventure in February 2001
This is the third big adventure in which I have had the privilege of being involved. The first was described in my 1999 travelogue “When I was in India……..” copies of which are becoming harder to get, but I am sure a phone call to the author and a fiver to Mencap might bring results. The second trip, in March 2000, has not yet been put to print, but, and again we are talking a small fee, you could, if you really want, see some photographs of what is without doubt, the most beautiful place in the world: the Torres del Paine National Park, at the southern tip of mainland South America. And so to this, the diary of an eight-day excursion to Tanzania, to make an assault on Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro, 19,340 feet. Will our intrepid author conquer Kili?
Read on, and enjoy, and remember that every word you read, you have helped in some small way, to ease the suffering of children in war-torn countries, as all the proceeds from the sale of this booklet are destined for Child Advocacy International, a registered charity that gets urgently needed medical aid to where it is needed.
Richard L Smith
I would never have been able to even think of doing something like this if it had not been for the support of Jane, James and Emily. I think maybe, that they too, look forward to a week or ten days of peace and quiet. I expect also that they look forward to the ‘guilt’ souvenirs I bring back.
I offer sincere thanks to all those of you who have supported me by sponsoring me. You will know by now, of some of the vital work you have helped with.
Without the teamwork, and friendship of my fellow trekkers, I would not have achieved this goal, thank you.
Thanks to John Leyden, who has battled through my draft, pointing out my inaccuracies!
The guides were brilliant, as were the staff of the Marangu Hotel.
An important note of thanks:To Greystones Printing, who have published this at no cost! Call them next time you want any printing done. It won’t be free, but the owner is a bit of a climber!The right of Richard Smith as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Design and Patent Act 1988.
So get yourself comfortable, and read on!
I suppose I have always had something about Kilimanjaro in the depths of my mind, thinking back to my childhood. I can’t remember if it was the first year at ‘big’ school, but what does stick out clearly in my mind is just one line from an essay I wrote for a geography lesson, when we had to describe life in an African village. My essay began ‘My name is Kilimanjaro Odi’. The teacher had remarked that I had chosen a rather peculiar name for the lead character in my story, but apart from that, the memory has faded. In any case, it is I think, a good start for this epic story, that is going to take you from the slag heaps of Ecclesall, Sheffield, via the flat lands of Holland, right to the steep slopes of Kilimanjaro, far far away in the depths of Africa, 3 degrees south of the equator. So this is the second visit I have made to the southern hemisphere in less than a twelve-month period. You may have only heard about the first visit, to Patagonia, from talking to me, as the story of that particular trip has yet to be described through my keyboard. Anyway, the account of that will have to wait, because the enthusiasm I have for recounting my African adventures has surpassed that which I have for the Southern Chile epic. That is not to say I didn’t like Patagonia, I loved it. The scenery there was absolutely out of this world. But that story can wait.
I read about the Kili trip in the summer of 2000. When I took a job working for a Sheffield based charity, I thought that my adventuring days for other charities were over, but as I was in that position for only three months, I jumped at the chance to try to satisfy my wanderlust, insisting to all and sundry that it was a necessary part of my cure for the mid-life crisis I maintain I have been going through. I told my sister Hilary about the trip, she said that Rhis: my brother-in-law, had always wanted to climb such a mountain. So he and I signed up, and began the task of preparation, both mental and physical.
Our team organiser: the project manager for Kili, was Cecil Weir. He organised a weekend in the Lake District in October, for the team to meet, discuss tactics, the mountain, the kit we would need, and generally to get to know each other. Of the twelve of us who were to go on the trip, five plus supporters met in Borrowdale: Rhis, Hilary (for support) myself, Bud, Jean, also with a supporter in tow, and Damion. We were tantalised by a few of Cecil’s slides from a previous visit to Kili, building our enthusiasm, and our apprehension for what was to come. It was a useful weekend though, and we also had a pretty good hike.
Our flights to Kilimanjaro had been arranged from our nearest airports. I was to fly from Leeds Bradford, Rhis from Birmingham, the others from Bristol. We met up at Schipol, which is an airport of mammoth proportions, pleased to meet up again with those who had met in the Lakes, and eager to meet those who we hadn’t previously met: John, Sue, Meryl, Suzanne, Jo and David.
We soon found that we had a lot in common; Suzanne even originated from the next village to Rhis, near Oswestry. While we waited to board the plane, we talked about the benefits, if any, of Diamox, Lariam, aspirin, and other drugs that may enhance (?) our performance on the mountain. More of this later! The other topic which I feel helps bond such a group is talking of basics, like having to monitor the passing of urine…. copious and clear being the instruction!
So, ¾ hour late leaving Schipol, having had to wait for luggage to appear from all the connecting flights, we boarded the KLM flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport, on an MD11 aircraft. Nine hours of flight, which would take us over Germany, France, passing by Mont Blanc call that a mountain? over the Mediterranean, and south to Africa. The plane was full, and the monitors in the cabin showed our progress towards the equator, telling us of an expected arrival time of 21.35, and to expect a temperature of 29degrees.
We eventually touched down after I don’t know how many meals; you are forever eating on planes!
A long shuffling queue of holiday makers (!) headed towards immigration, where we eagerly tried out our Swahili…
“Enjoy your stay”
Most of us had the good fortune to reclaim our baggage. Two of the eleven of us were without, but we had been warned that this could, and probably would,, happen. We would though, have at least a day before starting our assault on Kili, so there was no real need for panic, at least, no panic for those of us who had our boots, bags and clothes! Another flight would arrive tomorrow, and the baggages would appear at the hotel, honest! It is widely recognised as being a good idea to wear your walking boots on the plane, saving weight in your baggage is even a benefit. You can beg borrow or even buy all the other gear you need, but you can’t easily get a comfy pair of new boots at the drop of a hat.
We hadn’t a clue where we were, apart from being at Kilimanjaro International Airport. We didn’t know anyone, we didn’t know who was going to meet us, or even if anyone was going to meet us, we had no idea where we were going, or staying, or how far away, or anything. Eventually, we saw someone displaying a ‘Julian House’ sign, and showed us a bus that would take us to the hotel, so we just had to put our trust in her. (Julian House was one of the two charities benefiting from this trek) Twelve or thirteen travellers had their bags stowed on the bus, and we all clambered in. We drove off, away from the airport, in the pitch dark, full of anticipation for the days ahead of us. The thought did occur to me while we were motoring along, that we could be ambushed, robbed or even worse, and no one may ever know, but that’s what you get when you have a vivid imagination!
A huge shadowy mountain loomed up before us. It must be Kili. It looked so big, and in the moonlight, the closer we got, the bigger it appeared. We were never going to climb that??!! Eventually, we arrived at our hotel, having driven through miles of what appeared to be open farmland, along extremely good roads, speed bumps heralded the outskirts of the villages and settlements we drove through, and finally arrived in a courtyard, to be warmly greeted by the hotel staff offering food and drink. In the Bradt Guide to Tanzania, the Marangu Hotel is “A comfortable family-run hotel situated about 5km from Marangu back towards Moshi. The Marangu has an excellent reputation when it comes to organising Kilimanjaro climbs. Self-contained rooms cost US50$ per person b&b.” So we knew we would be looked after here.
We checked in, and were taken to our rooms, which were small chalet-type buildings, twin bedded rooms, with ‘proper’ toilet facilities, and set in large gardens. We would see the next morning that we would have great views of the peaks of Uhuru and Mawenzi.
The natural vegetation patterns of the lower slops of Kili have been changed by human use, what was formerly scrub, bush and lowland forest is now turned over to crops and grass. The northern and eastern slopes are too dry for cultivation, here; there is still the natural vegetation. These lower slopes are well watered by the rain falling in the forests zone, and this, together with the fertile volcanic soil supports the densely populated villages.
After a leisurely breakfast, we met two local guides, who would take us round Marangu village. Ludovic and Onanassi(?) were knowledgeable, and spoke good English. Ludovic asked me if I would ask the rest of the party if we would consider helping to fund his education. At 28 years old, the eldest of a family of two boys and three girls, he would inherit his father’s coffee crop and land, the younger son would not inherit, and the three girls would ‘just get married’. We walked uphill to the village, past smallholdings, and nice neat houses, and arrived at the centre of a bustling village, minibuses full of locals coming to shop and socialise. We found the village craft shop, selling goods made at Mshiri Vocational Training School. Children go to primary school from the age of 7, until they are 14. For the first two years, they spend half a day in school, full-time education starts when they are 9. Over 90% of primary school leavers in these rural villages never have the chance of secondary education. The leave school at 14, and have little or no prospect of any further education, or employment.
The majority of villagers on the slopes of Kili are subsistence farmers, there is no spare land, and everywhere possible is cultivated. The tribal tradition of the sons inheriting part of the father’s land can no longer be the case, as there is not enough land to share out. Most of today’s children will not therefore be able to remain in their villages as farmers; they will need to find jobs, and their own homes. To this end, they need a basic education, so that they might have a chance of being able to earn a living.
The Mshiri Vocational School was built in 1997/8. It is one of the Village Education Projects. The three-roomed school opened in 1999, with 231 students, employs 5 teachers, and a night watchman. The items made are sold in the shop; the profits provide the pupils with practice materials, and help pay the overheads. Courses run at the school are Art and Craft, which teaches drawing and design skills, traditional art, fabric dyeing, batik, woodcarving, jewellery, and card and papermaking. Carpentry and Masonry are taught, giving basic technical drawing, building construction and carpentry for building and furniture.
The project is a Charity, registered in England, and was set up by Katy Allen, a lawyer who gave up her career to live and teach in Mshiri village. She had originally come to climb Kili, not made the top, and her guide had insisted she come back and try again. She did return, conquered the mountain, and the village conquered her! She now spends more time back in England, fundraising and developing the work of the charity, leaving the projects to be supervised by the Mshiri Village Education Committee. Katy and the committee are all unpaid, and live in the belief “Elimu ni uhai”: “Education is life”. She apologised for the quality of the goods we bought from the shop, telling us that as the school year runs from January to December, and so it was early in the students training, thus the skills had not yet been learnt! We found no problem though, Jane’s elephant is exactly what she wanted, a carved jeep would add to James’ collection, and even show up the mass-produced items in it, while the ‘voodoo’ mask I bought for Emily would look just great on her bedroom wall. We carried on with our guided walk, through the busy village, and up a path through the woods, and arrived at the Kinukamori waterfalls. You could just not have imagined, in your wildest dreams, a more idyllic picnic spot! Owned by some of the Chagga tribe, we paid to view and walked to the top of the falls, and were told by Ludovic that there was a good story to be told here. At the top of the waterfall, on a rock in the middle of the fast flowing stream, was the statue of a girl from the local village. She had found herself ‘with child’, and local custom dictated that as she was not married, the baby would be killed as soon as it was born. Reluctant to have the life of her yet unborn child snuffed out, the girl took off to the forests. There she lived for a while, until she decided that maybe she would have to return to the village, and suffer the dreadful consequences. She had second thoughts, and decided that she would stay in the forest. Turning round, she saw a cheetah, which was about to spring at her. Panicking, the girl thought quickly, either the cheetah would kill both her and her unborn child, or she could try to escape back to the village, but then the village elders would kill the baby. She took alternative drastic action, and leapt over the waterfall, to meet a certain death. We looked up stream, and, sure enough, there was another statue, the cheetah, about to pounce.
We walked down the steep slope, to the foot of the waterfall, where David decided that a swim was in order. Stripping off to his boxers, he jumped in to rapturous applause! We then knew that in every group, ‘there is always one………!
I already had my doubts about Rhis. Only a few hours earlier, he was found to be wearing, not only his sun-hat inside out (“I thought it was a designer label”) but for the walk to the waterfall, he wore his pyjama jacket!
Had altitude sickness struck early?
We walked back through the village, to the hotel, and on the way, Ludovic offered kilo bags of freshly roasted coffee beans, for 10$. Not to pass up a bargain, a few of us took him up on his offer. A shady deal, it has to be admitted, because apparently, duty has to be paid at the point of roasting, and we would ‘bypass’ this tax. He told us that he would meet us back outside the hotel after we had climbed Kili. Some of us therefore parted with 10$ bills. We bade him a fond farewell, and asked him how much we owed him and his pal for the guided tour. We had previously been told it would be 5$, so we all paid up. Later, in the shade of the hotel grounds, we realised that it should have been 5$ for the whole group of us, not 5$ each! Old Ludo must have thought it was Christmas! We then doubted if we would see our 10$ back, or the coffee!
As we sat outside the hotel chalets, the clouds surrounding Kili cleared, and we had our first clear view of the ‘Snows of Kilimanjaro’. My theory was, that if you had a plank, and it had to be admitted that it would have to be a very long plank, and placed one end where we were, in the hotel grounds, and the other end on the top of the mountain, then we would be in for a long, but gradual climb. It made me feel more relaxed, anyway! The hotel had a shop, tucked away in the corner of the courtyard, which had a good selection of souvenirs, including ‘I climbed Kili’ tee shirts. I took a photo of them, knowing that if I failed to conquer the peak, the photo would have to be my souvenir. It was comforting to note that there were no ‘I failed to get to the top’ tee shirts! As in India and Patagonia, I bought a hat, the Kili hat would later prove to be a really good buy, as it had a decent sized brim to shelter my delicate face from the searing sun. A square of material, screen-printed with a picture showing Kili and a couple of elephants would make a useful scarf, likewise to keep the sun off my neck. The colours later ran though, dying the back of my neck blue!
Later that evening after a good meal, we had a pre-climb presentation by Seamus, one of the Marangu Hotel owners. His talk filled us with confidence, and he told us a bit of what to expect. 77% of those who set out from Mandara, make it to Uhuru: the summit. The trick is, poli poli. Definitely poli poli. Despite our concerns that a six-day climb would give us more time to acclimatise to the altitude, thus a better chance to summit Kili, he assured us that 5 days, poli poli, would bring success. We talked about everything, including how and where to deal with body waste if we got caught short, particularly in the desert region! Seamus is an experienced trekker, and had climbed Kili about a dozen times, over different routes. No problem, poli poli: slowly slowly.
Rhis and I had considered Diamox. I had downloaded details from the web, Rhis had also done his research. We decided ‘to diamox’. Diamox: acetozolamide, is a drug that helps control breathing, particularly at altitude. It also keeps the vital organs, the liver and kidneys, working. At altitude, the peripheral organs shut down, and diamox would help prevent this. The side effect is that because of this function, it acts as a diuretic. More of that later!
Rhis and I started our diamox: ½ a tablet, twice a day.
Before we could even think of setting out to climb, we had to have a kit inspection! Two ladies from the hotel came to our rooms, to check we had the necessary kit. I have to say they just didn’t look like mountain climbers, but we had to assume that they knew best! I was confident that I would be ok, after all, the Smith family have been in the habit of conquering the world’s greatest peaks….Snowdon to name but one!
Our kit passed the thorough inspection. We had enough fleeces, socks, underwear, trousers and good boots. We had sunscreen, goggles and balaclavas. We had water bottles and gloves. We were ready!
Our dinner that night: vegetable soup….(with meat!), spag bol, roast lamb and mint sauce, runner beans, roast potatoes, followed by a delicate mousse which apparently was made of lemon, chocolate, milk, cream and egg . Quite nice!
The over-dinner chat was about where we would have a reunion! The team was an excellent mix. We were all getting on so very well. If anyone was apprehensive about the next few days, words of support would be given. We were all friends.
As the two previous treks, this also was for charity. I had not heard of Child Advocacy International before I read the brief paragraph in the Sheffield Star, but soon found a bit more about the charity for which I had pledged to raise funds.
Each year, millions of ordinary families are caught up in armed conflict worldwide. Warring parties often focus on ‘soft targets’ of women and children, and atrocities against innocent families in these situations are common. In the former Eastern bloc, there is still a serious lack of up-to-date medical knowledge. Children are often subjected to unpleasant lengthy and largely unproven procedures in the hope of improving their condition, while facilities often lack even the most basic equipment. Psychological damage is increasingly recognised as causing long-lasting damage to children who have witnessed or experienced violence.
The young are among the first to suffer in refugee populations, often dying from malnutrition, or from common illnesses such as measles and dysentery.
In just 5 years, Child Advocacy International has successfully evacuated over 40 children with life-threatening medical conditions to the UK for urgent treatment, has introduced life-saving paediatric training in Bosnia, Kosovo, Uganda and Albania, set up 3 modern intensive care units for critically ill and injured children in Mostar and Sarajevo, provided emergency psychiatric help for traumatised Kosovan refugee children, re-equipped the children’s intensive care unit in the Indira Gandhi Hospital, Kabul, provided emergency drugs to children’s wards in Kosovo, where effective pain relieving drugs were unavailable, reunited children from the Kabul State Orphanage with their families, the list goes on…
Will we never learn?
The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we were ready! It seemed to take forever, deciding what to take on the mountain, what to put in the porters bag (as much as possible) what to have in our day sacks (as little as possible) and what to leave at the hotel.
We packed, unpacked, and repacked. We took our bags to the courtyard, to be met by a long line of porters, and were introduced to our personal porters. Jeremy was to carry my load, as well as his. My holdall was put in a plastic bag, and then into a huge stout hessian sack. Jeremy would carry this on his head! We had a ratio of over two to one: eleven of us walkers, with 23 porters, and four guides. It had been brilliantly engineered by Cecil Weir that the Minja family would be our guides. Emmanuel Minja with his three sons William, David and Gibson. It transpired that Emmanuel had been guiding for over 50 years. He was 70 now, and reckoned he must have climbed Kili more than 5000 times! He was a real character. We had full confidence in them, and they would know whether we would be fit enough to complete the climb, and they would also recognise AMS symptoms even before we knew we might have them.
We loaded ourselves into a couple of rag-topped pick-ups, and headed off to the hills. We seemed to be climbing quite a way, and we thought that every foot we would be driven would be a foot less to climb! After a few miles, or it may have been only a mile, we arrived at the Marangu Gate, the main entrance to the Kilimanjaro National Park. We had to sign in, stating names, addresses, ages and passport numbers, and were given a permit, which would be handed to the wardens at each of the huts we would subsequently be staying in. The porters assembled, we took photos of us about to start out, and headed off up the Marangu Trail. This route, the tourist route is disparagingly called the Coca-Cola trail, it is so popular, and well trodden. We went a different route from the porters; they used a route that at least for the early part, was usable by jeeps. From Marangu gate to Mandara Hut is about 12 km, just over 7 miles. This may not seem like much of a walk, but the biggest challenge is against the rapidly thinning air. We were expecting a 5 hour trek today.
After a couple of hours of walking poli poli, we stopped for lunch. We had been given packed lunches by the hotel, consisting of sandwiches and fruit. The porters had of course arrived before us, and had flasks of chai ready. Very refreshing. Despite having been walking through rain forests, it had not rained. Neither had we seen many signs of wild life, though we were not really expecting to. The forest does however support a fair amount of wildlife, black and white colobus monkeys are the most common, antelope of which there are three duiker species, bushbucks, and apparently leopard, bushpig and porcupine are fairly common, but seldom encountered by hikers, white eland, buffalo and elephant are present in small numbers, but remain elusive. The forest is home to many varieties of butterfly, and bird life includes the raucous silvery-cheeked hornbill, and the beautiful Hartlaub’s touraco. I have to say though, we saw none of these, apart from butterflies, some of which were quite big. I also thought that rain forest was dark and damp, with a thick canopy, screeching sounds, and creepy-crawlies. Not so. There is usually a wide band of clouds around the forest zone, between 5,500 feet and 8500 feet, because of the dampness. There is high humidity, as the moisture cannot easily evaporate. On almost all of the trees in the forest were festooned with a grey/green lichen, and many of the branches are covered with mosses and ferns. Moss-like plants carpet the ground, and some of the tree ferns can grow as high as 18 feet.
We eventually arrived at Mandara Hut, a collection of huts in a clearing, nearly at the top of the forest zone. We had been assigned ‘The White House’; a stone built building, with three padlocked rooms, with a veranda, overlooking the forest. Our porters had set a table for us, with even a tablecloth. We would always know in future, which table would be ours, by the cloth! A snack, of biscuits and popcorn, and plenty of chai, was very welcome.
Kilimanjaro boasts a large number of parasitic or subsidiary cones; there are apparently over 250 of them. They are made of cinder, and are found in groups, mainly on the lower slopes.
About half an hour walk from Mandara, a bit further up the mountain, was the Maundi Crater. We decided to head off to see this, still walking poli poli, as any faster for a few paces, you would be quickly and rudely reminded of the thin air, even though we were at just 9000 feet. The Maundi crater is best seen at sunrise however, and the plan was that we would do just that. It is a huge volcanic crater, and with early morning light, looks apparently spectacular. We headed back to Mandara, a nice change to be going down hill. Not all of us had taken this ‘side trip’ to the crater; we had left Sue at the huts, as she was not feeling too well. Dr Damian’s first case. Later on, I may have to write a section called ‘Dr Damian’s Diary’. We shall see. Anyway, Sue had not been drinking the vast quantities of water that most of us had, and may have been a bit dehydrated, and didn’t fancy joining us for supper: mushroom soup, spaghetti, sauce ‘with meat’, chicken and cabbage. She couldn’t settle, she felt awfully ill, and decided that she would just have to return to the hotel. We were all so sad, and felt so helpless. One of the porters was summoned, and, armed with a rifle, led her back to the park gate, and the hotel. So we were now down to 10, will the 77% ‘rule’ still apply?
So to bed. The girls had one room, the lads had the central room, and a party of French climbers took the other. We settled down for a good night’s sleep.
The noise outside was the typical ‘noise in the jungle’ noise, from monkeys most probably. Then the heavens opened! The rain forest, so it does rain, and how it does! This area gets about 2000 mm of rain annually. Trouble is, you know what the sound of rain does for your bladder? Well, it did, for all of us. That, added to the side effect of Diamox, meant that the door to outside was opened and closed every few minutes. I went for a wee at least five times that night! And so apparently, did everyone else! We all managed to sleep though.
Early in the morning, some of us were woken up by David, who sings in his sleep! He could have warned us! I suppose that was one of the less offensive nocturnal noises though, I was fast building up a reputation for HAFE*
The other noise we were fast becoming accustomed to was ‘Tanzanian Radio 1!’ Emmanuel carried a small transistor radio with him. Either because of the mountain, or a half flat battery, or perhaps it just wasn’t tuned in very well, we knew that he was never very far away! Sort of comforting, really!
So the next morning, 25 degrees, we coated ourselves liberally with sunscreen. We would be climbing to over 12000 feet today, leaving the forest behind, and going through the heather and moorland zone. The trek today would take around 6 hours, a distance of 15 km, about 9 miles. We were getting good with the local language as well. The greeting ‘Jambo’ would be followed by ‘Habari?’. The answer to which was ‘Nzuri’. It impressed the locals, anyway!
Looking back to where we had come from, the views were spectacular. Africa spread out before us, but we could not pick out any particular landmarks. It rained heavily at our lunch break, and huge crows surrounded us, hoping to pick up extra food from us. I say surrounded, actually, there were only a couple, but they were so big, it seemed as if we were surrounded! We threw bits of bread on to the table where Rhis and Bud were sitting, enticing these huge birds nearer and nearer, but they weren’t that tame, and kept a safe distance from us. Rhis’s headache rapidly disappeared after a few cups of hot sweet tea. Despite the rain, it was a good 25 degrees, and we had our first close views of Kili. It still looked magnificent, the bright white snows glistening in the strong sunshine.
As was becoming usual, we had not seen much of David, he had rushed on ahead, but at least, though missing his company, we were always assured of a warm welcome at the next camp we would arrive at. He would have signed in, and organised our huts, and would walk back along the path to meet us. At Horombo, Rhis and I found our hut, a four-bedded chalet that was already occupied by two hikers: Ludwig and his son Andreas. It was Andreas’s second attempt at climbing Kili, his first attempt ended at Gilman’s point. Ludwig and Andreas were German, Andreas sounded American, and they lived at Dar es Salaam. If someone was making a second climb, then surely it couldn’t be that bad, could it? After sunset, the colours of which were superb, it was so dark. This darkness is unknown in Europe, as you are never very far away from a major town or city. The sky was so clear, and you would not believe just how many stars could be seen. Normally, back home, these would be hidden from view by the light pollution. I could pick out a few, the Southern Cross being the most easily recognised. It was an astronomer’s heaven. The bunks were calling, so another early night. At 12,340 feet (3780 m), it was getting harder to get a good night’s sleep, however I managed to, and had to get up only twice!
The next morning, bright and sunny, clear blue sky, we were woken to bowls of hot water for washing, brought to us by our porters, then to find our distinctive table cloth, for breakfast. As was the norm, we would chat to other climbers, this particular morning, a young German couple were nearby. The lad had succeeded in getting to Uhuru the day before, but the girl hadn’t. She needed a really good slap. Instead of encouraging us, and wishing us well, and telling us how great her bloke was, she recounted her depressing story of how awful it was, and no-one had told her it was going to be steep and no-one had told her it was going to be tough and no-one told her about altitude sickness and no-one had told her about the long drops, and the weather …….. she went on and on, and on and on some more. Just the sort of chat you least want to hear. My pals could tell she was really getting my goat, but fortunately, she went pretty soon after that. Honestly, I would be very surprised if her bloke didn’t dump her the moment they got off the mountain.
We had porridge for breakfast, good stomach lining food, to get us ready for another days climb. As we got ready to leave the huts, we saw a few four-striped grass mice scurrying around.
The trek from Horombo to Kibo today would take us about 8 hours, another 15km: 12 miles. We would gain another 3000 feet, Kibo is at 4703m.
As we left the hut, we saw a young girl being loaded on a stretcher. A peculiar piece of equipment: a steel frame, a handle at each corner, with a single highly sprung wheel in the centre. The sick person was strapped firmly in, covered with a blanket, four rescuers, one at each corner, ran down the track with the contraption, and whoosh, they were soon out of sight.
It was here that we saw another ‘mountain bird’, this time, it was an eagle, soaring effortlessly across the blue sky. We were high above the clouds, and really felt that we were at the roof of Africa.
Lunch stop at 13,500 feet was well into the arid desert region, sitting against some big rocks. We has the best view of the peak yet, we were almost at ‘the Saddle’, and could see clearly the scree slope we would, by this time the next day, hopefully be descending. We could not make out the route we would be taking though, but even from here, this distance away, it looked mighty steep!
All the climbers coming toward us looked happy, and all wished us well, but to go poli poli. Some told us it had been snowing on the top of Kili the previous night, and they had heard temperatures of minus 30 quoted. We would be grateful for all the fleeces and foul weather clothing we had with us, it seemed. We were now between two of the peaks of Kili, to our left, Uhuru peak, which would be conquered the next day, and to our right. Mawenzi. Now that was a peak! It is climbable only by proper mountaineers, with ropes and all the tackle. And lots of courage! It has apparently a very high death rate for a mountain. The rock is unstable, and bits are often crashing down the steep sides, sometimes with a climber attached. Emannuel has climbed Mawenzi four times!
David continued to accompany us like a dog on a walk! He would take himself off, maybe miles ahead, or way over to one side, then come back, we decided that maybe he ought to be sectioned!
It was really hot in the sun, and very bright. High altitude sunglasses were necessary, as was a good layer of sun cream. Thankfully, there was a cooling breeze, but as soon as the sun hid behind a cloud, it would suddenly become very cold.
Eventually, Kibo hut came into view, still quite a climb to reach it, and we were now getting very tired. Every step was a huge effort, even poli poli, legs were getting very heavy, muscles were aching, we were fighting for breath, then we had a white out blizzard, of hail. We could only trudge up the final slope to the hut, only to find that it was full, no space, no beds, just the table to sit at. Quite demoralised after a 7 and a half hour trek, we sat down, and wondered what we could do, then the cry came that this was just a Tanzanian Mountain joke. Ho b******y ho! We found our bunks, dumped our rucksacks on them, and returned to ‘our table’ for a meal. By now, everyone was moaning about some form of altitude sickness, headaches, nausea, coughs, tight chests, they were an unhealthy sounding lot! I say ‘they’: Jo and I were feeling fine, so much so that we felt guilty, and kept quiet! We had been muttering to each other, comparing just how well we felt, and could offer no explanation why that should be so. I had last been at this sort of altitude 18 months previously, in the Himalayas, when I discovered the source of the mighty River Ganges. For more info about this, please buy my first book ‘When I was in India’, only £5, proceeds to Mencap. I certainly looked the least fit of the group, with my slight paunch (!) and thought that perhaps I had a headache coming on, so I quickly downed a couple of pain killers, and felt great again.
The meal this evening: Soup, pasta, chips and beans. We retired early, not expecting any sleep whatsoever, as there was an air of apprehensive excitement wafting through the huts.
I have to tell you, the toilets here were dire. A row of long drops, the smell was awful. If I had the technology, I would put a scratch’n sniff spot on this page, so be thankful that Microsoft has not come up with that one yet! On our return the next day, they had been well cleaned, and were almost a pleasure to visit!
We could really only expect to rest that evening, sleep was out of the question. However, most of us managed to nap. John was awakened by a full feeling in his bladder. It was pitch dark in the huts, and outside, was pretty cold. The medic in him realised that by careful aim into an empty water bottle, he wouldn’t have to leave the relative warmth of the building. He took aim, and with a huge sigh, started to relieve himself. One and a half litres later, there was still a ‘copious and clear’ flow, and he had to stop in mid wee, and rush outside to finish! The bottle, now with its top firmly screwed back on, was consigned to the rubbish bin just outside the door!
We were roused at 12.45 am the next morning. We put on every item of clothing we could find; in my case, a pair of thermal long legs, trousers and over trousers, two thermal long sleeved shirts, a thin fleece, finally my Rab fleece, topped with my Rab waterproof. If I tell you that I was guaranteed to be warm with this lot on, then perhaps Rab might help finance the trip! On my head, my balaclava, and a woolly hat and my hood up. A pair of fleece gloves, with wind and waterproof shells, and the thermometer taped to one of my walking poles.
This left lots of room in my rucksack, for my platypus water bottle. I had to insulate it, with a tee shirt, so it wouldn’t freeze on the ascent. We would definitely need loads to drink on this part of the adventure. We were told that after we had sucked water through the tube, to blow back, so that water in the pipe wouldn’t freeze, but even so, each time I took on water, the mouthpiece was icy. We left the huts, and started out. The 5km ascent would take at least 6 hours. Only two in our group used head torches, I didn’t bother, it was a bright half moon, the stars were spectacular and the path was quite clear. The group became fragmented. Rhis had been sick a few times, as had Bud, and Meryl was feeling pretty awful. Emanuel, Gibson, David and William were extremely supportive. They needed to get us to the top. As the best guides on the mountain, they had a reputation, and they were not going to let us down. I felt quite selfish, I have to admit. I only really thought of myself. I was so keen to get to the top, I needed to buy a tee shirt, I was feeling good, and climbing well. Of course I was hopeful that we would all stick together, but we had to split, and so seven of us carried on, leaving three lower down. It was dark, so I was not totally aware of just who was in this lead group, or indeed, if the others had returned to Kibo. I found that the best place to be was at the head of the line, immediately after the leader. The leader kept to a poli poli pace, and didn’t stop unless it became necessary, whereas if you were ‘in the pack’, you walked concertina fashion, stopping, walking, catching up, and having to stop again. It was so hard to climb that way, so I made sure I kept as near the front of the line as possible. A few climbers ahead had packed in, and passed us on their way back down. It was quiet on the mountainside, everyone was concentrating on feeling good, and walking well. I was still feeling great, and tried not to look too far up the slope, as the shadow of the summit didn’t seem to be getting any closer. The weather was being very kind to us, only about 7 degrees below, no wind to speak of, and this beautiful moonlit starry sky above.
Tiredness was really setting in. It was slowly getting lighter, and there we were, just below Gilman’s Point. The scree had turned to boulders, to be clambered over, and now, it was dawn, a brand new sunny day, the sun burst over Mawenzi, We were at the edge of Kilimanjaro, and it was only 7 in the morning! By 07.30, we were at Gilman’s, and it is said, if you get to here, you can consider that you have climbed Kili!
So, seven of us had made it! Do we finish here, and head off back down the mountain? No fear, a quick breather, photo opportunity, and get up to Uhuru!
Sadly, we left John at Gilman’s. He was shattered. Rhis had done brilliantly to get here, but he was adamant that he would get to Uhuru. Jo was fine; Suzanne was, surprisingly quiet. Emanuel’s radio was off, and the peace was eerie! Suzanne’s efforts were now being focussed on walking, not talking! Not natural! Get a grip girl!
We headed off, with just 600 feet now to climb. The narrow path took us over the glaciers, and we had to leave Gilman’s by 8.00am, as any later, we would not be allowed by our guides to continue, too dangerous, as the sun would soon soften the hard packed snow and ice, rendering the paths too risky. After all, we had to get back from the peak, to the ‘safety’ of Gilman’s Point, before starting the descent down the now unfrozen scree. I went to take a drink, damn, my pipe had frozen, didn’t blow back, need water, need a drink, desperate…luckily, Jean loomed into view, a medic, she will take pity. She did, and the photo of me sucking water from her tube has to be imagined, and at this time, I have yet to see it, but it will look as if we are more than good friends! By now, just putting one foot in front of the other was a tremendous effort. We were always in sight of Uhuru, you could almost touch it, but our steps were getting shorter, poli poli was becoming polier polier, I was so, so, so very tired. I collapsed against a rock, I felt incredibly peaceful, I just wanted to drift away, I was tired, I just wanted sleep, my eyes were heavy, I was drifting, drifting, drifting…….collect me on the way back. I became aware of William standing over me, “Habari?” he asked
“Nzuri”, I managed to say, “I am tired, I am so sleepy, leave me, leave me to sleep”.
William wouldn’t leave me, he had seen it and heard it all before, and pointed to Uhuru, a hundred or so yards away. Spurred on by this, I snapped out of this tiredness, and paced on, and I even felt I was running to the peak!
I’ve made it, I’ve made it, I was now at the very top of Africa, the top of the highest stand-alone peak in the world. With renewed energy, all the team hugged, move out of the way, you Japanese tourists, this is our mountain; we want to take our photos!
Funny things spring to mind, and Rhis commented that he thought that I would shake his hand at the top, just as I had a few days earlier, to wish him good luck, at Mandara Gate, the start of our trip. No, this isn’t a ‘shaking hands’ moment; this is a ‘big hug’ moment!
I didn’t tell you about the spectacular views from Gilman’s, in my haste to get to Uhuru Peak, but the views are maybe best seen on the way back. There must be a quote somewhere, that you haven’t completed a journey until you have seen where you have been, but such a quote does not spring to mind. I am sure that you know what I mean though, that when you are undertaking such a mammoth walk, you cannot keep turning back to see from where you have come, you are always looking to where you are heading, the goal, to the top of the mountain. So you get to the top, you have a look round; take a couple of photos, and then you just want to get back down.
On reflection, I was a bit disappointed with the views from the summit: I hoped to see Lake Tanganyika, I hoped to see the Indian Ocean, I hoped to see the plains of the Serengeti, Mount Meru, something that wasn’t the tops of clouds…
What we did see, was over the whole of Africa, but shrouded in cloud. The cloud was way, way below us, after all, we were standing at 19,340 feet, jumbo jets fly only a bit higher than this, so in effect, we were looking at Africa as if from an aeroplane! The glaciers though, the Snows of Kilimanjaro, were unbelievable. Some of the glaciers towered to over 100 feet thick, hundreds of years old, but are retreating at a rapid rate. It is surely ironic that because of our flight to Africa, to see this spectacular sight, we have indeed become part of the reason for its demise. The photographs I took do not do the immenseness of the glaciers justice. Brilliant whites, deep blues, massive ice fields.
So, the seven of us had made the summit, with Gibson and William. Rhis was feeling so very ill, he walked like one of his equine patients, head down, slowly, quietly, struggling, but determined. Bud, and Meryl didn’t make it; they had turned back, from the scree slopes. They had been defeated by altitude sickness, we were so sorry for them, but we were so happy for us. How would we face them, would we have to tone down our jubilation, how could we shout about it?
We headed back, across the ice fields, past the rock where I was so sleepy, past the place where Suzanne had earlier rested on the way up, only to see one of her (borrowed) walking poles slither irretrievably down the glacier, probably to be discovered in the months to come by some lucky explorer, and back to Gilman’s Point, which earlier had been wall to wall with Japanese, who insist on their photos being of paramount importance, elbowing all and sundry out of their way, to satisfy the clicks of their Nikons, but now, it was quiet, the mountain was ours.
Cecil had told us how easy the descent would be, one single step down the scree would take you over 8 feet, it would be like skiing down, back to Kibo for elevenses!
Carp, to misspell a word, It was hard. Not quite as hard, it has to be admitted, as climbing up, but nevertheless, b****y hard work.
Jo and I sped on, still having major guilt feelings, only admitting to each other just how good we felt, how easy it had been, why are the others so ill, why don’t they just keep up with us, why….?
We got down to Hans Meyer Cave, where we waited for the others to catch up. By now, my water pipes had unfrozen, and I took on more water. I had not been drinking enough so far today, and even though we were descending rapidly, it was still important to drink as much fluids as I could.
We re-grouped, and chatted, still wondering how we would cope with our enthusiasm for the mountain when we would meet up again with Meryl and Bud.
Jo and I sped off again, which I now regret: we were feeling so well that we should have been of much more support to our fellow travellers, but, as I wrote earlier, on a mountain like this, where it is a struggle to keep going, the selfish, self-centred nature just takes over. So, I am sorry guys, but I was as keen to get back to the relative comfort of Kibo as the rest of you.
Way over in the distance, we saw Kibo, which I found hard to reconcile, as it looked now as if it was on the Saddle, not, as I remembered from only a few hours before, at the foot of the severe slope which was the final ascent of Kili. It turned out of course, that from this viewpoint, the lower slopes had been flattened, and eventually, we trouped victoriously back to Kibo, feeling as if we were the only ones ever to have climbed such a mountain!
We soon found John, who told us that, just a few moments after we had left him at Gilman’s for our final push to Uhuru, Bud, Meryl and Emanuel had arrived! So now, all ten of those who three days earlier, had left Mandara Hut, had now climbed Kili! 100% success! We had beaten the statistics, but this achievement was down principally to our guides, Emanuel Minja, and his three sons. Without their dedication and support, it would have been a totally different story.
The next chapter, and we are nowhere near the end of the story, starts at Kibo, the major part of the climb done, all downhill from here!
Traditionally, after the successful climb, you get back to Kibo, have a rest, cup of tea, bowl of soup, a bite to eat, take off a couple of layers, and then you are off again, to Horombo, for a proper rest. The descent from Uhuru to Horombo, with a short break, should take about 7 hours.
The excitement had by now taken its toll on Rhis. He had started out a few days earlier, complaining of a cold, and by now; this had turned to a rip-roaring infection. We had gone into a bunk room, to unpack/repack, and he coughed violently, catching what he coughed in his hand, and showed this to Damion, saying “Hey, I’ve got an infection”, then passed out on the bed. John got him a bottle of coca cola, and shook the fizz out of it, so that the liquid, with its sugary content would help, then we saw that Rhis had gone into rigor: shaking and shivering: part of the body’s defence mechanism in fighting infection. In the hut, on a nearby bunk, a Swiss climber: also a medic, conferred with Damian, and stressed that Rhis had to be got off the mountain, and quickly. Not having the back up of a 999 service, we sent for the chief medic (?)(!) resident at Kibo, and persuaded him that Rhis now needed urgent attention, and he eventually summoned the stretcher team to assemble, and take off with Rhis, who didn’t know what day it was, or even what planet he was on. We hurriedly gathered Rhis’s belongings together, had him strapped to the previously described one wheeled stretcher, and with a very cruelly shouted, but so apt, and on reflection very funny “Rhis, you are the weakest link, good bye”, he was off down the mountain
David went with the stretcher party, running down the track, with Emanuel in tow. The rest of us packed our gear, and set off. Walking was now a lot easier, back to normal walking pace. The girls however, went fairly slowly, but John, Damion and I picked up speed, and went back the way we had come up, even though we had planned to take the Mawenzi route back to Horombo, via Zebra Rock. We hoped that Cecil would forgive us, but we were pretty shattered, no sleep to speak of the previous night, and the other route despite being downhill, was tougher. Rhis and his wheely took just one and a half hours to make the descent from Kibo to Horombo. The three of us took over three and a half hours, and we didn’t think we were slow. We arrived at the huts, and found Rhis and David crashed out in a hut. It had rained on the way down, and Rhis’s sleeping bag was dripping wet, so, the hard part of the walk over, my selfish behaviour abated, and I gladly gave my sleeping bag to him, so that at least he would be warm, and hopefully get a good rest. If it is of any consolation to him, I spent a freezing cold night, though fully clothed and having just the benefit of my fleece sleeping bag liner. I couldn’t be bothered to get up from what warmth I had to put on more clothes. After all, we had now stopped taking diamox, and so the diuretic effect had gone. So apart from being cold, I had no other reason to get up! There was still the option for Rhis to use a stretcher for the rest of the descent, but we thought we would see how he was the next morning. We then discovered that Rhis had left his sleeping bag fleece liner at Kibo, and as John had his camera pinched from there, there was little hope of his getting it back. On the plus side though, Rhis thought he was in profit by a pair of gloves. My friends had started to give me funny looks, and smiling when they looked at me. I couldn’t understand this, and it was not until we got back to the comfort of the hotel I found out why: My face was very sunburnt, to just above my eyes, then there was a definite line, and all above was white, apart from a sunburnt patch on the top of my head. At the summit of Kili, I had pushed my balaclava up on to the top of my head, and the sun shone through the eye hole, and it does not take very long at all for the sun to burn, at those sort of heights, emphasising that your couldn’t overdo the sunscreen.
It was good to be back at Horombo, the best views were from here. During the day, you looked over miles and miles of forests and plains. At night, millions of specks of light were visible, from all the little towns and settlements. Moshi was the biggest town we could see, and it was so amazing that during the day, you were just not aware of any signs of urban life in the woody landscape.
In the main hut after breakfast the next morning, someone rushed up to our table and told us one of our group had met with an accident: Bud had fallen down the steep steps leading to her hut, She had fallen a long way, and landed against a large rock, and had grazed her knee badly. Doctor Damian was summoned, and patched her up, she was really shaken, but after a while, decided she would walk. Rhis had also decided that after a good nights rest, he was ok to walk with us, so we shared out the contents of his bag, so he didn’t have to carry anything at all. Dr Damian had his water supply, so he made sure Rhis kept hydrated. He was still walking with his head well down; he must still be feeling dreadful. We had a 14-mile walk to look forward to today, from Horombo, lunch at Mandara, and a final jaunt through the forest back to the main gate.
At Mandara, Doctor Damian was needed again; one of the camp staff had sliced into his finger, which was bleeding profusely. The chap was soon ready to resume his duties, after some careful butterfly patches had been applied, with the instruction that they be kept on for a few days.
I made the mistake of walking with David through the forest, and we were so busy chatting that it took us a while before we realised that we were well ahead of the rest of the group. We stopped, and sat on a rock, and after a few minutes, Emanuel ran up, out of breath, looking quite cross, “I have a problem” he said, “There are bad men and mountain dogs, we must stay together” He waited with us, and we regrouped. We felt a bit sheepish, sorry that we had upset Emanuel, but it was ok, we were still all friends! We wondered what the ‘mountain dogs’ could be, luckily we didn’t see any!
We arrived at Mandara Gate, where we had to sign in, and were asked to complete a questionnaire about the trek, and were given our certificates! Bearing in mind that it was February, the number on my certificate is 1082/2001, which suggests that during the 45 days of this year, an average of 24 people each day have made the summit. On this route, only 60 people a day are allowed in, as the huts hold only that amount of walkers, apart from Horombo, which is twice the size. Then the heavens suddenly opened: proper equatorial forest rain! Luckily, we were under cover, but within minutes, the rain stopped, and we were back in glorious sunshine. My feet had now decided that enough was enough, and I was becoming aware of a couple of blisters on my feet. Remembering back to previous treks, the same thing happened in the closing hour of the treks, both in the Himalayas, and in Patagonia, as if there was a blister time clock in my socks! We clambered in the pick up truck, and headed off the mountain, to a well-deserved bath, and beer!
Signing back in at the hotel, Rhis was astounded to have received a reply to the e-mail he sent to Hil and Nesta before we left for the climb. I think it was here that he decided that he would have to invest in this new technology as soon as he got back home, the rest of us by now had exchanged e-mail addresses, and he thought that he wasn’t going to miss out on this method of staying in touch!
We dumped our rucksacks, and headed off to the hotel shop to stock up on ‘I climbed Kili’ tee shirts.
As I wandered around the hotel grounds, I was very pleasantly surprised to meet up with Ludovic, just outside the hotel gate.
It is a terrible thing to have so little faith in the human race, and I had a suspicion that I had seen the last of my 10$ ‘coffee money’, so I was delighted when he rushed up to me and presented me with my very own bag of genuine fresh roast Tanzanian coffee beans. I collected the coffee beans for the others in our group, and thanked him for his help.
As I wrote in my ‘When I was in India……’ book, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping’ so with my dollars in my wallet, I hit the hotel shop! I wasn’t alone there, as we all had the same idea. A couple of tee shirts, one saying very subtlety ‘Uhuru Peak 5895m’, the other ‘Too high to explain’, were bought, along with a guide book about the Kilimanjaro National Park, a little pack of ‘Kili’ tea, a rather large piece of material to remind me of Emanuel’s table cloth, this will have the same purpose, and another decorative cloth square, like the previous one I bought as a neckerchief, with a view to having it framed, and a sticker, proclaiming that ‘I have climbed Kilimanjaro’.
That evening, we would meet with all of the porters, who we hadn’t met, despite having shared the trail with them over the last five days. In the gardens of the Mandara Hotel was a wooden pergola, and chairs and tables had been arranged under this. Emanuel and his sons were already there and on the lawn, facing the pergola, was a row of chairs on which the porters sat. It seemed very much of a ‘them and us’ situation. We, as a group of trekkers had met up in the bar, and had a beer or two start on the porters. It was our duty this evening to ply them with beer, having been told at the pre-trek briefing to buy them no more than two bottles each, as they tended to like beer, but had to remember that they had homes to go to, and it would not be appreciated by their families if they rolled home in the early hours drunk! Tanzanian tradition is that all the porters and guides would receive a tip, and we had to give this to each of them, we had thought that we would just be expected top give a wad to Emanuel, and he would share the money out. Another case for Dr Damian, who, having an all-singing, all-dancing calculator, had collected all the dollars in, and now had to hand out the tips to each of the porters, with larger amounts going to the personal porters, and even larger amounts to Gibson, William and David, with the major slice to Emanuel. The hotel staff were of great help here; it was a well-practised routine, after all. We had our certificates formally presented to us by Emanuel, to great applause from the porters and from each other. As thanks to us, the whole of the team of porters and guides sang ‘Kilimanjaro’ to us, in typical African choir style. It sounded absolutely wonderful, and we demanded an encore. Damion recorded it on his gizmo, which he promised to digitally download to us. In response, we sang ‘Jerusalem’ to them, which went down ok. Tut-tut to those English (and Welsh) who didn’t know the proper words! The atmosphere was delightful; it was a very warm evening, punctuated by the slap of mozzis being flattened, and the chirping of the crickets in the undergrowth. The group eventually disbanded, some of us gave our excess gear to the porters, decent climbing boots are a status symbol in these parts, and British rucksacks are highly prized! We had not yet had our evening meal, so we toddled off to the dining room. After a really excellent meal, we went our separate ways. Some (like me) went to sit on the first decent loo for 5 days, others went for long relaxing baths, and a few reprobates (the ladies) retired to the bar, led by, of course, Suzanne!
On our return from the mountain, we had been accosted, that isn’t the best word to use, by an American called Mike Flanagan, who bubbled with enthusiasm for what we had just accomplished. He was travelling alone, and wanted to pick our brains about the climb, for he was due to start off the next day. He seemed unreal, having no equipment, not even boots, but thought that his guides would supply him with everything he would be likely to need on the mountain. I took his e-mail address, and he promised he would let us know how he got on.
As soon as I got back home. I e-mailed him at his hot-mail account, and asked him how he got on. Here is his reply:
Point of Departure : Nairobi 24 II MMI 2130 Hours
Richard, Firstly, I must thank you and the group for taking the time to more than walk me through your collective trip, and to do it repeatedly for me, while passing encouragement and good cheer to boot!
Secondly, in addition to that kindness, The chocolate bars, the water bag , the electrolyte drink, the Tylenol and the general TLC for my general welfare was heartwarming.
Thirdly, a special heartfelt thanks or TANKS ( as they say in NYC) to Ms. S. Hine. the altitude pills were something I had never heard of and do believe, now, that they came in quite useful. Muchas gracias a Usted !
My feeling is that it is simply not equitable to simply say thank you. But today, it this is the best I can do.
Tomorrow, I will come and stay at all of your houses for a month to express my gratitude. Ha ha.
Notwithstanding, the trip was sensational.
After the climb, I did The Great Rift Valley, Ngorongoro, and the Serengeti Plain. Saw all of the big 5 , save the leopard, and had a hellava time for meself , as they say in East London.
Now , to the point.
Drum roll please.
At 1205 am on 19 II MMI, I left Kibo hut. Since I was solo and my guide was a Gem, we got the jump on a few of the other starters.
Made it to Hans Meyer Cave and we were 500 meters ahead of the flashlights, it did not look like the M1. But they never gained on me the whole way. Pole Pole.
My guide taught me, just as you all had suggested, that once you start to breath fast , then you are going to fast. Amazingly enough I was able to figure that one out. I took one baby step at a time all the way way up.
Made it to Gillmans Point, and am still wondering what the Japanese Bike Memorial was all about ?????
Did you guys break that plaque ?? I know I did’nt.
Hey, managed to scramble across to Uhuru Peak take 4 or 5 pics in the dark, and then off to Gillman’s again where the sun had finally risen.
What made me able to summit was visual ignorance, there is no question for me , that had I bee able to see where I was going I would have been splitsville Baby ! Made it to the top in 6 hours 20 minutes, I was screamin’.
The guys at the bottom said 42 went up only 3 made it. I was first by 20 minutes.
These numbers are a bit skewed as a team of 30 Japanese all turned around at some point.
Now the coming down although, quite quickly, was tougher than going up. The pounding was stuff, my guide only that me rest for less than 1 hour at Kibo.
Then off to Horombo where after being up for 32 hours , i was digging on getting some shut eye. The reason it was 32 hours for me was because upon arriving at noon at Kibo I was not able to sleep until it was time to head to Gillman’s. Man o man am I glad I did’nt know that before the trek.