Day 4, a lot happened in that day!
When we woke up that morning, we knew that this was The Day. The day of truth (will we conquer our fears and reach the top?); the day that we’ll test our mental strength; the day that we’d be above everything or we’d be defeated by our weakness. But most of all, we knew that it’s going to be a long day.
The temperature dropped further, we all wear our wool hats!
We hiked to Kibo campsite at the bottom of the Kibo crater wall.
the scenery became desertic
I was 90% blind, trying to cover as much I could my eyes to avoid dust and irritation.
Mawenzi peak (5136m), the third highest peak in Africa after Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. Though less then 6 km of nothingless (= the Saddle) separates the twin peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi, these two mountains could not be more different. Mawenzi is steep and spiky and rises to a series of peaks on a north-south ridge. Kibo has gentle slopes and a circular crater.
vegetation disappeared almost completely. Air was thin. Walking and talking became a difficult task. No more world scandals to entertain us. (The previous 3 days, the group of 7 economists didn’t talk about economics 😯 boring! Scandals are more entertaining! ;)) Instead, we focus on taking long breath, making one step at time, we practice pole pole and we were in charge of when to take breaks 😉 Before, the leading guide would tell us every 1-2 hours to take water breaks and sometimes we request a short pee break in between. But by day 4, we took breaks deliberately whenever we feel like 😉 And when a member of the group requests a break, everyone thank him/her in our mind. 🙂
During the 6-7 hrs walk, most of the time the sky was crowded and some rains too. We couldn’t see what was in front and behind us. We felt lost in the nowhere.
But we reached our camp at the end. Tired. Breathless. But we were there, our last camp before the summit, Kibo Hut (4750m)
Altitude: 420m up
We had a late lunch. By the time we finished it, it was 3:30 PM. We were ordered to go to sleep and wake up at 6 PM to have an early dinner.
I fall into sleep very quickly and woke up at 5:55PM. Just on time to hear the wake up call.
No one had much appetite but we ate anyway because we knew that we needed to fuel properly. A long night was waiting for us.
After dinner, we went back to our tent to sleep. Some people of the group couldn’t sleep because of the excitement but I slept nonetheless. Sleeping on the mountain wasn’t a problem for me 🙂
Wake up call was at 10:30PM. I put the summit clothes. It was tricky how to dress because we were not sure what would be the temperature on the top (-15 to -30C) and during the 1100 m ascend. If we don’t dress enough, we’d get cold. If we dress too many layers and get too warm, it would be uncomfortable as well. At the end, I dressed 7 layers on the top and 6 layers on the bottom including a synthetic insulation jacket and ski pant. My body didn’t feel cold the whole night. Sometimes when we take breaks, even if it’s 2-3 min, my hands and feet would freeze, but as soon as we start moving again, they get warm. So, in the end, what I was more afraid of and prepared for (i.e., get cold) was not an issue.
Cooking/chocolates/juices were served. I forced myself to eat few cookies and had a couple of coffee.
At 11:30 PM we were ready. Ready to start the final ascend to the summit.
The original plan:
Today we begin early at 12 a.m. and proceed very slowly in the darkness on a switchback trail through loose volcanic scree to reach the crater rim at Gillman’s Point. Rest here for a short time to enjoy the spectacular sunrise over Mawenzi. Hereafter we continue on to Uhuru peak, Africa’s highest point. After a successful summit we trace our way back to Kibo Hut for breakfast and then onto Horombo hut for overnight.
We walked very slowly in the darkness with headlamp. We couldn’t see more than 1 meter in front of us. Each step was hard, each step was heavy. The ascend is quite steep but we did zigzag, it made it more walkable but we all realized how steep it is and started to worry about the descend. I tried to ignore that part and told myself that I’ll figure it out how later. In some part we saw ice. We were getting closer to the glacier area.
During the ascend, one member of our group vomited and one felt dizzy. I think all of us started to worry a little bit about our physical condition, whether we’d be able to endure until the summit. I told myself… if you don’t vomit and don’t have severe mountain sickness, you MUST continue, you MUST give the last breath you have. No matter how long it takes, how many breaks you need to take, just KEEP walking, KEEP moving!!!!
Most of us had music to keep us awake in the darkness and also to distract a little bit from counting how much more we had ahead of us.
At certain point, I began to feel a chest pain and breathing became very hard. I wasn’t too worry until I asked Patrick if it was normal the pain. He didn’t answer me right away, instead he told Adam that I was having chest pain. Adam asked me where exactly it was the pain. “upper chest, and I have problem breathing”, I responded. Adam took exactly 2 sec to tell me that I was okay and that I need to take longer breaths. It was only 2 secs and in those 2 secs, I got scared. I thought maybe my lungs were swelling…. maybe I was getting HAPE (high altitude pulmonary oedema), maybe I need to descend rapidly to avoid further damage. oh… I forgot to give Adam my travel insurance card. All these thoughts occurred in 2 secs. I can think fast sometimes! 😉 Fortunately… I was fine and none of this was happening. I focused more on the breath, taking even longer breaths and walked slower.
We took several breaks and I pee twice. Let me tell you. Peeing that night was unpleasant. Why? First because I had so many layers!!! Secondly, every time I needed to pee I really needed. So when we stop, I made the mistake of running to the spot, thus I was breathless when I finish peeing. I would take 1-2 min just to regain my breath before putting on all the layers! 😯 No worries, nobody would see me, and in fact, nobody would care on the mountain!
Anyway…. 7 hrs later… exhausted…. the MOST BEAUTIFUL and DESIRED sunrise. It was not only beautiful to see it in just in front of us but most importantly it meant that we were at least halfway through. 😆 What a sense of accomplishment!
We were already higher than the Mawenzi peak (5136m)
We’ve came a long way.
We stopped and I remember to put 2 layers of sunscreen! How clever because by then I still have some energy, later on I was burned out, and reapplying sun screen was out of the question. Other members of the group didn’t do that and most of them got sun burn.
Just before reaching Gillman’s point. My eyes got irritated again. I thought I was cured because during the night I had no problem at all but when the sun came out, the dust became a problem again. Fortunately, Charger Boy saw me struggling and took care of me. He let me hold the straps of the backpack he had (mine) so I didn’t have to use poles anymore. I just follow him. It was very helpful although by then breathing was even harder and my legs was exhausted. I had to stop him every 20 steps for 1-2 min to breath! Yes, every 20 steps, I couldn’t go further without feeling that I was dying due to lack of oxygen. Every time I look above to check how far away was Gillman’s point, it was so discouraging to see how far away it was and how little progress I had made.
5 other members of the group had someone to help them in the same as Charger Boy to me. Looking at the others reminded me that Adam (the main guide) told us that his success rate to the summit is 99% and I thought, well… he meant it!
20 steps, break; 20 steps, break; ……
We finally reached Gillman’s point, 5685m. We stopped for few minutes. We encouraged to each other and by then I was sure that we will all make to the top because no one had any severe mountain sickness symptom. It was only a matter of mental strength that would push us to the top. And mental strength is something that we ALL possess! No doubt about it! 😆
The last 210m was not easy. The path has a lot of ANNOYING rocks. In addition, remember that air was even thinner…. the breath problem got worse but the excitement of getting to Uhuru peak gave us the last push!
At 10:50 AM, I was the last one to reach to Uhuru peak! That is almost 12 hrs from our starting point.
here we are, exhausted but all in one piece, with these the AMAZING MEN from Pristine Trails that made this possible!!!
Me with Adam, Patrick and Mussa.
That day was the birthday of Sarah, the organizer of the whole trip. We celebrated it on the summit with some champagne and singing!It was a lot of fun!!! 😆
Now, going down the mountain! The part that I was worried for several reasons: 1) it was steep, 2) I was burned out, 3) I couldn’t see properly. I told Patrick my concerns but he told me: ” no worries, we’ll take care of you!” And they did.
Charger Boy literally dragged me down to the mountain. Although it was easier because every time we go down, breathing became easier, however I needed to stop many many times because I was so burned out that I couldn’t stand up.
When we stopped at Stella point (5745m), I laid down! I was out!!!
No more pics from there on. Although when we were going up the guides told us to not take pics because we would come down the same way and we can take pics on our way back. But he didn’t warm us that NO ONE WOULD HAVE ANY ENERGY LEFT!!!!
The last part of the descend was very steep but the path was dirt has the texture of snow, so we sliced down for like 1.5 hrs.
I was the first one getting to the Kibo Camp at 2PM. Mr. Mangi Mangi came to welcome me, he gave me a hug and congratulated me. I was taken to my hut. I sat there for 15 min before I could do anything.
The others arrived around 3PM. When I heard them, I went to the cafeteria. There was soup, potatoes and sandwiches. I had no appetite. Actually, I haven’t eaten and drink anything for the last 7 hrs, but I had no appetite. Adam told us that we needed to eat something to recover. I forced down some soup and a sandwich.
We sleep from 3:30-5:30PM and we had to get down further.
After that 2 hrs, I felt much better. I followed Patrick to lead the descend. We also started to chat. We were so into the conversation that when we looked back, I completely lost the group, only Charger Boy was with us.
At 8:45PM, we reached to the Horombo Hut. That was not the route we came up, but the Marangu route.
I had an hour before others arrived to the camp. I did organization, changed clothes, put aside clothes/gears to giveaway.
When others arrived, we had dinner. None of us wanted food at that point. We needed badly our sleeping bag.
We had some food and Mr. Mangi Mangi brought a birthday cake for Sarah. It was made with watermelon! 🙂
Distance: 21 KM
Hours: 18 hrs
Altitude: 1145m UP, 2175 down
It was a long day indeed but I’m so proud to say that all 8 of us reached to the highest point in Africa!!!!!!! 😆 Success rate: 100%!