Thursday, 3 October
Elevation: 5,895 m (Uhuru peak), alpine desert
This post was written months after I actually did the climb. There were so many emotions surrounding this day I needed time to process them. So as I procrastinated the post I ended just forgetting about it. Putting it to words and posting it onto this blog was of secondary importance to me. The thoughts and memories will be mine forever.
Anyway, how it all happened…
Our lead guide took us through what would happen the following day. I am sure he said it twice but he was on about letting us know it was ok to feel a bit apprehensive about the final push to the top. Thoughts like: “Why am I doing this?”, “Why a I putting myself through this torture when I could be somewhere on the beach in Zanzibar…” were perfectly valid thoughts. The problem is I didn’t have the fainted what he was on about as I never had them. I have climbed quite a few mountains in my life and for me getting to the top was the only option. I was mainly worried I won’t be able to do it. My main fear was the latitude as this was a heights I have never done and could not prepare for. Except of course by going this high. I have been about this high in an un-pressurised aircraft when I was doing my skydive jumps all those years ago.
We had a wake up call in a form of a shout from one of the guides. We had something to eat and drink and then had about an hour to get ready. We were to carry only the stuff we would need for that day, the rest staid in the Kibo hut.
We set off all kitted up, middle of the night and the only lights visible were the millions of stars and our head torches. You could see all the other groups heading up the hill in small groups as the light from their torches slowly made their way in a zig-zag way up the scree.
Slowly but surely I was starting to feel the cold and the lack of oxygen getting into my body. I could see how every move became an effort. We stopped at one point and the guides gave us ginger tea. Something I never had in the past and not had since then. Besides water it was the only thing I could stomach as the altitude issues also brought on nausea.
The water we had in our camel bags started to freeze. The day before the guides asked us each to give a t-shirt so they could wrap it around the camel back tube (the tube that connects the camel bag to the nozzle). The air gets so cold that the water quickly freezes. And it eventually did anyway so we had to revert to drinking from flasks we have burred deep in the rucksacks.
At the second stop, well i think it was the second stop, I was started to loose the feel of my toes. I panicked a little and asked one of the guides to help me check my toes. They were of course fine but just a bit to cold. A few of the hikers gave up their day rucksacks to the guides to carry. I was trying to be all tough as I didn’t want to admit I needed help. Sometime after the second stop I distinctly remember having to tackle to larger steps. Something I have done hundreds of times in my life and many times during my training. However this was just to much for my body. I had to stop for longer. The guides basically removed the rucksack from me and carried it for me from then on.
Somehow I found myself reaching the Gilman’s point. For the route we were taking this was the first big landmark at the top of the Kilimanjaro crater. The larger part of the group that was ahead of me christened it “Kill me now point” which I found hysterical. Around that time I found that I was the last in the group as two behind me had to return back to Kibo. By the time I reached Gilman’s point it was starting to get lighter and I could see the surroundings and the valley below. The rest of the way was mostly flat with a lovely undulating path around the edge of the crater. Just at the last section the path steepened slightly.
Because of the low O2 in the air my brain also wasn’t working very well and I had difficulty making decisions. I had to completely give in to the decisions of the excellent guides we had from Intrepid. If it wasn’t for them I was not have made it past that point and eventually, to the top.