21 April 2016

The Up's and Down's of Mt. Kilimanjaro - Part 10

13 February 2016, Saturday
Day 6, Part 2
Summit Day

Uhuru Peak – Barafu Camp -  Mweka Hut
 5895m (19 341ft) – 4550m (14 920ft) – 3100m (10 170ft)

About 7hrs to the summit, gaining almost 5000ft
Then 3hs back to Barafu, and a further 3hrs to Mweka Hut

If getting to the top was the toughest mental challenge I had faced, then going back down was the toughest physical challenge.

After almost 15 minutes at the peak, the visibility deteriorates and it's time to turn around

Glacier near the peak. It is huge!

With the photos taken, and hugs and high-fives shared between another group that had summited, I was ready to return to more oxygen-rich air. With ever step I took, I forced myself to believe the air was getting thicker. And I started to feel a little better.

We retraced our path to Stella Point, where I snapped a few more photos, and then carried on the same path we had followed on the way up. I was glad we had summited at night, because if I had seen what we had to climb UP, I probably would have turned around!
A ledge near Stella Point. It's a long way down...
At one point, we changed to another route, which is used for the rest of the descent to Barafu Camp. This ‘path’ is loose gravel and rock, and sometimes we would find ourselves sliding down. Step, step, slide; step, step, slide.
A photo of a guide and our picking our way down the path

The frozen soil gives way to loose rock and stones that you can slide down

It was painful; my legs were tired from the ascent, and now my knees were taking a beating. And to think, I had to endure another 4 hours of this (at that point). Absolute torture.

The views were spectacular though.

Mawenzi Peak

It was like being on a different planet

Hey! I can see my tent from here!
Despite being at over 15 000ft, it got hot quickly, and soon it felt like I was in a sauna. The snow pants and winter gear didn’t help. But the camp was in sight, and after hundreds of steps, I made it. The relief was short-lived, and I only had time to hang up my wet clothes to dry, change, pack a few things, eat lunch, and we were packed up and ready to go to the next camp.
So many options
Resting at High Camp

The route had changed to dry river bed, with massive steps. I tested the strength of my hiking poles by using them as crutches and swinging myself down the steps.

I didn’t record much of the descent, so this is all from memory, and not too exciting.
There was one exciting, and scary moment, when we were taking a break and a group of four or five guys came hurtling down the mountain with a stretcher. When I say these guys fly over the rocks and ledges, I’m not kidding. They almost flew over the 2.5m drop where we were sitting during our break.
I was very glad I hadn’t hurt myself on the mountain; the stretcher ride looked incredibly uncomfortable.

The Stretcher

Fynbos-like flora
When we made it to camp (Mweka Hut), it was sweet relief. Just one more three-hour day, and we were done. But for now, shoes off, face washed, and food.

I slept like the dead that night.

You can see for miles and miles

Surreal being above the clouds

Looking back up towards the Peak

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