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Offline Sardine

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A bit of background

Sometime last year a colleague of mine was planning a road trip to Kenya. I figured this was the perfect way to spend my leave, and said I would join in order to help reduce costs.
Then I had the very bright idea of climbing Kilimanjaro, as it was close to Nairobi (where my friend was planning on going).
That's it, I made up my mind; I was going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro!

And then I started to research the costs. Gulp.

Long story short, my colleague's plans changed, and now I no longer had wheels up north. Well, I had already committed. I would fly. Even though that would add quite a bit to the costs.

I planned and researched for months. Eventually I decided on a company and route.

Adventure Alternative
Machame, 7-day route.


I had wanted to do the 8 or 9 day Lemosho, but there weren't any open groups that suited my dates.

I booked my flights through FastJet:
JHB-DAR, DAR-JRO / JRO-DAR, DAR-JHB
Came to about R5500, including checked luggage on each sector. So all-in-all, not too bad.

The climb was:
1250 Pounds, excluding airport transfers (15USD each way), gear rental (came to about 30USD), toilet rental (42USD per climber, there were 5 of us), and tips (I thought it was 200USD, but the rest of the group were told 120-150USD each).

Then extras for food and water and drinks at the hotel, as well as post-climb souvenirs.

So, the dates were set. The climb was booked. Flights paid for.

Training? I did a little bit. Then stopped. It is difficult to train to climb a mountain in a flat country (Botswana).
But, I figured I survived the Argus (took me 6hrs50min), so I could survive hiking a mountain...

NOTE: My camera GPS didn't always record altitudes correctly. The ones I post are based on what I pulled off the Adventure Alternative website. I have also looked at 3 other websites, and each has different altitudes for the camps. Go figure. So I apologise if it is 100% accurate.

NOTE 2: Sometimes the writing style varies. Some days I managed to jot down stuff almost immediately after it happened. Other days I wrote it that night, or the next day. The idea was to write it "now", as it was happening, to try give you the idea of exactly what it was like being there.

 :patch: :3some:
« Last Edit: March 03, 2016, 12:26:49 pm by Sardine »
 

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2016, 11:55:47 am »
5 February 2016 , Friday

Johannesburg, South Africa – Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Finally, the day has arrived!
I am almost 1 hour into the flight to Dar Es Salaam from Johannesburg, cruising at 31 000ft in a FastJet A319.

I had arrived at OR Tambo International 4 hours before the scheduled take-off time, and made sure that I knew where to check in; the last time I had an international flight out of there, I almost missed it because I was on the wrong side of the terminal building. Whoops.

After killing some time over coffee with a friend, I took my time heading to the check-in counters. Bad move. Despite checking in 2 hours before my flight, I failed to factor in the hundreds of other people also flying internationally, and all of the security checkpoints and passport control and this and that.
Clearly I was no longer in Maun, with a terminal building smaller than the ORT KFC.

Boarding time came and went while I waited in the queue at passport control. I was starting to get a little antsy, but noticed there were people on the same flight as me, right at the back of the queue. So, I started to feel a little less stressed about potentially missing my flight. As it turned out, the flight was 40 minutes late anyway.

I haven’t flown internationally on an airliner in 13 years (except or the odd Maun-JHB-Maun on Air Botswana and Airlink), so I was excited about being able to fly FastJet. I also hadn’t been in an Airbus for, well, I can’t remember when last time I was in one. I am a big Boeing fan, but I figured I’d give scarebus a chance.

Boarding the aircraft, it was clean and looked good. It even had high-speed tape holding the wings together (that’s a joke, folks. No need to worry). The seats were as comfortable as can be for a low-cost airline, and it was actually almost nice to see the inside of something other than a B738 (how spoilt does that sound).

Once they got going with the safety briefings, I realised that Tanzanian-English is very different to what I’m used to. Completely different to the way the Motswana talk, they manage to speak rapidly, but mumble slowly, all at the same time.
I was sat in the aisle at the over-wing exit, and there wasn’t any of the usual “Are you prepared, and able, to assist in an emergency”. (*on later flights they did do that. Every crew did different briefings).

We’re in Africa now, folks...
And the coffee sucks. Which explains why it only cost R10.

*…*

Arrived in Dar Es Salaam, some time after 18:30 local time (17:30 SA time)

Dar at night… A whole different world. The traffic is intense and drivers suicidal. It is a blur of taxi’s, cyclo’s, blinged-out motorbikes, trucks, and cars.
Our taxi driver was very good, and negotiated busy intersections by squeezing between all of the other vehicles, horn blaring as we went.

That night, we ate at the Barbeque Garden. Delicious, fish and calamari, and and and.
I have also decided that wherever I go, I’d like to try the local beer. Kilimanjaro lager is good. It reminded me of CBC Weiss. I also tried the Kenyan “Tusker”, which they now brew in Tanzania. Kilimanjaro was much better.

We got to our accommodation quite late, after being given a short tour of the town. It was lights out as soon as my head hit the pillow.


Only two photos... Pretty clouds.

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2016, 12:03:14 pm »
6 February 2016, Saturday

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania – Kilimanjaro and Moshi, Tanzania

Blaring traffic, the smell of car and truck fumes, and sticky, humid, nasty heat as an alarm clock. Ouch.

Much like flying from Johannesburg to Durban, the flight to Kilimanjaro International was a case of leaving the dust and grime behind in Dar, and watching the landscape transform into a patchwork of greens and oranges and yellows. And as we neared the end of our 45 minute flight, we saw the odd mountain. My first mountains in a year!

As luck would have it, I changed from my original seat on the right hand side of the aircraft to sit next to my friend on the left hand side of the aircraft, and of course, we sailed through the air with Mt. Kilimanjaro to our right. Hopefully I will get a proper view of the mountain from the ground.

Kilimanjaro Airport is rather quaint, and the drive to Moshi reminded me a little of Maun, Botswana. Only more green. With more hills. Less sand. Less cows and donkeys. More goats and sheep. More traffic. Better roads. More shops. But otherwise, totally the same.
Cloud had settled over the mountain, so I would need to exercise some serious patience about seeing the challenge that awaited me. I did get to see Mt. Meru, and that gave me a little spark of fear; that is but a speedbump compared to Kilimanjaro!

Moshi itself reminded me of Durban, with its smooth single-lane roads flanked by greenery. Absolutely beautiful.

Eventually, just before we got to the hotel, I caught a glimpse of the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro poking through the clouds. What have I let myself in for?!

The hotel that the company I booked through put us in isn’t too bad. A lekker big swimming pool, basic rooms, a rather plain restaurant and bar area. Nothing fancy, and basically you get what you pay for.
I had a crepe for lunch. Well, it was advertised as a crepe, but presented as a very thick, not-particularly-sweet pancake. Tasty though.

While I was sitting in the main area, jotting down some notes and testing out my phone’s fancy new solar charger (purchased just two days previously), I chatted to some of the other tourists. They thought I was a tou rguide from Denmark! Now that was a first (normally people think I’m from New Zealand or the UK because of my unusual accent).

I got to meet the other 4 climbers in my group. Seems like they all met previously, so it feels a little odd. But thanks to my work, I have grown used to strangers, and I am sure I will feel comfortable around them relatively quickly (in the past I would run screaming from the room… okay, not really, but I was really, really shy).
We got along really well, and are all around the same age, which is good.
Normally there is the usual small-talk of who you are, what you do, blah blah blah. But it was pretty clear we are all focused on the upcoming climb, when we asked climbing-related questions. “How much hiking experience do you have?”
Uhm, er, uh, well, zero. I used to live with a mountain on my doorstep, but now I live in a country that is almost completely flat. My only exercise is walking maybe 4km at work every day. But that’s at a very chilled pace. They also said they had limited experience, but I later discovered they were just being very modest about it. Oh dear…

For dinner I tried a Swahili Omelette, which is like a regular omelette, only they add French fries. Carbo-loading, anyone?

I was starting to worry a little. What if I end up holding the entire group back? What if I’m the weak link? What if this? What if that?
But, I survived the Cape Argus in 2014. 110km of cycling, and just under 7 hours in the saddle (because I didn’t train for that either!).

I can do this.

Right?



Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2016, 12:08:21 pm »
7 February 2016, Sunday

Rest and briefing day, Moshi

I slept well and was quite content to doze all morning, something I don’t get to do with my work. But I forced myself to roll out of bed at 07:00.

Breakfast was a buffet offering the usual stuff; milk and cereal, toast, eggs, beans, sausage, fruit, and then of course they also had vetkoek (Fat-cake) and very greasy potatoes. Every meal has the option of potatoes.

At 11:00 we met with the Adventure Alternative Tanzania rep, as well as two of the four guides who would be climbing with us. This was for our pre-climb briefing.

They showed us the tents we would be sleeping in, and the sleeping mats they provided (better than I was expecting; it was a thin foam mattress rather than the hard yoga-type mat a lot of other companies provided). We also discussed the rest of the gear, and anything we might need to rent. They made sure of any special dietary requirements, as well as any medical conditions or injuries. In closing, they advised us to spend the next 24 hours getting hydrated in preparation for the climb. The hotel must make a killing selling bottled water!

One of the water bottles I had planned on using had some left over smoothie in it from two days previously. Needless to say it wound up in the dustbin. No soft plastic bottles are allowed on the mountain as people just toss them where they please, so I found myself hiring a water bottle (Nalgene), walking poles, and waterproof pants. Bye-bye Dollars…

After the briefing, the five of us headed into Moshi town for lunch at a restaurant called IndoItaliano. Indian x Italian.

It had a nice vibe and the food was very good, though rich. Normally I don’t eat Italian food (except for pizza), but decided to try the meatball marinara. It was the first time in a long time that I couldn’t finish a plate of food.

I have been going through phases of very mild nausea and headaches since arriving in Tanzania. I hope it is just a combination of nerves and the change in climate, and not the flu!

After lunch we explored some of the shops and stalls, and were hounded by peddler’s. South Africa is also full of them, but in Botswana people leave you in peace, save for the two who do go around town and try sell key rings, but normally you just need to tell them “No” once and they wander off. These guys on the other hand, were persistent to the point where I started to get angry (and I am a very patient person). One guy decided to try and sell me some paintings. He very cleverly noticed I was going to a bank and followed me, as that way I couldn’t use the “I don’t have any money on me” excuse. As soon as he opened his mouth, I said that I wasn’t going to buy anything.

“Yes, but let me just show you what I have!”
“No. I won’t buy anything; I can’t. I don’t have anywhere to put it. Maybe before I finish my holiday.”
“Yes, but a lot of these are done by children. I get them off the street and teach them to paint.
“Well that’s great. Good job. But I’m not buying.”
Eventually I got fed up, told him I had had enough, and walked off.
Eish. I got an earful then.

When in shops, the people would ask where we were from. At first, I said South Africa. “Ah, yes, do you know any Zulu? Can I offer you this? This is a very nice t-shirt. Lots of colours. Here is an elephant.”
And so it went on.
But then I decided to start saying I was from Botswana.
“Ah, yes, do you know any Zulu?”
“No.”
“Ah, but my cousin, my cousin. I give you a good price on this elephant.”


And then it became;

“Ah, yes, do you know any Zulu?”
“No, we speak Setswana in Botswana. Do you know Setswana?”
“No.”

And that was that.
One guy even asked if I know Malema. Like, uh, personally?

Once we got back to the hotel, I repacked my backpack for the umpteenth time. I would be carrying this pack for the duration of the trip, and a porter would carry my dufflebag with extra clothes and snacks(all 12 kgs of it). With about 4l of water, a first aid kit, jacket, waterproof pants, torch, notebook, snacks, wetwipes, tissues, and phone charging stuff, my backpack was heavy!

Stress has also caused an old shoulder injury to flare up, so I can’t seem to adjust the backpack so that is comfortable.
Hopefully once on the mountain I will find a good rhythm and relax!

Dinner was a delicious buffet. Along with the 5 of us, there was also a big group from another company doing the climb. Much easier to do a buffet than have a bajillion food orders to deal with.

« Last Edit: March 03, 2016, 12:11:32 pm by Sardine »
 

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2016, 12:32:28 pm »
8 February 2016, Monday

Moshi Town – Machame Gate – Machame Camp

5hrs40min climbing, about 10km
Start: 1743m (5718ft) , End: 2980m (9776ft)


D-day!

A hearty breakfast at the hotel and then time to pack.
We got a group “before”photo in front of the flags the hotel had raised; they had one representing each nationality of the guests in the hotel. Really cool.

At 09:00 we were off on a shuttle to Machame Gate, 45-60 minutes away. The wheels on the bus…

We had only just set off when we were pulling into a parking lot. This doesn’t seem right. Is this one of those operators who seem legit, and then wind up telling you that the trip has been cancelled and there is no refund? Oh no, oh no.

We climbed two flights of stairs to an office, and were all out of breath. Good start.
And nope, it wasn’t a scam. They had just had some trouble with catering and were running a bit behind schedule. We were there to collect a guide, and our lunch.

The drive to the gate was stunning, with winding roads lined with banana trees. All very rural, like taking a very big step back in time.

After arriving at the gate, we registered and waited. And waited. And took some photos. And waited. C’mon! We just want to go now!
There were people from all over the world dressed in all sorts of climbing gear, waiting to tackle Mt. Kilimanjaro. The vibe was excited, but a lot of people looked a little nervous. It was like I was back in Cape Town, waiting to start the Cape Argus.
There were probably close to 100 climbers, and that was just for this route!

Everyone was chattering away, crows squawked, clouds floated by, and then thunder rumbled. The mountain is angry. It was a flurry of activity as packs were zipped open and rain gear pulled out.

It’s cool with a few drops of rain. I think I’ll hold off on the sweat-suit (waterproof pants).

We are surrounded by a bright green rainforest. I nibble some lunch from the box they provided, but save a beef and egg burger for later, knowing it won’t be long before I am hungry.

Groups are called forward every 10 minutes or so. We wait, and wait, and finally it is our turn. Here we go!

…5hrs40min later…

That is how long we hiked. A few level and slightly-downhill areas, but mostly uphill. And a lot of steps. The steps killed my knees, so whenever possible, I went around the steps and walked in a drainage ditch instead. At least it alleviated some pain.

The guides were good and we went slowly with lots of stops. We met our third guide at the gate, and the fourth one enroute.
Naturally, as we climbed our packs got lighter as we drank water, so it got easier despite the muscles getting a little tired.

It was a welcome sight to see the campsite; the rainforest suddenly gave way to moorland, and in it was a sea of tents of all colours, their owners scurrying around doing whatever it is you do at a campsite at 2980m above sea level.

After we registered we went to our tents, and I changed out of my wet clothes (despite wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I had worked up quite a sweat) and strung them across the inside of my tent to dry.

We were summoned to a tea of Milo and popcorn. Are those angels I hear?
I had eaten my burger about halfway into the climb, but the popcorn was very well received.

The crew says tonight will be cooler than normal, due to a nasty wind. The tents are pretty solid though.
Apart from my shoulders and knees being a little iffy, I am otherwise okay. My feet hurt, I’m cold, I am already developing a dry cough, and every now and then my fingers tingle. But I’m okay.

We are at 2980m. Weird concept.
I can’t wait for some hot show, med-lemon, my book and my bed!

…some time later...

Dinner was good. Leek soup, bread, veggies, boiled potatoes, fish, avocado and fruit. And Milo with a dash of coffee. And to think these guys carry all this stuff up here!

It was a long day. The shoulder is still a little stiff, and my knees hate me even after some rest. But what a climb- stunning rainforest, good path, fresh air, nature all around you.

The campsite is a little cramped, and guarded by a guy with an AK-47 and handcuffs.
The wind is dying down.

I survived Day 1.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2016, 12:37:45 pm by Sardine »
 

Offline Pilchie

Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2016, 12:53:55 pm »
 :sip:
May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live
 

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2016, 12:54:21 pm »
More photos from Day 1...
« Last Edit: March 03, 2016, 01:05:18 pm by Sardine »
 

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2016, 01:08:44 pm »
9 February 2016, Tuesday
Day 2


Machame Camp – Shira Plateau

6hrs hiking, about 7km
Star: 2890m (9776ft), End: 3840m(12 600ft)


It’s 01:00. It feels as if I have been asleep for ages, but it has only been 5 hours. It is raining, and I need to use the bathroom. There is no way I’m getting out of my sleeping bag and going out into the cold.

04:00.
Maybe I should go pee. No, now it’s pouring with rain. I should have gone earlier when it was a gentle drizzle.

06:00.
I may as well get up and pack.

06:30.
Who would have thought it would take me 30 minutes to pack a duffle bag. Tonight I will have everything packed up and ready before I go to sleep.

Today my muscles are a little tender, but I was expecting worse!
Breakfast is water, coffee, milo, bread with peanut butter and honey, oats, mini-omelette and a pork sausage. Mmmm!

We are geared up and on the way by 08:30. Yesterday I climbed in shorts, but today I opted for my long pants with zip-off shorts for if I get too hot. This way I can also use my gaiters and keep the mud and stones out of my boots.

Right off the bat, the climb was up, up, up.
Instead of ‘stairs’ made of mud and logs, we clambered over hundreds of rocks, some of which were huge. My thighs ached and my knees weren’t too stoked about the business, but my shoulders were almost happy; either I had somehow managed to pack and adjust my bag perfectly, or my shoulders were now used to the load.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of that day’s climb.
One foot in front of the other, sip water from my camelbak often, drink Rehidrat at every rest stop.
Pole Pole, slowly slowly.
Look up, find the other climbers through the cloud, realise what still has to be climbed. Take a breath. Steady myself with the hiking poles. Pick a line over the rocks. Go.

They say that in life, you shouldn’t look back; always look ahead and focus on what is to come. But out here, looking back gave us the most astonishing view of mountains and trees and sky and cloud, and we could see just how far we had come. Literally.
I felt on top of the world as wisps of cloud rolled past me, and I hadn’t even reached the Roof of Africa yet.

...Some hours of climbing later...

The wind has picked up and we are in the cloud. I am cold and my muscles ache, but as soon as I put on another layer, I want to die of heat. Breathing is become more difficult. Pole Pole.

I focus on moving forward, no matter how slowly, and I listen.

I listen to my breathing, the crack of hiking poles on stones, and the crunch of gravel and squelch of mud beneath hiking boots.

I am taking breaks more often.
How much further to the camp?
1 and a half hours.
We will stop for snacks soon; there is an area nearby where we will shielded from the wind.
Okay… I carry on.

...A while later...

We have snacks in a half-cave type place on the side of the ridge we have been climbing. The guides give us juice and chocolate and biscuits. My body rejoices.
Not long, then you can have a hot lunch.
Music to my ears!

After eating, I descend a bit to find a tree. Every tree is lavatory (lava-tree). Business done, I am a little too eager to clamber back up the rocks, my body not used to not having a 5-8kg backpack weighing it down. I reach the others, breath coming in wheezes.
“Go on, I’ll catch up when I catch my breath.”

Pole Pole.

...Nearing the camp...

It’s getting better. Only one section of hectic rocks left, then we hit a plateau. My breathing has calmed. My thighs ache.

And then, we see the multi-coloured sea of tents. Home. We have survived almost 6 hours of uphill hiking. We have reached the Shira Plateau.

Hot food is ready for us. Cucumber soup, tuna salad and fruit. I glug down my Milo, warming up quickly.

I don’t know how I feel… not sore, but stiff. Not tired, but drained. A faint headache comes and goes. The air is thin and cold.

After a good old wetwipe-wash, we headed off to an outcrop of rocks near our campsite. Less than a 30 minute walk away, we passed the caves where the porters and guides used to sleep; in the past they weren’t issued with tents or even sleeping bags, and all slept in the cave around a fire.

It was nice to walk with just a water bottle in hand, rather than a fully-laden backpack.

At the top of the rocks we were afforded a spectacular view of Shira Plateau (our campsite) and Shira Camp (campsite for those on the Lemosho Route). We could also see Mt. Meru. After some photos the icy wind got to us and we headed back to the camp. As we arrived, Mt. Kilimanjaro appeared from behind the clouds, and looked down upon us in all her splendour.

Wow. And to think we will be up there soon, trudging through snow and freezing our backsides off. Why did I sign up for this?!

It is almost 6pm. I have lost most sense of time, days of the week, months, years. Dinner is around 18:30. I think I will hole up in my tent and read until then.

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2016, 01:17:06 pm »
More from Day 2...

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2016, 01:19:21 pm »
Last few from Day 2...

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2016, 01:24:44 pm »
Okay folks, that is all for today.
Fear not, everything is written up, I just have to add the photos.

I am technically still on leave and already sitting in the office.  :-\ So now I am going to head home, wash the car and bike, and play XBox  8)

Offline Takashi

Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2016, 01:28:16 pm »
Damn, here I am looking forward to the rest.
I really should not be looking at stuff like this. Makes me add more to the "to do" list.

Really enjoying this Sardine. Hope you finish it tomorrow!

 

Offline corne.l

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2016, 01:54:23 pm »
Awesome ... can't wait!
in vino veritas, in cervesio felicitas

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2016, 02:23:08 pm »
 :sip:
 

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2016, 11:52:00 am »
Okay, where was I...  :patch:

10 February 2016, Wednesday
Day 3


Shira Plateau – Barranco Camp

7hrs20min, about 10km
Start: 3840m (12 600ft), End: 3950m (12 960ft)
Highest point: 4600m (15 000ft) – Lava Tower


06:30-ish

Freezing. Didn’t sleep well at all. And we aren’t even near the summit where the temperature will drop below freezing. I see myself sleeping inside my duffelbag with all of my clothes on top of me…

17:10-ish

I am in my tent, half in my snow pants to try and keep my feet warm. The Barranco Wall towers over us, but we can’t see it because cloud has rolled in. When we arrived about an hour ago, the sun was shining and there was no wind. I was walking around in a t-shirt.

Today was tough both mentally and physically. From camp-to-camp, I timed 7hrs23mins, of which about 5 hours were up, and 2-and-a-bit hours down. Climb high, sleep low. That’s the name of the game, apparently.

I wasn’t feeling great this morning, probably from the lack of sleep. And I didn’t eat enough at breakfast.
So within 30 minutes of setting out, I already had the wrong mindset. The ascent was nothing like yesterday; the route can kind of be compared to a gnarly mountain bike trail, only going up instead of down.

At some point during the climb I switched to auto-pilot, and the going got easier. Foot, pole, breathe. Look ahead, see the mountain we still had to climb, look behind and see how far we had come.

I don’t remember when or why, but through my auto-pilot state, I thought of the Lord of the Rings. Yeah, the altitude was starting to have an effect on me. But, I remembered the scene with Gandalf shouting “You shall not pass!”and then jumped to the Hobbits and the distances they travelled, and the adventures they went on. Bare foot nogals. I think I was questioning why I set out on this adventure, and that Lord of the Rings memory reminded me why…

It’s an adventure. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. And I liked to walk.
So there I was, pushing myself to walk up the side of a 19 000-foot mountain.
I don’t even fly that high! But it turns out that crows do; they followed us all the way, an ominous whoosh of black wings and squawking.

We ate a packed lunch at Lava Tower, which was at 4600m. I was cold, tired, hungry, sore, cold. But the food lifted my mood somewhat. As did the knowledge that we only had one more short ascent before heading downhill to the camp.

It had started to drizzle and the wind was icy cold. My gloves were freezing when I pulled them on, and for 30 minutes after until my hand warmed up sufficiently. From now on I’ll keep my gloves in my jacket to pre-heat them.

The short ascent was beautiful and we got a good look at Lava Tower before starting our descent to the camp at 3000-something meters.
The descent was almost worse than going up…

Clambering over rocks, my knees weren’t happy, and a headache had started to set in. I stayed well back from the rest of the group, Pole Pole, and tried to enjoy the view. The last thing I wanted was to sprain my ankle.
We stopped at a large tree, quite beautiful, and the rest of the group took photos. Did I want to pose for a photo with the tree? No, I was over it; I was going to go find a tree to pee behind for the umpteenth time that day… I think the waist strap of my backpack was pushing on my bladder…

Naturally, my chosen spot (which turned out to be a rock instead of a tree), was just off the main path, which I didn’t realise until as my luck would have it, a porter passed. Sod it. I don’t care anymore. I mooned a stranger at 4000m (or there abouts... does the exact altitude matter?!). I’m sure they are used to it. Hazards of the job.

I hated to ask “How much further?”, but I couldn’t stand it. I was tired!
30 minutes.
Isn’t that what you said an hour ago?

We missioned on and eventually rounded the corner and saw our campsite.
Relief! Just a few hundred meters to go!
We trudged to the registration office and I turned and saw the peak. Uhuru Peak. The Goal. This is what I was working for!

Tomorrow we tackle Barranco Wall; a towering mass of formidable-looking rock. But for now, I am Home.

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2016, 12:00:11 pm »
More Peekcha's from Day 3

Offline Wooly Bugger

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2016, 12:12:27 pm »
Great report! Thank you for taking the time to compile and share it. Respect.  :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
 

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2016, 12:24:40 pm »
11 February 2016, Thursday
Day 4


Barranco Camp – Karanga Valley

4-5hrs, about 4km
Start: 3950m (12 960ft), End: 3950m (12 960ft)


Last night we feasted on carrot soup, spaghetti bolognaise, pancakes and watermelon. We went to sleep early; I think I was snoring by 21:30.

I slept better last night as I had my snow pants on and my nalgene bottle was filled with hot water and acted as a foot-warmer (for a few hours at least).

We woke up late today; 06:30. We will only climb from 09:00 as it is a short day; less than 5 hours of climbing. But it will be tough. All of my climbing clothes are damp from yesterday. Gross.

Today we take on the Barranco Wall. About 3000m up. A mix of bouldering and rock climbing had us scaling rock faces and negotiating big boulders. It was fun.
At one point we had to shimmy along a narrow ledge, while pushed up against the rock, holding on with our fingertips (no ropes), and one of the girls in my group, who was at the front, said “Hug the rocks like you’d hug your boyfriend!”It broke the tension and had all of us giggling.

The amazing thing about this wall is that the porters climbed it while holding the gear in place on top of their heads. They hardly ever used their hands to stabilize themselves. That is serious leg strength!

But as we got higher, the clouds from the valley below caught up with us, and soon we were in mist, which turned into fog, which turned into drizzle. And on the final descent before the ascent into camp, it started to rain.

Slowly at first, so I wasn’t too bothered; I enjoy the rain. But it picked up, and before I knew it, I was soaked to the bone. R900 waterproof jacket be damned.

…A while later...

It’s 14:25.
Despite arriving in camp an hour ago, and after a short day, I am miserable.

After registering at the camp office it was a mad dash through the rain to our tents. Well, when I say “mad dash”, I mean I managed to shuffle just a little bit faster than before.
Once in the tent, you’re not out the rain really, because they leaked.
I managed to change into a dry shirt, but didn’t see the point of changing into dry pants as the mess tent and loo were far away, and I would just end up getting the dry pants wet enroute to either tent. No, I figured my pants would dry on me.
I want to cry.

I eventually got enough motivation to don my dripping-wet raincoat and move across to the mess tent for tea-time. After some cocoa, I felt a little better, but not by much.
Most of the others stayed in their tents and got “room service”. I was hoping that sitting in the relatively dry mess tent would get my pants drying faster. It didn’t work.

But I did get to chat to one of the guides. You know, the whole life story, the type of stuff that the tourists normally ask me when I am at work. It was nice to focus on something else for a little bit, and I could almost kind of forget that I was sitting on a mountain in a new country, with a frozen bum. Almost.

The guide eventually told me to change into dry pants, and then come back for lunch. I really didn’t want to go out into the rain, but I listened (which is amazing; I am normally very stubborn).
Another mad dash back to my tent. I peeled off the wet pants and pulled on a dry pair. Now, what to do with the dripping-wet pants… I could hang it in my tent, but the seams are coming apart. Oh, and now the centre of the roof is leaking too… Like the floor of my tent filling with water, my eyes were starting to well up again.
No.
I will not cry. Get moving. Go to the mess tent.

...A few minutes later, in the mess tent...

I am a little warmer now, but still upset.
I almost want to throw in the towel.
How can I summit in wet gear? I will freeze! How can I survive tomorrow when I don’t even want to move from my ice-cold plastic chair now.
I am cold. Hungry. Tired. My gloves are dripping wet. Why didn’t I invest in those proper waterproof gloves?! Why didn’t I bring a spare poncho?! Why? Why?! Why!
And to make matters worse, I really need to pee and the rain is bucketing down!
Screw it, I’ll hold it.


**Not a lot of photos from this day; I was too miserable to bother.

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #18 on: March 06, 2016, 12:41:02 pm »
12 February 2016, Friday
Day 5


Karanga Valley – Barafu Camp

4-5hrs, about 4km
Start: 3950m (12 960ft), End: 4550m (14 920ft)


I slept surprisingly well, despite my leaky tent. When I woke up, it wasn’t raining and there wasn’t much wind.

Yesterday I hit a low. I was fed up. Not even food cheered me up. I like the rain and the outdoors, but not sopping wet clothes. In Botswana if you get caught in a rainstorm, it is still warm enough that you will be dry within an hour. I don’t know what the temperature up here is, but it’s cold!

At one point yesterday, I just sat in the mess tent with S and read my book while he fiddled with his iPad. Then we got chatting. He is from the States, and I am planning a holiday there in 2018. So we spoke about things to do. Amazing, sitting at almost 4000m, discussing a world that by now, felt a million miles away.
We also spoke about the hierarchy of needs, and how they have changed since our first day on the mountain.

From wifi and electricity, to a head torch, to somewhere warm and relatively soft to sleep, to just wanting to be dry and somewhat warm. Creature comforts, what’s that?

Today was a short climb, but it took me a while to find my groove.
It wasn’t too steep or rocky, which was a relief, but I was mentally drained, and it had started to drizzle. I was ready to cry. Again.

Our guides are inspirational. They somehow motivated us to keep a good pace so that we got to the next camp before the real rain hit. And we did. What a relief!

Lunch was good, as usual. But today we were treated to toasted cheese and tomato sarmies (sandwiches), which I hadn’t had in ages. It is also warm, so the mess tent is like a green house. “Literally” as S said, as the tent is green. We all cracked up at that. Everything is funny when you’re sitting at 4500m.

Our guide has briefed us. We will start our 6 hour trek to the Summit at midnight. Time to rest before dinner, which will be at 17:30.

...A few hours later...

It’s about 16:40
I managed to get a couple hours’ sleep. About 40 minutes ago the crew started making a racket; they’re playing cards.
There was a bit of rain and even sleet, but now the sun is shining. It heated up my tent nicely, so a lot of my gear has dried, which I am very happy about. My gloves aren’t quite there yet, but at least they are no longer dripping water…
I think I will wear socks as mittens over the other two pairs of gloves I have, and then put plastic bags over my hands as water-proofing.

I will have to pack the stuff that has dried before dinner, otherwise it just gets damp as the temperature plummets. My pants from yesterday are still wet though.

The crew has been amazing. Hauling what must 15-25kg loads, and still being chirpy despite being drenched in rain. Every day they break camp after we have left, allowing us a 40 minute head-start, and overtake us to have the next camp set up long before we arrive. Most of these guys don’t even have hiking boots and wear worn-out ‘tekkies’ with no laces.
I feel bad that I can’t tip them more.
I had set aside a certain amount, but now I think I will give them everything I have left in my wallet.

18:50

Second-last dinner on the mountain.
I am sad, but so happy!
We had a good dinner, and talked all sorts of nonsense. From fears about the summit, to what music to listen to. Adele’s Hello had as all snorting into our cocoa with laughter.

Amazing view of cumulonimbus clouds building below us. We can also see Mawenzi Peak. As the clouds build, the thunder rumbles. The mountain is angry again, like it was on our first day. Perhaps she can sense that she is almost rid of us. Or maybe she is giving us a warning, a taste of what is to come.
Either way, I snuggle deep into my sleeping bag, looking forward to a few hours’ rest.

Offline Sardine

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Re: Adventure Report: Climbing to the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro
« Reply #19 on: March 06, 2016, 12:42:11 pm »
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