Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday morning (Tanzanian time) on Kilimanjaro

This was written after leaving Horombo Camp enroute to Kibo Camp, reflecting on the previous day. -T

At breakfast Sosta gave us the day's itinerary, which was to climb up to Zebra Rock and then loop around onto the trail that leads to Kibo.  This serves the dual purpose of gaining altitude and also seeing tomorrow's route.  It was a beautiful hike taking us toward the Mawenzi Peak which rises above the giant groundsel-dotted moorland like a broken tooth.  Again, our progress was so slow and deliberate, that if viewed out of context, would be comic in the extreme - like an exotic caterpillar on 'anti-speed'!  Zebra Rock is, you guessed it, a black and white striped rock.  The stripes are caused by minerals leaching out of the cap rocks of the bluff.  The hike to this point had taken about 2 1/2 hours, so we had a short break, took lots of pictures, then set off up the steep serpentine trail to the left of Zebra Rock.  About 20 minutes later our breath was taken away by more than just the altitude (about 13,600 ft. at this point).  There before us was Kibo, with her apron of alpine desert spread before her and visible in the folds of her skirts the tiny dot of Kibo Camp.  It was both exhilarating and disturbing because laid out before us, with absolute clarity was 36 hours of self-inflicted torture.  The snaking trail through seemingly endless moorlands, the barren wind-swept saddle between Kibo and Mawenzi, Kibo but then the seemingly impossible grade to Gillman's Point on the crater's edge.  Then on up to the glacier and in behind - but no less on our minds, Uhuru, the peak, at 19,340 ft.  From the vantage point, we hiked downhill until we joined the early part of the Horombo to Kibo trail, and via this trail, headed back to Horombo camp.  On the journey down, my knees complained which was a sobering thought because there are 13,600 ft. of downhill to get us off this mountain.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Today (Friday) we were supposed to start at 7:30AM however actually started at 5:30AM when an energetic East Indian group on the other side of the partition wall started getting ready for their descent.  We finally gave up any pretense of sleep at 6:30AM and discussed the night's 'endeavours'.  It seemed that it was fairly successful with most of us getting at least 6 hours of continuous sleep , which is not bad at this altitude.  At 7:30AM we were greeted by the smiling face of Sosta, the head guide, with a thermos of hot chi tea.  I think Sosta's beautiful smile was even more welcome than the teak.  At 8:30AM we congregated in the dining hall for another sumptuous meal, comprising water melon, cornflakes with a little milk powder and hot water (it's good...honest) followed by bacon and eggs, and cucumber.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

From Horombo Hut, 3720m

By 8:30AM we were yawning and after brief ablutions we hit the sack, having planned with the guides, to get up at 6:00AM - long before other climbers.  Back at camp we were treated to a fabulous meal of soup, roasted chicken, potatoes, kale, salad, and bananas for dessert.  We chatted about the day and discussed important issues such as 'acclimatization gas' and the very weird fizzing sensation in your fingers.  We were greeted at 6:00AM with bowls of hot water ad cups of tea.  Breakfast was pretty huge, toast, porridge, eggs, sausages, tomatoes and more tea.  We left the camp at 7:30AM and within 20 minutes we were out of the rain forest and in to the moor lands.  The sky is clear blue.  Ellen is still excited and a little nervous 'thus far'.  She hasn't been sleeping too well, however she is managing to rest, the 'tinglies' are really bothering her!  Susan unfortunately has a cold, however is hydrating lots and keeping her mind off her congestion by delving into the lives of the guides.  Sarah is doing well with only slightly sore palms.  The SideStix are performing fabulously.  Sarah's using the hiking tips with steell studs and she's as sure as a mountain goat (although she smells better!).  I'm (Kerith) doing great.  Feeling a little sore in the hips but other than that  - no problems.  Just so I can keep you up to date, I have my cell phone connected to a solar panel on the outside of my pack!  It was a long day today.  Seven hours and about 4,000 feet elevation gain.  Long slow slog, very hot in the sun, but cooling rapidly as the fog rolled in.  Horombo camp is very busy with people returning from the summit attempts and people like us on the way up.  It's very sobering talking to people who have attempted and failed, our anxiety levels have gone way up.   Today we passed someone being brought down on a wheeled stretcher and a young boy collapsed on the trail in front of us.  We've all be hydrating lots and we've all got minor headaches however we will be in Horombo for two nights so we will hopefully acclimatize somewhat.  We've all been popping headache pills and Sarah threw up after tea, hopefully this will be an isolated incident.  Sarah's SideStix have performed well again, however I had to put in some new studs because she lost a few on the rocks.  TTFN

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Word from Mount Kilimanjaro!

With the help from Kerith's son Kelly, text message issues are sorted out and we can now post the teams messages from the mountain (although I still haven't figured out what TTFN stands for!).  -Todd

From Mandara Hut at 2675m, the team wrote:

"We arrived at Mandara hut after about four hours of extreme 'Pole Pole', enjoying dense tropical rain forest.  Amazingly at almost 8,000 feet, the vegetation changed to temperate rain forest, very reminiscent of home.  We have just had hot chocolate and popcorn and are now going for a short walk to a nearby crater.  The temperature has dropped to 18C and as I sign off a big male Blue Monkey is yelling at us.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Climb Day minus One

We are now at the Marangu Hotel. Like the Kibo Hotel, it boasts a 1932 vintage and whereas the Kibo is a more imposing edifice, the Marangu is layed out Campus style in sprawling manicured grounds with rooms comprising individual residences.
Our own residence has 8 beds which one would normally consider a little excessive, however right now every bed is strewn with gear, gear and more gear!
Dora, the equipment queen/Quarter Master has gone though our stuff, and given invaluable advice over what to bring - and not!
On the 'luggage' front, - Sarah's bag has arrived (via Nairobi - go figure!) but not mine! Panic... who me? However I have assurance that it is now in Tanzania and I should receive it later today. Thank god I bought this phone and have been able to 'motivate' the powers that be!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

We're at the Kibo Hotel in Marangu.

We left Moshi at around 4pm and took a 30 minute cab ride to the Kibo Hotel in Marangu. This is a stately old place full of mahogany & memories. The concierge, waiters and even the mirriad waiting 'hands', speak in hushed tones of the time that Jimmy Carter came to Kibo.

We're in the foot hills of Kilimanjaro, and as the elevation increases, so too does our anxiety... "How hard is this really going to be?" We watched a freshly returned group of climbers, noting their serious demeanour and when asked to describe their experience they merely answer "hard, it's all hard."

We had supper in the stately dining hall which is adourned with trophies of successful summits. Signed flags, teashirts and even a crimson bra, all carry the message that it IS possible. So with that hopeful mantra we are off to bed and let's see what tomorrow brings. TTFN.

We're in Africa!

We arrived late last night (minus luggage...) and are now in Moshi - enjoying the local fare and swimming through the heat, sounds, smells & sensations that make up this amazing place. TTFN.