Trip Start Aug 21, 2006
6Trip End Sep 07, 2006
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On the way we hit the Barranco Wall, a fairly steep climb straight up that required us to progress single file and climb using our arms as well.
Karanga camp was fairly crowded as many of the climbing trails up Kilimanjaro stopped here on the way to Barafu--there must have been about 60 climbers scattered amongst the various tents. It was a clear night and it is possible to see the lights of Moshi town on the foot of the mountain below. Interestingly enough, cell phones worked perfectly from the campsite
The following day we left Karanga to climb up to Barafu Camp (4600m asl), the traditional stopping point for groups heading up to the peak. Arriving at Barafu around noon, we went straight to the tents post lunch to rest up for the summit push that would start in the middle of the night. There were approximately 80-90 climbers in various groups in the large and spread-out campsite.
Barafu is Swahili for 'ice' and in years past this campsite was often completely covered in snow and ice. And while I was relieved it was not, I could not help but wonder what another 3 years would bring in the landscape of the mountain. Then again, the camp was plenty cold as it were and I put on most of my under layers prior to tucking in for the short night.
We were roused after midnight and we readied ourselves for the climb up. I was advised to put on every layer of clothing that I had: so it was 2 layers of gloves, pants, and socks; 3 layers for my head and 4 layers for my torso! I thought that once I started to work up a sweat that it would be too warm but it was not the case at all. Not counting the wind chill, it was apparently negative 15 degrees Celcius during the evening and it felt every bit as cold
We started to trudge up the mountain around 2 AM, with the emphasis on 'Pole Pole', Swahili for slow (and steady). I was happy to walk behind Roddy and Godson as I knew that it was would be difficult to catch my breath and recover if I rushed too quickly ahead and hit the wall.
As we climbed, we passed by almost a dozen groups that had left earlier. It was easier for our group as it was small; besides, stopping along the way was too painful due the cold. The water in my Nalgene became icy--making it difficult and inadvisable to take deep draughts. Furthermore, it was difficult to eat anything along the way. As a result, we took few breaks and for a bit more than 5 hours we climbed steadily up towards Stella Point, about 5700m asl and at the foot of the crater rim. As we approached the final hour, the sun started to rise in the east behind Mawenzi Peak--making for an almost surreal landscape of red, volcanic scree (a pain in the ass to climb up) with a glacial backdrop and the rising sun on the horizon.
Making it to Stella Point was a great feeling and, as it had all week, the weather again remained ideally clear so that we could soak up the warming sun
After a cup of warm tea from a thermos provided by Wilford, we started up the final ridge a further hour to Uhuru Peak. At 5896m or just shy of 20,000ft asl, Uhuru (which mean 'freedom' in Swahili and named such following Tanzanian independence in the 60s from the British Empire) Peak is the highest point in Africa and marks the highest free standing mountain in the world.
It felt pretty good to climb, if just because it was there.
After snapping off a bunch of pictures, we started our way down the mountain. Very quickly I realised that it was easier to almost run down the scree than to try to climb down slowly. So I followed Godson down a glacial scree-field that was just adjacent to the climbing route and proceeded to run down the mountain. We made the 1300m of descent down to Barafu in approximately an hour. After resting and taking lunch, we continued our descent for the rest of the afternoon, this time in a more controlled manner, down to the Millenium Camp at 3000m asl
Millennium marked the end of quite a long day and our aching joints and muscles would attest to the fact that coming down was as tiring as climbing up. Here we said goodbye to our faithful porters and tipped them, as well as the guides, for looking out for us the previous week. In thanks, Roddy and I were treated to a rendition of the traditional send-off song, aptly named 'Kilimanjaro'.
After our final night in camp (where we experienced rain for the first time), we made our way down to the Mweka Gate at 1600m asl. Along the way through the rainforest the path was overrun with mud and standing pools of water and it made for quite a treacherous descent--I saw a handful of porters slipping and falling in the mud, and I was not exempted.
At Mweka Gate, it was time to clean up and grab some lunch while we waited to sign out of the park and collect our Uhuru certificates. Afterward it was a jeep ride back to Arusha from where we would leave for our safari.