Kilimanjaro: Day 5 – Summit Night

I had been lucky with the altitude. No headaches, and other than a slight loss of appetite my stomach remained strong. Even the breathlessness wasn’t terrible and could be managed. I just had to move slowly and sometimes stop to catch my breath.

But I could not escape the cold.

Despite having Andy in the tent with me and wearing 2 layers of thick wool socks, thermal tights, hiking pants, 2 shirts, a fleece, a down jacket, and my winter cap inside a thermal down sleeping bag with a liner, I lay shivering for the 3.5 hours until it was time to get ready for the summit push. I could feel the frigid surface beneath me and had to keep turning over to avoid stiffening up. My toes were slowly turning to icicles and I could feel the cloud of each breath escaping me and taking my last ounces of warmth with it.

It was like my pilot light had gone out. Continue reading

Kilimanjaro: Day 4 – Barranco Camp to Barafu Camp

I awoke very early in the morning to the sound of a gentle wind and a light crackling on the tent. A short wave of panic ran through me and in a flash I sat up and listened intently. I was certain it was raindrops and all I could imagine was having to scale the 245m (800ft) sheer rock Barranco Wall in a wet slippery downfall.

Scrambling had been something that terrified me. I was comfortable considering myself a trekker, but a trail that required anything more than my feet was beginning to enter into mountaineering territory, and for a long time I was not willing to go there.  Being so exposed with a possibility of falling was not what I considered fun. But too many rewarding treks require some measure of scrambling and so as part of my training I pushed myself through the fear and eventually found a little joy in it.

Unless it was in the rain. I was sure that I would slip and fall to my death in the rain. Continue reading

Kilimanjaro: Day 3 – Shira Camp to Barranco Huts

Like the day before, I was awoken at 6.30am with a bowl of hot water after ~6 hrs of disrupted sleep. During the night the biting winds soared through camp and temperatures plummeted. The tent often flapped, dust was stirred, but I managed to curl up and remain warm inside my sleeping bag. Nature also called on me twice and I am glad to have taken the recommendation of having a special bottle for these circumstances. I did not want to leave the warmth of my cocoon and brave the elements. Continue reading

Kilimanjaro: Day 2 – Machame Camp to Shira Camp

The day began with a gentle wake up call from the porters at 6.30am. They would tap at the door to the tent and say ‘Good Morning!’ and bring us a fresh bowl of hot water for washing (to which I would reply Nzuri asubuhi and Asante sana which means ‘good morning’ and ‘thank you very much’ in Swahili). Continue reading

Kilimanjaro: Day 1 – Machame Gate to Machame Camp

For the first couple of days I couldn’t even tell I was so close to such a behemoth mass. The cloud cover had obscured any aerial or ground view of the mountain, which was probably just as well since I didn’t have time to crap myself thinking “Oh shit! I’m climbing that?!?”

That is until the actual first day of our climb.

The clouds dissipated and opened up to the clear blue dry sky and finally revealed the challenge before us as we drove to the Machame Gate and start of the trek. Continue reading

Switchback’s Are For Sissies

I am fortunate to live nearby the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The ‘Whites’ are a beautiful northeastern range that are highly popular with some world grade trails to choose from. Just about anywhere you go you are likely to hit a section of the Appalachian Trail. Although the Whites may not be very tall in elevation (Mt. Washington is the tallest at 1917m/6289ft), I learned very quickly that an easy trail in the Whites is not an easy trail by other standards (and I met several Appalachian Trail through-hikers that have attested to that). Continue reading