Hiking Kilimanjaro – The Finish

And now, the conclusion to our saga…

Sept 16-18


Sept 16 – Day 6 of the trek – getting to Barafu (base camp)


I woke up feeling pretty tired, and not really hungry.  I can barely hold down food, but water is okay.  We hit the trail around 8:30 am, hiking up from 13,300 ft to 15,500 ft… a 2000+ ft ascent at altitude.  My calves were very sore the whole day.  I started worrying that I may not summit.

 

We got to Barafu camp by lunchtime, but I feel like I barely made it.  Toward the end I got REALLY mad, and I think adrenaline was what got me to finish.  I was hungry and actually ate lunch.  I rested and also calmed down to become civil again.  4pm dinner was a spaghetti/egg casserole.  Time for some sleep so I can wake up and start the final ascent by 10pm (normally midnight, but Dismas was planning on my slow pace, while still seeing a sunrise on the summit).

I saw that dinner again a few hours later.  I figured the summit attempt was over.  

After I cleaned up, Dismas sat me down for a talk:

Dismas: So we’re changing plans.  You will sleep in until 8am, then we might try going a little higher if you feel good, then down.

Me:  So, no summit?

Dismas:  No summit…   (I think he  assumed I would fight this decision)

Me: Oh, thank God!  I feel like crap.  I tell you what – let’s not bother going up.  Just wake up and go down.

Dismas: Ok.  You sure? 

Me: Yep.

So why no pictures, you may ask?  Hey, I was angry, tired, and sick… so you get no pictures today.

 


Sept 17 – Day 7 of the trek – Summit Day (or not), and descending


The events of last night were an empowering influence – guiding us to make the right choice…

I slept in until about 8.  I woke up with the driest mouth and throat I can remember.  Then I farted and completely forgot about the dry mouth…  priority #1 became getting out of the stinky tent as fast as possible.  …either that, or this volcano was active again and spewing sulfurous fumes…  Seriously… worst fart ever!  Actually worse than you’re even imagining right now.  And think of this – with a dry mouth and nose, I was probably only sensing 1/2 of it.

I drank water & mango juice for breakfast.  Throat still dry.  I think I also had tea and crackers, then posed for a pic at the base camp sign…

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I still felt a bit nauseous when we started down the hill.  After a little bit of descent, my energy level improved and we took a few pics:

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This was a bit below 15,000 ft, but for all intensive purposes, this is my summit pic:

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Further into the descent, the mango juice decided to reappear – just before we got to the upper camp / resting area.  I told Dismas I felt horrible.  He said “No, you’re doing great… they had to evacuate someone last night”.

Oh…

Then a short while later, a group of 3 porters came by and yelled “Simba strong!!”  I was exhausted, thus confused.  Then the 4th porter caught up to them – carrying a 20-something European kid piggyback.  When he got to them, they switched – rotating Mzungu hauling duty.  This kid had injured his leg.

Dismas said: “See, you’re strong.  Good thing, because I don’t think I can carry you!”

I started feeling better (no more nausea), but the lack of food was turning into a lack of energy…  Dismas took my pack (which was mostly water, and the warmer clothes I shed as we descended).

After a short rest at the upper camp, we were back on the trail.  …and my right achille’s tendon started hurting.  Mostly because my calf was soooo tense and sore.  So I started favoring my left leg, which led to pain in my left knee.  I was able to manage, but we were going very slow.  So slowly that some groups that made the summit started to pass me.

Then the Kiwis passed by:

Kiwi Guy: “Hey Ohio, is that you?

Me: “Hey Kiwis, how are you guys?”

Kiwi Guy:  “Wow, great to see ya!!  We heard you were the guy who died last night!”

Me: “Wait, what!?!  No, I’m still here!”

Kiwi Guy: “Yeah, great man, we’re really happy it wasn’t you!”

Me: “Ummm, me too!”  (thinking: “Holy $#!^, these people really think I was dead!”) 

Talk about a little life-perspective.  Suddenly, I’m totally happy to have missed the summit, but still be alive.

That basic conversation happened 3 more times with different groups.  Apparently it was a Norwegian kid in his 20’s who supposedly developed High Altitude Cerebral Edema (fluid penetration of the blood-brain barrier).  He died on the way down from the summit.  That must have been the evacuation Dismas was talking about…

Also worth noting… most helicopters top out at well under 15,000 ft, so the mountain has”Off Road” gurneys near the top, and a few near the bottom… basically a cross between a mountain bike and a bed frame:

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The closer we got to the lower camp, there was more vegetation, and a line of clouds around 9,500 ft.

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Finally, we made it to Mweka Camp (10,300 ft) around 1:45 pm.  With so much descending (5000 ft), I started developing blisters and a sore knee.  I can’t imagine if I had sumitted.  That would have been over 9000 ft of descent.  Double-Ouch over and above my current level of Ouch!

Regardless, I’m happy to be alive – despite the rumors.

 

 


Sept 18th – 8th and final day of the trek


I’m still getting sick anytime I try to eat food… but there was more descent to go.  As the guys broke camp, they had a special treat for me:

With additional oxygen at lower altitudes came new energy, and I took some pics…

The morning path:

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A last look at the summit:

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It got foggy as we descended:

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…and the fog lifted (a bit) even further down the slope (and the trees were much taller):

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Some of the nice little flowers that lined the trail:

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Civilization:

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Once we made it to the end, I had a coke.  Then another.  Even with sugar and caffeine, I still looked tired:

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Once the paperwork was complete, we drove back to the main road and to the store in Boma Ng’ombe; where I had an orange Fanta and an ice cream.  Apparently my appetite was back…

After tipping the guys, I was dropped off at “The 8” in Arusha.  A VERY nice hotel in an area of town that was once the home of the colonial administrators.  After a short chat with Rashida, the new owner, I got to my room…

… and puked up all that coke / fanta / ice cream (at least into a very nice & clean toilet).

Feeling better, I took 3 hot showers… FYI, the huge shower was really nice, the huge room was very nice, and the huge bed was especially nice!  I was still not feeling well enough to have dinner, and wish I was, as the other guests raved about Rashida’s cooking. But, I slept like a champ!  Seriously, “The 8” is superb, and Rashida mentioned plans to add a pool.


Sept 19th – The Day After the Trek


By the next morning, I was feeling good enough to have a delicious breakfast – where I discovered that after 3 days of practically no food, my stomach could fit about 1 egg, some toast, and juice.  But, I kept it all down, and even had fish and chips for lunch while Zubeda and a driver picked me up for my 1 pm flight to Zanzibar…

…but that’s another story…

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2 Responses

  1. Sreekanth says:

    Sean,
    What a saga! You did well. No mountain is worth dying for.
    Take care.

  2. Will says:

    Hey Man, Really glad to hear that you’re not dead and still travelling!

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