Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Mt Kilimanjaro Day 8

28 Mar 15. Mweka Hut Camp (3100m) to Mweka Park Gate (1640 m). 10 km. 0700-0850 (1 hour 50 minutes). Descent 1640 m.

Breakfast was different today pancakes and an omelette with orange and watermelon. Nechi and I left at 0700.

Stunning Sunrise
 The track was an improvement over yesterday with very few steps or rocky bits. It was a little slippery with the rain during the night but I was able to make good speed on it. We quickly dropped down into the rain forest and after 1 hour 20 minutes came out onto a dirt road which we followed for another 30 minutes to the Park Gate where we registered and then waited for the driver and the rest of the crew.

Bit of a difference from yesterdays track
Beautiful easy and fast track
Final view back to Mt Kilimanjaro
Almost looks like NZ
Apart from the Safari Ants
Safari Ants

Onto a road for the final few km

The End!

Colobus Monkeys at Park HQ

Quite an audience came to see me finish
We all jumped into a Landrover for the trip back and I was a little surprised that the vehicle had no seatbelts. I know it is Africa but normally vehicles carrying tourists have seatbelts. I was a little nervous being in a vehicle without seatbelts given the roads and crazy drivers but we made it safely back to Springlands Hotel.

Leaving the National Park

Coffee Plants

There are some very strong people here. Those baskets are weighing close to 20 kg
After checking in I brought the crew a drink and we sat talking about the trip. Nechi presented me with two certificates for the climb and I thanked them all and gave the tip and they headed to their homes. I spoke to the facilitator and gave him some feedback on the trip and suggestions for improvements.

I had a long hot shower and did some hand washing of my clothes before just relaxing watching movies on my computer. Lunch was pizza, ice cream and fruit salad with a fresh squeezed mango and pineapple juice. It was strange that you had to pay for a coke but the fresh squeezed juice was free. I talked with people about to go up and they were full of questions which I was happy to answer. On my advice they talked to their guide about leaving early every morning to avoid the rain and that night they told me their guide had agreed to this.

The afternoon was more movies and sorting through my photos. Dinner was a buffet and I enjoyed the variety of food. After dinner I repacked and had an early night ready for my flight in the morning back to Democratic Republic of Congo, via Nairobi and Entebbe Uganda.

Mt Kilimanjaro Day 7

27 Mar 15. Barafu Hut Basecamp (4600m) to Mweka Hut Camp (3100m) via Uhuru Peak (5895m). Ascent 1295 m, descent 2795 m.
Am nil, pm oS 91/bpm 83.

I was woken at 1230 and after a hot drink and some biscuits I filled my water bottles with hot water and put them in my home made insulators. It was a clear morning and not as sold as I expected. I put on thermal trousers with my ZPacks waterproof trousers over top. On top was my normal light Icebreaker merino top, a 260 weight Merino Top and my ZPacks rain jacket. I had 3 layers of gloves on and my windproof hat. In my pack was some more warm clothes, some snacks, first aid kit and water.

Nechi and I left at 0100 and I could see a string of lights heading up the mountain and it looked like 7 groups ahead of me. It seemed like we were the last ones to leave. I was feeling strong with no headache or shortness of breath.

Nechi set a good pace that was slow enough that I was not puffing but not as frustratingly slow as we had been doing previously. The track headed up some rock slabs then on a smooth path gently climbing with a few lightly steeper rocky bits. After 15 minutes we were both too hot so I took off my rain jacket and a layer of gloves.

We caught up to the first group in 20 minutes and two of the people were puffing badly, obviously short of breath in the altitude. There were 3 tourists and 2 crew.

Steadily we caught and passed other groups, occasionally getting stuck behind as we went through narrower bits. There was one group of 7 tourists but most were 2-3 people.

The track was largely easy walking and we started to see patches of snow before entering the snowline. Here the wind picked up and it started to get cold. I felt it the most in my hands and some of my fingers were starting to go numb so I stopped and put on my heavy down jacket and one more layer of gloves. Now I was toasty and did not feel cold for the rest of the climb.

Not long after passing the last group Nechi suddenly slowed down to a ridiculously slow walk without saying anything. His feet seemed to be all over the place so I asked him if he was okay. He explained that we were too fast and at our rate would be arriving too early at the summit so he had slowed the pace down and we would have to stop for long breaks as well. I was not impressed after our discussion about departure times.

At around 5500 m I started to get a headache so took a couple of Panadol and it went away. This was the only effect of altitude and I was very relieved at this as the last time I was at this altitude I was so affected I was unable to continue.

We continued at this painfully slow pace until reaching Stella Point (57xx m). Here we stopped for 10 minutes and I was just starting to get cold when we continued on. We stopped again in 20 minutes and rather than sit there I went for a walk to find a toilet stop and to look at the view from a higher point. We continued on at the slow pace but the sky was starting to lighten and I wanted to be on the summit ready for the sunrise so I went in front and picked up the pace.

The last bit to the summit is a gentle open snow slope so it doesnt feel as much like summiting as Mt Kenya did but it was still a great feeling to walk the last 100 m and get to the point where everywhere was now downhill.

The views were fantastic with the sky starting to lighten causing the snow to reflect the pinks and oranges of the sunrise. To the East was cliffs down to a plateau. To the west was a snow slope down to ice cliffs. The North had a long ridge to a memorial and then a steep drop down big cliffs. The south where I had come from was a ridge steep on one side and gently sloping to the ice cliffs.

I took in the views and Nechi seemed to expect me to take photos and start heading down. I explained that there was no point in taking photos until it was lighter and that I was staying to see the sun come up and to be bright enough for good photos. He said there would be no sunrise due to the clouds and while I mentally disagreed with him I just kept quiet. He suggested while waiting we follow the ridge to the North so we walked down creating the only footprints in the snow. It was nice to get away from the other people who had started appearing at the summit now. At the end of the ridge was a memorial to those who had lost their lives climbing the mountain.

Summit Sign
After 5 minutes there I headed back by myself as Nechi was kneeling down and I was not sure if he was praying or just resting taking in the view.

I headed back up to the summit and the sky was bathed in fire with the summit signs (yes there are two identical signs to cope with the vast numbers summiting in peak season) were silhouetted against this glow. Below to the east was clouds with one hole in them. The edges of this hole were glowing a deep red colour as the sun had risen below the clouds. 5 minutes later the sun appeared above the cloud layer and I was now happy to see the sunrise.
Heading back up to the summit from the memorial
Two summit signs
Looking south
Fantastic fire on the rim of the hole in the clouds
Sunrise from the highest point I have ever been
It is a little cold
 As it started to get bright I got photos at both the signs as the light was different for each one and admired the view for a while. Now ready to go down I went back to my pack and was surprised that it was covered in frost. I thought it was dry but obviously not and looking at my photos later I saw frost on my jacket hood. I stripped down in preparation for the descent and we were off with only one other person still at the summit.

Nechi and me
Now I can see the fantastic views

Photo at the other sign now
Frost built up on my pack after only 30 minutes
Nechi let me in front on the way down and I repaid his patience at the top with a fast descent. It was not as slippery as I was expecting and we quickly caught and passed the other groups. There were still people coming up and I gave them some encouragement as I went down. Most of these people were really struggling and their crew were doing a fantastic job trying to keep them going, singing and dancing and giving encouragement. The last lady I saw had 2 porters carrying large boxes which I think was the heli-drone. She had 4 other guides/porters around her encouraging her and she looked absolutely shattered, like I felt last time I was at that altitude. I would not be confident she would make it to the summit but you never can tell what someones determination will do.

As we dropped below the snowline the track separated into an up and down track. The down track was scree so I was able to bound down scree running at speed which was great fun. From the end of the scree it was another 10 minutes and we reached the camp first by 30 minutes! It took 1 hour to make the 1295m descent.
Heading down
Looking at the head of the glacier
Looking at the towns far far below
Looking back at the summit on the left
Great views
The scree descent was fast!
Nearly back at camp
Last of the snow
Base Camp
Nice rock slabs to descent
My Team. Emmanuel, Daniel, Kennedy, Me, Nechi and Geoffery
On arrival one of the other of the crews asked Nechi if we had to turn back as they didnt expect anyone so early, especially a female. I think Nechi was proud to be able to brag about his fast client.

We stayed in camp for 1 hour so I changed back into my normal walking clothes and had a breakfast of Stew and pancakes.

We left at 0900 and headed back down the hill then branching off to take the Mweka route. The track was an easy one through the barren landscape at an easy gradient. We passed a stretcher carrier which had a platform with a wheel in the middle with suspension.  10 minutes later there was a whole lot of these stretcher carriers lying beside the track.

At the edge of the vegetation zone I could see a camp in the distance and this was High Camp. Further down the hill I could see our camp in the rain forest. The track now started descending steeply and the condition deteriated as the water damage had cut up the track. The track had many rock steps and became quite tiring to descend. I was glad to have my poles to help descend and give my knees some assistance. An hour from Barafu Camp we reached High Camp and had a rest. Kennedy arrived and Nechi told me to go with him for the rest of the way so we continued down for the most tiring part of the entire walk, summit climb included. It was an hour of steps of different heights and rocky path where we descended 600 vertical meters in the space of 3 km.
Descent from Base Camp
Thankfully I didn't need one of these stretcher trolleys
Easy path through the rocks
Greenery at last. Very rough washed out rocky track
The last camp
 Finally at Mweka Camp at 1100 David had the tents up and I settled in for a relaxing afternoon. Lunch was stew and watermelon again.

I watched a steady stream of porters arriving and setting up camps. The first group to arrive came at 1300 but kept walking. It was not until 1500 that other people started arriving.

I had 5 things I was going to give to my crew; my heavy down jacket (purchased in Kathmandu many years ago as a gift to my Mum but too warm for NZ so she told me to use for this trip and donate to the porters), 260 weight Merino Top, Fleece Neck Warmer, Dry Bag and wool socks.  I taught the crew how to play Paper-Rock-Scissors and they played this to determine rankings. The winner then had first choice of items, 2nd had second choice etc through to the looser getting the last item which was the wool socks. I think they liked the fact that they all had an equal chance of getting the good item.

Once again no afternoon tea though I swear I heard them making popcorn! Dinner was soup and pancakes, rice and the same vegetable dish with no desert. While the meals have been big enough the variety has been lacking and in comparison to what I had on Mt Kenya nowhere near as good. This is interesting given there are two more people to carry things than on Mt Kenya.