Day 5 - Altitude, cold and tales of sickness

Trip Start Dec 16, 2005
Trip End Jun 12, 2006

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Friday, March 3, 2006

Woken by the porters at 11pm, still officially yesterday, this is going to be a long day! Tea and peanuts to get us on our way and on the road by midnight, as we start getting higher I am able to look down at a trail of flashlight coming up behind.

The sky is clearish and there are lightning storms to our left and right. After 2 hours the hail and snow starts flying at us vertically and with below freezing temperatures and a wind-chill that is taking us well below freezing my biggest concern is hypothermia - I certainly didn't bring my insulated mitts and plastic boots from Boston!

An hour later at 3am I took off from Marcus and Freidel. We had discussed things earlier and I had told them my dream was to get to the summit for sunrise. The weather was still terrible and I think I picked up the pace a bit too much for my guide, I looked behind and he was bent over double puking his guts up. At this point I suggested we go back down. The truth be told this was more for my benefit than his as I now felt terrible, but the bastard insisted on continuing after a short rest! Damn I was hoping I'd get a good excuse to get out of this climb. A while longer and on the verge of turning round to quit we reached Stella Point. I knew things flattened out from this point and despite the cracking headache and holding myself back from being sick I knew at that point we could both make it. I was so physically and emotionally drained of energy at that point that my eyes started welling up with tears. A similar feeling to when I finished the NY marathon.

Coming towards the top the skies began to clear and I could see the most fantastic views of glaciers through the mist. Unfortunately the horizon had cloud on it so I didn't see the sun rise up from below but it was visible within 10 minutes. Who cares, I'd made the summit and was a happy chap. It was just passed 6am and after a very short photo stop on the summit all I wanted to do was get off the mountain. My hands were bloody freezing but I managed to take a few of what I though were great photos of the glaciers on the way down. The problem with a flashy camera though is you can play with the settings. Unfortunately that is just what I had been doing the previous day so all the photos were way too dark! C'est la vie, I think some of those view will be etched on my brain for ever!

Just 15 minutes down from the summit and I saw Markus and Freidel. I was dead chuffed they were going to make it and very impressed at Freidel. She was 65, I hope I'm still as active as her at that age.

Off the summit and on the way down I was so buggered I couldn't even muster the energy to get the camera out to take what would have been some lovely photos. Not that it really mattered anyway, the camera was still all set up incorrectly!

Eventually the inevitable happened. We stopped for a rest and I couldn't hold it back any longer and spend the next 10 minutes puking up what turned out to be nothing from my empty stomach.

There were people literally getting carried and dragged up the mountain by their guides as I descended down. Based on how I felt going down I dreaded to think how they would be. They looked terrible.

Back down in camp at 9:30 and it was all I could do to climb back into my tent where I fell asleep until 11am when Markus and Friedel returned.

Remind me if I ever talk about going up to 20,000 feet again how I felt after this climb and after the 20,000ft high Huayna Potosi in Bolivia. I don't think my body was built for altitude!

After soup and fried bread we broke camp and headed down to Mweka camp at 10,000ft, about a 10,000ft drop from our highest point that day!

It's amazing, food, a big drop and by the time we got into camp I was feeling great and was knocking back a bottle of the beer that they sold in camp.

On the way down I'd seen a poor lady who was been stretchered down due to altitude sickness. They put her in her sleeping back and what really was there had been a big downpour just before camp - they just left her at that camp with her drenched sleeping bag. I didn't fancy her chances for getting a good nights sleep that night!

I forgot to mention besides my leaky tent I was also given a pole for my decent that didn't work and some gaiters who's straps underneath were missing - practically rendering them useless in the deep snow. A word of warning if you rent equipment - check it first. My dream was to go back to Victoria Travels take the pole in and snap it in two in front of the owner and say don't ever give people crap like this to hike with again. Of course in my English way I did nothing of the sort and returned saying what a lovely hike it had been when the owner asked me!

I wonder how many of the people hiking Kili really know what they are getting themselves into!
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