Merangu route

Trip Start Mar 24, 2005
Trip End Jun 23, 2005

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Tuesday, June 7, 2005

After looking through this load of photos, I won't accept any accusations from people that I've edited them to avoid ones where I'm looking dodgy... There are a whole load in this bunch !

The route we took was the very popular 5 day 'Merangu' or Coca-cola route (so called because it's that easy?!), the only one on the mountain which allows you to stay in huts rather than camping. As someone who'd never been to high altitude before I really wanted to give myself best chance of getting to the top so that route sounded like a good idea to me!

The pictures & comments probably explain it best, but this extract from my diary taken from the final climb (started at midnight at the start of the 4th day) might help a bit too...

11.30pm 9/6/05
We just grabbed a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits before getting ready to head out; I was wearing a t-shirt, fleece, huge yellow puffer jacket and the big many pocketed waterproof, not to mention padded ski trousers and waterproof trousers, thick gloves and a particularly tasteful light blue balaclava... All in all I felt pretty warm and cosy to start with !

So just after midnight, with Bariki in front, me behind (with two walking poles), Herdy behind me and Valence at the back, we headed off into the pitch black with just our head torches to guide the way. The view of the night sky was absolutely stunning, clearest I have ever seen it and because we were so high up, the stars were below our eye line as well as level and above us. It felt like that sight alone was enough to give us a real burst of energy.

The walking itself was incredibly slow paced, I was just focused on Bariki's feet ahead of me, just plodding onwards. Never the less, we appeared to be going faster than quite a lot of groups and fairly early on overtook most of the people we'd be walking with. We were stopping every half hour or so for some water - and after a while for some chocolate too. To get that I had to take my hands out of the gloves to undue the various pockets until I found it - something which proved to be pretty painful in those freezing temperatures and it took ages for the penetrating cold to get out of my hands again.

Anyway, I was surprised when Bariki said at one stop under the shelter of some rocks that we were halfway - it didn't seem like we'd been going that long - although at the same time it also felt like we'd been walking forever ! The footing really wasn't that easy, loose skree, small stones was fairly slippy, which, combined with low energy levels did make me increasingly unsteady on my feet. Having Herdy plodding behind was really good too, his occasional 'you're doing amazingly' really helped - definitely 100% genuine - I know that I was probably doing better and with significantly less moaning than expected, which hopefully helped both of us maintain energy ! The bit which was the steepest was the final climb to Gilmans Point. I was wobbly on my feet as the last chocolate fix was really beginning to wear off and it seemed like although I could see the silhouette of the top of the mountain above my head, it hadn't got any closer for bloody ages... So, when we finally made it to the top, it was a massive relief, although also a huge disappointment - that was because although I knew we were walking to the peak via Gilmans, my brain was a bit addled by the altitude, so when I realised it wasn't the main peak it was a bit distressing, especially when I found out it was another hour and a half or so both up and downhill to get there. So, we just stopped for a quick drink & some choc before heading off again.

The going for the last section wasn't the easiest, with a fair amount of clambering over and round rocks required as well as more uphill sections and more ice underfoot. We could see the reflection of glaciers and craters in the increasing light by this stage which was lovely - even if I wasn't in the best frame of mind to appreciate it. At this point I was still feeling shattered and having to take more breaks to try and get my breath back, the air was getting really thin. We carried on for what seemed like ages. I kept on seeing silhouettes of what looked like the peak up ahead, but everytime we just headed on past them until we saw another higher peak. Eventually, and the light was beginning to change quite a bit by this point, we could see the top up ahead. Even though the slope was really gradual by this point, Bariki had really slowed down and was stumbling and pausing fairly often. It had even begun to irritate me a bit so it must have been slow ! Herdy actually started walking ahead, I was struggling a bit more because it was pretty slippery walking on both scree and ice, even with the poles for balance. In the end though I overtook him as well, and Herdy had waited for me up ahead so when I caught him up we walked the rest of the way side by side, really struggling for breath because we'd automatically started walking faster because we were so close to the top. As we made it that last 100 metres or so we could see a few people there already, but the sun hadn't risen yet so we were going to make our aim of getting to the top for sunrise !

When we got to the top (see pics), we both just sat down (or rather half collapsed) - I think I'd half started crying on the last section up, just not believing I'd actually made it, but by this point I was just sat just trying to breath as deeply as I could to get enough oxygen into my lungs ! Then it was congratulations & photo time with Bariki and Valence, before just pausing to take in the amazing views from the roof of Africa... We could see Mount Meru (3rd largest peak) as well as amazing glaciers around Kili before the endless expanse of cloud stretching out to the horizon.

I'll leave it there rather than going through the climb down. Needless to say, although it took half the time, I really hadn't thought about how nasty it was likely to be beforehand - which is probably just as well ! Luckily we bumped into some friends on the way down who supplied us with much needed water (ours had run out) and glucose tablets for an energy top up...

Check out the pictures to get more info on the climb & see what it was like along the way, at the top and a bit of celebrating afterwards !
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