Kilimanjaro ascent

Trip Start Jul 24, 2006
Trip End Oct 28, 2006

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Saturday, August 12, 2006

Version francaise d'abord...English version on the bottom, itinerary at the end.

Quelle aventure!!!
Ca y est, le Kilimanjaro est conquis, et nous aussi, par sa majestueuse beaute.
Mais cela n'a pas ete sans peine! L'ascension ne necessite pas de competence technique (pas d'escalade ni de bouteille d'oxygene) mais etait un veritable defis physique:
6 a 7h de marche par jour, pendant 6j, toujours au dessus de 3500m, des nuits froides (0 a -2 deg), puis monter toujours plus haut, combattre le mal des montagnes au dessus de 4500m, puis enfin le derniere etape, l'ascension vers le cratere et les glaciers, de nuit, 6h de marche de 4600m a 5800m par -20deg, l'oxygene se faisant de plus en plus rare et chaque pas demandant un effort de volonte...pour enfin atteindre le pic d 'Uhuru (5895m) au lever du soleil.
Tout cq pour une recompense a la mesure de l'effort fournit: des le deuxieme jour nous sommes au dessus des nuages et plantons nos tentes sous un ciel etoile, contemplant les glaciers encore lointain scintillant froidement sous la lune. La vegetation parait prehistorique, faite de fougeres geantes et d'arbre bizares, puis nous traversons l'immensite des plateaux d'altitude, desertiques et glaces, des tours de lave et des pierriers d'ardoises, des plaines de quartz eblouissant produits par l'activite volcanique heureusement depuis longtemps terminee.
Le soir nous voyons les nuages monter par vagues vers les pentes de plus basse altitude, comme une mer entourant le volcan, affluant et refluant telle une maree.
Au sommet le spectacle est inoubliable, les glacier brillant sous les premiers rayons, le cratere eneige et silencieux, les champs de glaces sculptes par les vents, le mode autour de nous recouvert de toute part par une mer de nuages, le sommet de l'Afrique...
Mais il nous faut redescendre car l'oxygene manque et le temps nous est compte, deux jour de descente avant de pouvoir se reposer...
Et nous voila sains et saufs dans notre petit hotel a 6 dollards la nuit, tout c'est bien passe, finalement c'etait pas si difficile...une fois qu'on l'a fait!

Voila donc les photos du Kilimandjaro ainsi que l'itineraire que nous avons emprunte (route Machame), nous vous embrassons tous, et nous vous disons a bientot,

Kiliphil et Altitudety

Kilimanjaro, kilimanjaro, kilimanjaro

The largest free-standing mountain in the world. The highest peak on the African continent, that has called out to adventurers for centuries. She called out to us - and we answered --

We got our first peak on the bus ride to Arusha - a huge mass looming in the distance that disappeared into the clouds. The next morning, we were in the Landrover on the way to the Machame gate, which is the most challenging but also the most beautiful path up to the summit. Philippe and I were accompanied by Enrique, a Mexican engineer, and Sam, a student from Maryland U, plus our guide, Augustino, and our assistant guide, Salumu. After a wild goose hunt for a pharmacy along the way for Sam, who needed to pick up the last of a series of 5 shots against rabies (he had been bitten by a monkey in Kenya), we made it to the Machame gate.

DAY 1:
Total chaos. Literally, hundreds of men stood outside the gate, jostling and shouting, trying to get to the front of the line where they would have more likelihood of being picked by the guides as porters. Inside the gates, it was equally chaotic, as the porters that had already been picked, stuffed food, equipment, tents, and their own clothes and equipment into thick plastic bags (like those for packaging grains), or baskets, up to a maximum limit of 20 - 25 kg. Our guide picked out 7 porters for our little group of 4, plus a cook and a waiter (that we found out later were his cousins). Meanwhile, we wondered around aimlessly, quite astounded by the huge numbers of peoplel there were. If for each tourist you figure 2-3 porters, it's not surprising that the total number of people making the ascent starting Sunday was about 350!! Also, if you figure that the Tanzanian govt charges $60/person/day for tourists to be in the park (plus a $10 rescue fee, plus $50/group/night at the campsites), you can also imagine what a cash crop this mountain is...and since the fees must be paid in cash, you also understand the need for several guys armed with kalashnikovs at the gate.

Once all of our gear was packed up, the porters' bags weighed, and all of us had signed in and paid our fees, we set off. Not alone, clearly! Though we were the last tourist group to leave, we kept getting passed up by all of the porters, who often luiterally ran up the mountain. The first day's hike was through the rainforest that surrounds the base of Kilimanjaro. Beautiful ferns, huge trees, lush underbrush surrouned the path. It was quite a pleasant tempurature - not too hot, nor too cold - and we all thoroughly enjoyed the hike up from 1800 meters to 3100 to the first campsite, Machame Hut. We arrived and it was already quite late, since we had gotten a rather late start. The sun was just going down behind one of Kili's pointed peaks. The porters had already set up our tents for us, and soon after brought us hot water for washing. We were a little concerned however because our head guide was nowhere to be seen. We kept asking the asst, who replied don't worry, he'll be here in 10 minutes. Slightly skeptical because he had told us that the sign-in would take 10 minutes, when it had in fact taken 2 hours, we asked how he knew - did he get a telephone call from Augusti (amazingly there is service all the way up to the mountain and even at Uhuru peak!!) No, but don't worry. Augusti ended up arriving at 9:30, having been detained for all sorts of reasons at the gate, none of which we completely understood because his English was not the best, but in any case, we were relieved that he was back and that we could go on.

DAY 2:
After a rather cold night, we got up for good hot porridge and tea. In high altitudes, you have to consume twice your daily intake to provide your body with enough energy for the extreme exertion you are making each day. At the same time, altitude serves to reduce your appetite, so often, and quite often as was the case for me, you really had to force yourself to eat. Luckily, the first morning, there was no problem, and we all ate heartily in preparation for the ascent up to 4000 meters, and back down again to Shira campsite 3800 m.

The hike was quite difficult. Very steep. We began the day with some sun, but by lunchtime, the clouds had come in and it was chilly. The key, as everyone on the mountain says, is to go pole pole. Very slowly. Even the traditional songs about Kilimanjaro take about pole pole. Porters say it to you, guides say it to porters, you say it to the guide - its the refrain that is song out by every group and every climber. And it is the rule we followed. As we made our ascent on the second day, the rain forest dindles into some mossy trees, and then into just bushes and other floor cover. If we were coming home right after, I would have made some bouquets to dry because there were lots of beautiful wild flowers.

We broke for lunch at a beautiful vista that we saw for a fleeting moment before it was clouded in. We ate as many very large white-necked, black crows came closer and closer, threatening to pick the food right out of our hands.

The hike after lunch was more strenuous. Once again, we employed the pole-pole method, as we felt the first effects of mountain sickness. A slight headache seemed to go away though after drinking a few gulps of water. When we finally made it to camp, we were all very tired, legs sore, and ready for tea.

DAY 3:
The second night was even colder. I had a new type of mountain sickness - a slight fever, along with some diarrhea thanks to Kassim. An advil and some immodium seemed to do the trick though, and I was feeling much better after lunch. The hike through boulder fields, was again quite difficult. And now small snowflakes were falling on our shoulders.

The point of day 2 was to reach the height of 4600 at the Lava Tower and then descend to sleep at 3750 m in order to help acclimatize. After 6 and a half hours of hiking, we finally reached the top. Our guide told us it was going to be another 3 hours to descend into camp. Disheartened, as it was already 3:00pm, we literally started to run down the other side, in hopes of getting to camp before it was too late and therefore way too cold! Fast as mountain goats, we cut the time in half and arrived at camp in an hour and a half - pole pole is not the rule for going down. Camp had, interestingly, been set up in a field of bushes, and our tent had been placed on several large bushes that made some nice big lumps...not ideal for sleeping...

DAY 4:
From Baranco Camp to Barafu Camp - one of the most exhilerating days. The day began with a climb up Baranco wall. Our group got off to a slightly late start, so we could see the enormous line of people snaking up the wall. We began the climb ourselves, but were soon stopped by the traffic jam. This was quite an incredible sight, and I wish I had taken a video to show this better. Basically, the porters, still with 20 kgs of luggage on the heads, backs, and shoulders, were trying to get up the wall as fast as possible. Since the concept of a line is not quite yet established in this country, this meant that porters would take short-cuts, alternative paths, which brought them precariously close to the 200 ft drop, in order to get ahead of the next guy. At the same time, the guides wanted their clients to get to the top since this was our longest day - 8 hours of hiking - which would be followed by the night ascent to the top that would begin at 11pm! So, with the guides, the tourists, the porters doing their unbelievable balancing act, the shouts, and eventually, the singing, it was truly an unforgetable experience. We made it up to the top - 4600 m - without incident, though Philippe was quite certain that of the 10 porter deaths per year, at least 6 had to happen on this wall.

At the top we had stunning views of the Kili as well as Mt Meru. We were above one level of clouds that spread out before us like a sea. It was breathtaking.

Unfortunately, we couldn't hang out up there, in the sun, enjoying the view, for too long since, as I already mentioned, the hike had to go on. We ended up descending again, then ascending up to 4600 again, before descending, and making one final ascent to our "base camp" for the big KILI ASCENT at Barafu Hut (4600 m).

We got into camp at 5 and had an hour of sleep before dinner, which ended around 8, a briefing for the hike up to the top, when our guide asked us if we had another pair of shoes since the ones we had simply were not suited for making the ascent. Though we knew that our glorified converse shoes were not ideal for the mountain, we thought that our real hiking boots would be too heavy to carry around for another 3 months. When we had been reassured by the company that we would not be walking through snow, so we decided to go with the canvas shoes. Now, Augusti was telling us that our feet would likely freeze in these shoes in the -20 degree weather. Well, it was our only choice, so we put on three pairs of socks and hoped for the best.

After the briefing, we had a fitful sleep, partly due to excitement, partly to cold, partly to fever. We got up at 11 and started to put on all of our layers. Five for me and four for Philippe, with three pairs of pants for him and four for me. Let me just say, it was VERY difficult to go to the bathroom with all those layers. Not to mention that I had to freeze my bottom off each time I went. And, we had to drink 5 liters of semi-frozen water to prevent the worsening of mountain sickness.

We were ready to go at 12:40. Philippe and I had brought our headlamps but they proved useless since we were guided entirely by the (nearly) full moon. The ascent of over 1200 meters was difficult from the start. We had to scale up some sheer rocks, using hand and foot.

The next step was hiking up the zigzagging path that was steep but relatively simple and monotonous. Around 3 in the morning, all of us felt like we were sleep walking. I closed my eyes for a moment and leaned my head on the guide's backpack when he turned around quickly and said - no sleeping, sleeping kills. That woke me up for a bit, but the cold, the lack of sleep, and the monotony of the slow pace had me back in a trance after a few minutes.

I was sandwiched between the guide and Philippe, who was very encouraging, and who would hold my hand every so often to remind me that he was behind me and we were doing this together. The ascent seemed an eternity. We lost Sam about half-way up because he was feeling too sick. He ended up being pushed up the mountain by the assistant guide - quite a triumph for the two of them!

The guides began singing mountain songs to keep us all awake, which was very beautiful and helpful.

The last part of the ascent was over loose gravel. You had to carefully plant your foot onto the ground to be sure it wouldn't lose hold and you slip. We could tell we were getting close, but we were only making painful progress. I looked at my watch and it was quarter to six. Sunrise was supposed to be for 6:30. The guide gave me his gloves to warm my frozen hands and took my pack. Philippe and I gave our last effort, which truly felt superhuman. I was nearly in tears, it was so hard.

At 6:15 we made it. The sun was just beginning to rise on the right, while the brilliant moon, so bright that it hurt my eyes to look straight at her, still shone on the left. We had reached Stella Point. We took some triumphant pictures, and felt lightheaded. We added another layer of clothes taht we had been saving as the stinging cold got through our clothes.

Then we began the last bit of ascent to the highest point of the mountain the Uhuru Peak at 5895 m. Our legs were painful. Our backs hurt. I felt like I couldn't get enough oxygen. Philippe took my arm in his and we walked, slowly, through the ice fields to the highest point. It got easier as we got closer because those who had already made it shouted out encouragement and looked in much better shape than those of us going up - the second you start to descend your body feels much better.

We got to the Uhuru, took our photos, admired the truly outstanding landscape of the crater, the glaciers, the magnificent views down the mountain, and then turned around to go down.

To be brief, for once, the descent was not as easy as I had been hoping. Everything hurt, and I felt like I had a fever. When we finally got back to the tent, Philippe and I both collapsed into our sleeping bags. I woke up shivering and shaking an hour or so later. Temperature soaring. It was awful. PHilippe thought it might be malaria since we had been so bitten in Zanzibar. I thought there was no way that I could continue down to the next camp which we were supposed to do that afternoon.

We considered asking for an emergency rescue, getting a ride down with the rescue rangers. However, after speaking with them, it seemed like it might even take longer than the regular descent. So, we stuck with the group, took some Advil, and ended up making it down all the way. Though, once again, it wasn't easy!

One last night on the mountain, and then we came back to Arusha. What a fantastic memory. A physical and mental challange, a spiritual journey?

Chrissy and Josh have met us in Arusha, and we shall see what the next adventure entails!

DAY 1 -- Machame Gate to Machame Camp
Elevation (m): 1830m to 3100m
Elevation (ft): 6000ft to 10,200ft
Distance: 18km
Hiking Time: 5-7 hours
Habitat: Montane Forest

DAY 2 -- Machame Camp to Shira Camp
Elevation (m): 3100m to 3840m
Elevation (ft): 10,200ft to 12,600ft
Distance: 9km
Walking Time: 4-6 hours
Habitat: Moorland

DAY 3 -- Shira Camp to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp
Elevation (m): 3840m to 4630m to 3860m
Elevation (ft): 12,600ft to 12,700ft
Distance: 15 km
Walking Time: 5-7 hours
Habitat: Semi-desert

DAY 4 -- Barranco Camp to Barafu Camp
Elevation (m): 3860m to 4600m
Elevation (ft): 12,700ft to 15,100ft
Distance: 13km
Hiking Time: 8 hours
Habitat: Alpine Desert

DAY 5 -- Barafu Camp to Summit to Mweka Hut
Elevation (m): 4600m to 5895m (and down to 3100m)
Elevation (ft): 15,100ft to 19,300ft (and down to 10,200ft)
Distance: 7km ascent / 23km descent
Hiking Time:6- 8 hours ascent / 7-8 hours descent
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit

DAY 6 -- Mweka Camp to Moshi
Elevation (m): 3100m to 1830m
Elevation (ft): 10,200ft to 6000ft
Distance: 15 km
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
Habitat: Forest
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isie on

le rêve
Rien que les photos... le rêve absolu!!!!

vous embrasse fort fort fort, et restez un peu au chaud, ca va vous faire du bien^^

iausas on

WELL Done! Double Bravo! And Hocha-cha!
Well, Ty, once again you are my hero and "my heart's inspiration" (name that song and artist, and you get a kiss).

But, of course, I was not surprised you made it to the top.

To those of you who don't know this story, let me tell you about Ty at age 7. She came out to Chicago (by self!) and we were going to swim laps in my building's pool. Not realizing how shallow the pool was, she smashed her face - forehead to chin - on the bottom when she dived in. I was swimming along back and forth, back and forth, in ignorance of her smashing; and only when I was done back and forthing did I see her bloodied face. I said, "Ty, what happened? Why didn't you get me, fetch me, call me?" And she just laughed, shrugged and said it was nothing. No tears. No whinging. She just kept doing laps. I loved that moment. What a girl!

I knew then she was the Bravest Girl Alive - well, not quite, for she is has always been tied with Brie. They are, together, The Bravest GIRLS Alive. So, of course, I was not surprised at her stoicism and victory on Kilmanjaro - and her near whimsy at her many bloody falls and challenges leading up to last week.

More history as prologue: One summer when Brie was about 3 and Ty about 6, they had a pogo stick and their pogo-ing led to constant crashes and burns on the flagstone steps by the pool. And they ALWAYS just got back up and kept pogo-ing. I could see what was coming.

Then there was Trish's hard and fast "rule" when they were about four: No climbing trees over 40 feet (12 m).

And then Tibet - when Ty carried on her back the loads of her wimpy trekking colleagues - who just couldn't.

So, now Kilamanjaro? Who could be surprised that she and her man would make it to the top? I am just surprised that Todd and Trish did not take the girls up when they were, say, 4 and 7.

Your tale, Ty, certainly beats my crawling on my belly in the dark on the mountain in Spain last year story --by, oh, okay, nine times, if you measure by elevation. I never realized what a weenie mountain that was -- all I measured / estimated were the inches to the edge, the verticality of the drop and the looseness of the rocks at the edge, and the distance of the drop, which turned out to be less than a mile! (BTW, my technique for navigating the slippery /rocky switchbacks next to the precipices in the dark was to do a really easy meditation exercise I had learned in the nineties - counting under my breath: "1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2, 3 4. . ." - it sounds lame, but it created a helpful rhythm and distraction from what would have been in my head: "death is imminent; I am going to fall; I am going to die. . . " -- not a helpful, let alone inspring, mantra.)

I am particularly impressed that you made it despite mountain fever, near frostbite and the wrong shoes (at least not 4-inch strappy heels, though they would have looked great!).

Speaking of fashion, you look awfully fab in the pics. Do tell: did you bring eye liner and lip gloss on the trip? - Still okay for mountaineering, just not for flying - or have you heard the new rules?

Love you, love you. And GO girl - you, too, Philippe!


barrettbingley on

A truly inspring feat
Tyra and Phillipe thanks for you bilingual recount of a grand adventure. It not only makes me recall my love of travelling but brings a pull to my heart to 'head out' again.

iausas on

Re: Re: WELL Done! Double Bravo! And Hocha-cha!
Chrissy: I didn't know you were a fellow pogo-er. Great story. You see what that wrought? Great courage and balance.

In all fairness, we must, though, give credit to Todd, whom I believe got the girls their first stick.


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