Climbing Kilimanjaro – Chapter 4

Onward and upward

And the sun is shining, but still a long way to go! And what a difference a bit of sunshine made the next morning! After the deluge the night before, and the poor spirits over dinner, suddenly the good weather arrived. Our clothes and packs were still sodden, but our spirits had lifted and we set of for our longest day. An acclimatisation day that took us up to Lava Point at 4600 meters, and then back down to Baraka camp for the night at around 3900 meters.

It was a wide and not too steep climb and before long we reached the snow. Here I was in my comfort zone. I loved walking through the freshly fallen snow and it felt very odd not to have skis on. It took around 3 hours to walk up to Lava Point which has been named after the huge rock which dominates it. As the path was wide the porters could come past us with ease and it felt like we were the only people there. Wonderful! At a very necessary toilet break we stopped to throw snowballs at each other.

I love the mountains Finally we reached Lava Point which felt like the kind of place in a ski resort that would have had a big bar, restaurant and be the most popular lunchtime spot on the mountain. Here we were thoroughly spoilt. We arrived to find that the table had been set for lunch, complete with a cloth and even table decorations. And after a long morning walk which had lasted several hours, we fell upon the food like wolves. Unbelievably without gas or electricity, the porters had set up the mess kitchen and had cooked beef, chips, beef stew and vegetables, as well as pineapple and mango all beautifully presented.

Those porters are amazing carrying all that equipment on their heads and then preparing everything. All we had to do was turn up and eat it. They even set up the ladies loo for us so that we did not have to use the dreaded long drop! Lunch finished and we set off in high spirits, on what we thought would be a pleasant stroll down the mountain to acclimatise, for four hours or so to the camp. Well that last about 2 minutes as we rounded the first corner and there was a nearly vertical waterfall that was fast flowing and wide. We realised with horror that we had to cross it and get all that way down it which involved in fact several steep crossings on wet rocks. Lunch al fresco! All of the post lunch warmth disappeared and our adrenalin kicked in as we stepped gingerly back and forth. Once completed we descended steadily through more rocks and scree to eventually reach Baranca camp at around exhausted but happy, a very good day with lots of sunshine, good food and high spirits.

The next day was to start with the scaling of the dreaded Baranco wall and then walking to Karanga camp. We arrived at the start of the wall to find a big queue of people winding their way up, with porters all trying to get buy. Serious congestion. And then we discovered that the bottle neck was due to a very scary section of wall which involved inching around various rock faces with a sheer drop beneath. As long as you didn’t look down it was fine, but one poor porter dropped his load and then had to go all the way back down to fetch it again.

This is the life! By the time we had reached the top of the wall, also known as the breakfast wall (because that is where some people completely part company with their breakfast), we were tired but exhilarated. Then there was a very beautiful walk across the plains and down a steep valley, where upon we realised that we had to walk all the way back up the other side, which took another hour or so of hard climbing. Little wonder the two of our members suggested that a bridge may have been a good idea! We finally arrived at Karanga camp which is literally perched on the side of the mountain with our tents sloping steeply down the hill.  This was not conducive to a good night’s sleep as I found myself sliding down the tent all night long.

Before going to sleep I realised that tonight is our last full night of sleep and at midnight tomorrow we would start the climb to the summit.

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Debbie Marshall

Founder of Silver Travel Advisor

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