Getting down the mountain was one of the things I was dreading from day one. When you think of doing Kili you mainly focus on being able to get up, whereas getting down is also hard and painful.
Immediately after summiting we were told to descend, as being at such a high altitude for a long time is bad for your body. Exhausted we took a few pictures, sat down, caught our breath and attempted to get down the mountain. The scree and rubble that made it so difficult to get up meant that it was also a nightmare to come down again. The porters told us to slide down (just like skiing) but this was a lot more difficulty than they made out. It took around 4 hours for me to get to base camp, sliding on scree only meant that I fell over many times. So much so that at one point I rolled down part of it because it seemed more efficient and a faster way of getting down than getting up and falling back down again. Those that could barely stand were ran down the mountain by porters, every so often you would see someone with a guide holding their hand, or arm in arm, and being dragged down resting their weight on the porter and not falling over – I really don’t understand how these guys do it!
Arriving at base camp was allowed some food and an hour’s nap before doing another 3 hour trek to the camp where we would be spending the night. By this time I had been walking for 11 hours straight, with only snacks and 4 hours sleep – so tired. The next day wasn’t so bad, it took 4 hours to get to the gate. Only we walked through a big rain cloud for a couple of hours which meant the floor was slippery and hard to walk on.
We were drained as we got to the bottom, we had some lunch and got on the bus that took us back to the hotel – so excited for our first proper night’s sleep in ages.
That evening the guides came back to the hotel with us to join us in a celebration meal. We received our certificates and ate dinner in a room, with actual chairs and actual lights – oh the luxury!
Instead of then going to bed (another luxury we hadn’t had for a while) we stayed up with Konyagi, the national spirit of Tanzania, drinking games and celebrated some more, ignoring the fact we had yet another 6.30am start the next day.
Summit night had arrived and we were all nervous and worried about the challenge that awaited us. The porters woke us up at midnight (2 hours behind schedule due to our tiredness from the earlier trekking) and we sat in the tent drinking tea and eating biscuits preparing.
Wearing about 6 layers, I was ready for the walk. I turned on my iPod and zoned out for the next 9 hours. My water in my camelback froze within an hour, which wasn’t ideal, but I did have spare water. The air was cold, and we only had our head torches for light – which in a way was good as it meant we couldn’t see just how far we had to go.
Altitude sickness kicked in a couple of hours after we started, but I can’t be sure that that it was it was. I felt sick, had a headache and generally quite wobbly, but that could have just been me over-exhorting myself exercise wise and the general lack of sleep.
The porters were incredible they did everything for you, from giving you drinks to dragging you up the mountain. I was ok(ish) compared to other people that were on the mountain at the same time, and managed to drag myself up to Stella Point, this was the hardest bit to get to as the scree and rubble meant that you would take two steps forwards and slide a step back. It was exhausting, a steep hill, the scree and the altitude and lack of oxygen in the air meant I had to sit on a rock to rest every few metres. It really was a struggle, and everyone says it, but it was the hardest thing I have ever had to endure.
At Stella Point you can see the sign for the Uhuru peak, I decided to go on, but others stayed at Stella Point. The distance doesn’t look very far and at sea level would probably only take you a few minutes to walk, yet the altitude meant slow walking and rest stops.
I managed it, I managed to get to Uhuru peak! The rooftop of Africa and the highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro – we took pictures to remember and prove that we got there before attempting to descend from the summit.
Summit night now feels like a blur, I don’t really remember getting up to Uhuru peak, but I’ve had the best time climbing Kilimanjaro and am so amazed that I was actually able to manage to get to the top.
The next day was Barranco wall, from the camp we were at it looked like a vertical cliff type thing, but it wasn’t as bad as it looked.
Climbing in the altitude was difficult every move made us exhausted and we ended up taking an extra hour climbing it than we were supposed to. We walked through valleys for about 6 hours (which was frustrating because every time you go downhill you know you have to go back up again) until we reached a mid-point camp were we could eat a hot lunch and not the poor excuse for lunch boxes that we had had on the previous days. The roast chicken dinner (how they did this up a mountain will forever bewilder me) boosted everyone’s morals. It was a further 4 hours before we reached base camp, where we had dinner and a 4 hour nap to prepare us for SUMMIT NIGHT.
Day 3’s ecosystem was the alpine desert. The lack of oxygen meant there were not many plants or animals around – just lots of rocks.
The atmosphere amongst the group felt more serious (Buster Rhymes, one of our guides, told us off for taking too many breaks!) It was long day of walking and trying to acclimatising to the altitude. Our climb today saw us reaching 4600m above sea level to the lava tower (didn’t look too much like the tower I was expecting) and then back down to 3950m to camp. I am starting to feel the effects of the altitude now; getting headaches, feeling sick and generally feeling, well, hungover. I was lucky though, there were many of the group that felt a whole lot worse than I did.
It was also at this point that I realised I should have done some training, if you’re climbing Kili don’t listen to anyone that says ‘you can’t train for altitude.’ You can’t, but you will need to train for the 5 8-hour days of solid walking that you will be doing! I managed OK considering my severe lack of training, but my fitness level is higher than I actually expected – so all was ok.
Sleeping is still a nightmare, camping is killing my back and walking through and sleeping with all the dust makes you so dirty – I can’t wait for a real bed and a shower!
After a poor night’s sleep today trek involved walking through moorland. We woke up at 6.30am and started trekking at about 9, much behind schedule. During the hours of walking we spent our time re-enacting the Lion King (Alice and Rathu)
and singing as many walking/mountain related songs as possible (Miley Cyrus – it’s the climb, Aint no mountain high enough, S Club 7 – Reach, Biffy Clyro –Mountains.) One of the guides keeps calling me Lilly, because I remind him of some Manchester student who was called Lilly. Interesting.
Climbing has started to get a little bit more difficult now, I have realised that I’m lacking in sleep and have only had about 15 hours in 4 days. I really dislike camping, it’s impossible to sleep on my useless roll mat, it may as well not even be there (note to anyone climbing Kili buy a therma-rest!)
Others in the group are now starting to feel the effects of the altitude, but I’m good (so far!)
The journey was so long, after arriving at Heathrow to find out that a plane had caught on fire near a terminal building (luckily with no people inside) we flew to Nairobi (via Dubai for three hours.) It was an Emirates flight so it wasn’t all bad – I am amazed that now you can get WIFI on planes and use your mobile phones during flight – who knew?!
Feeling tired after a lack of plane sleep we hopped on to a (very crammed) minibus for a few hours (7!) to cross the border from Kenya to Tanzania, and then onto the hotel.
The hotel was far nicer than any of us could have expected, so it was a carb-loaded dinner and straight to bed for the 6am start the next day!
After a quick breakfast in the Impala hotel, it was back to Phillip’s (our drivers) squished bus to take us to the Machame gate to start our journey up Kilimanjaro.
The first day was walking through the jungle; this was to be the first of four ecosystems that we will see on our climb. Some people struggled with the first day but hung back and walked at their own pace.
We had many porters to help with guiding us, carrying our bags and providing food, water and shelter. These guys were amazing, the could carry almost 4 times the amount of stuff that we had, walk at a quicker pace and get everything set up in camp before we even arrived!
We reached camp at about 6pm, settled into our tent for the first night of camping and the porters had our dinner ready for us.
I’m very pleased with the first day, it was a lot easier than I was expecting but I know it’s going to get a whole lot harder!
So due to my severe lack of WiFi in Africa in its entirety I am uploading all of my Kili blog posts within the next few days.
Since I got back from Asia it’s been go, go, go with everything.
In the 12 days I have been back in the country I have managed to graduate from University. On the 4th July I had my ceremony and was presented with my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management – very pleased (mostly because now I’m done with studying!)
I also managed to get everything sorted and get the keys to my beautiful brand new house and move in, I am still without a couple of appliances (like a fridge) but it’s getting there and starting to feel like home.
I am currently sat on a coach on the way to the lovely London Heathrow airport, very excited about my new adventure. It seems so long ago that I randomly asked Alice if she would like to go spontaneously climb Mount Kilimanjaro for charity and since then there have been a lot of fundraisers, and very generous donations from family, friends and companies (Huge thanks to Sharpe Systems! www.sharpe.it) But it’s finally here I am a few hours away from jetting off on an Emirates flight to Africa (via Dubai!)
Wish me luck!