I don’t remember much of day 2 which was the walk from Machame to Shira except that it started on a sharp incline too. There was a ridge that we had to climb to the top of and it was challenging. After the ridge, we climbed through rocks. Breathing was hard and felt like I had no energy to really talk to anyone. but the walk up that ridge was quite challenging. It was a relief to arrive there at about 2pm which meant that we would get to rest for the rest of the day.
It was after Day 3 that I decided to write down notes about the day because I realized that I was blanking out on the day. I noticed one pattern over each day and that was that during and after each day I would question if I could really go through another day of this. Yet every morning there was a strong positive feeling that today was going to be an easier day. It usually wasn’t but that feeling was encouraging.
Every day I felt like I had to just get through this day to get to the next day and soon it would be summit day. At the back of my mind I was worried that for some reason I would get too tired or sick before the summit and so tried to pay special attention to body and trying not to over exert it. I did that by walking slowly somewhat at the back of the pack. I told Freddy that I was doing so intentionally so that he did not see it as weakness and then for some reason think I would not be able to make it to the summit. At the end of the day before the summit, the guide can tell you to stay back and not climb the summit but that is usually if you are too sick to make it.
Freddy was the head guide and Alfred was our assistant guide. Alfred was more of a friend whereas Freddy was more of a supervisor. Freddy was older and someone who had more experience and someone I had personally requested through a friend. Alfred was more patient in that if I wanted to take a break or pause for a while whereas Freddy would be behind me and if I stopped he would say “ Ahan?” kind of like “ and now?” so I felt more uncomfortable to stop when he was close to me. I later found out that he didn’t want people to stop because that’s when you realize your legs are hurting you, or youre tired or something whereas if you keep walking you don’t think of it as much.
The day before Alfred had told me that today was going to be easy but soon enough it wasn’t. I think it was day 3 that breathing became difficult. Even though we were walking on a somewhat flatter surface , I became incredibly tired. The fact that I was also wearing 3 layers on my legs and boots that weighed what felt like a ton did not help. The weather was also changing drastically from cold to hot and so taking off and putting on layers created its own little hassle and used up much needed energy. There were times when you were too tired to even say hello to other climbers.
When we would take a break and start walking again I would feel 100 % better but then within the space of 10 minutes my energy was low again. It was probably, the altitude, the weight, the unfitness of my body and what seemed to be a lot of other factors. I also didn’t know how to ration my snacks properly because I never knew how far we were from the next camp. We would ask the guides but we also didn’t want to seem like kids in the backseat of the car who repetitively asked “ are we there yet?” It seemed like every time we asked anyways we weren’t much further than the time before. Time went by extremely slowly up there. Every foot you put forward seemed like a mission and camp just does not seem to get any closer. There were many times when I had to consciously make an effort and look at my surroundings and appreciate the beauty I was surrounded with because I was so focused on making the next step. When the fog cleared up and we could see the summit then that would help remind us of our goal but when it was covered up ( which was most of the day ) it was hard to think of the final destination.
On the third day on our way to Baranko camp we actually climbed up to lava tower which would help for acclimatization. We went up to 4600 m at lava towers and then climbed down to Baranko camp which was 3900m. We had lunch at lava towers and were exhausted. We had received a lunch pack and my rational side told me to save up my snacks and eat enough to have good energy and so I just ate the sandwhich and Alfred had been carrying soup in our backpack for us. Yet after 20 minutes Alfred came up to me and pointed at my pack and told me to make sure I ate everything in my pack. Lol, I laughed and said I would. Afer like ten minutes I got up to go to the bathroom and Freddy came up to me and said “Kula” Eat and that was like a command. It was like I had supervisors making sure I was eating up here. I told him I’d be right back. Both the guides seemed to have a special eye out for me maybe because I had joined this group alone and was younger than most people and was small – for some reason I got more attention from everyone such as them checking up on me if I was eating or helping me pack my sleeping bag..
After Lava tower I thought it would be easy as we were going to be going downhill and the first 20 minutes were what seemed to be easy and fun and I wasn’t struggling to breathe and nor was it hard to lift my foot for the next step but then there was pressure on the knees going down and the rocks were all slippery from the water that seemed to be streaming from the top of the mountain. It was tought to find good footing.My legs started to shake which was probably from the pressure on my knees from going down. I had to go to the bathroom and I asked Alfred if we were far from camp and he replied with a No. After about 40 minutes I asked him how far we were and he said another 40 minutes when he said not far I thought maximum 20 minutes but it was a good hour and a half. I realized that they don’t like to tell you how far you are because that makes you focus on the time and a lot of the time you are far from camp and that discourages you.
The fog had really picked up now and it was hard to se more than 15 steps ahead of you and so I had to stay close. We walked through rocky terrain which had ….trees.We were about 10 minutes from camp ( which is really long just by the way) and James and one of the porters came to help us. One took Alfred’s day pack and one took mine to help us with the final stretch. And just by the way those 10 minutes are never ten minutes at my pace – I always took longer..and they were the hardest “ten minutes of all “ cause you can see the camp but it takes forever to get there.
I settled down and put my stuff into my tent, went to the bathroom and then just sat for a bit and changed into my normal sports shoes which were much lighter and after chilling for a bit went to explore the area. The day before I had gone ot sleep and then struggled ot sleep at night so didn’t want to repeat that and now that I didn’t have my day pack and was in a scenic area figured I should look around . I walked to the end of the cliff and there was an amazing scenery. I sat there for a while and then the clouds came and covered that area up. Clouds also covered up my path back to the camp and I made sure I knew where I was walking and would not fall off the cliff..
I looked to my right and saw the Baranko wall which was what we would climb tomorrow. It seemed daunting. I called it the Great Baranko Wall . When I asked Alfred about It he said “Don’t worry , there’s a path , it’ll be fine. He tried to show me the path but I couldn’t make it out and so just tried to believe him and not worry. Tomorrow was supposedly suppose to be a 4 hour hike but I figured with our pace it would take us 6…
The Great Baranko Wall
Just as always , today felt like a good day. Mornings always felt positive. After a good hearty breakfast we were on our way to climb the Great Baranko Wall. Climbing the Baranko wall was exactly that – climbing. The past 3 days had been walking up this huge mountain but we had to basically rock climb over this wall. It was refreshing to climb – maybe because of the fact that you could fall onto other rocks kept us more awake then the hiking we had done previously and trying to find good footing and stable places to put our hands on. After 2 hours of rock climbing we got to the top of the Baranko wall and sat there for a break. At this point we were now literally above clouds. We met other climbers here who were also taking a break.
Soon we were all on our way to our camp which was just another 2 hours away – so at this point I guess we were keeping up with the 4 hour hike this was suppose to be. As we started there were two Americans behind me. They seemed to be fit enough to have a full on conversation between themselves – I don’t know if it was fitness or maybe they were better with the altitude because of previous experiences. They were having a conversation about movies – Keanu Reeves and Samuel Jackson – who had better movies and I found myself getting caught up in their conversation but hurriedly caught up with my group. I guess I didn’t like the fact that we were climbing the highest peak in Africa and talking about things like actors and movies( then again , I didnt really have the energy to talk so… but it just didnt feel right talking about normal things on this mighty mountain..). From the top of the Baranko wall we went down a valley and then up a ridge and then back down a valley and then there was our camp. I could see our camp from the second ridge but it would take a good 45 minutes to get to it . Freddy and I started talking about the porters – how they were paid , why they would do such a difficult job. Freddy told me that the money was better on the mountain than a normal job but it wasn’t easy. He tried to not come on the mountain too much. He explained how he watched friends his age really age because they came on the mountain too much. He started off as a porter and then became a guide. He can tell you all about the flora and fauna on the mountain – if you have the energy to ask J. We got to Karanga which was our second last stop before the summit. We ended pretty early at about 12.
We usually start our day at 8 am – as in the walk. Our day actually starts at 6:30 am every morning. James will come to my tent and say “ Mambo Dada” – How are things sister ? And I would reply with Poa.. and he would bring tea to my tent and some warm water to wash my face with. Breakfast is served at 7:30 . Between 630 and 730 we pack our stuff for the day and our bigger pack with all our other stuff which the porters would carry. At 8 we start walking – an early start to the day is important because as the day progresses the weather can get worse. The climb is already difficult and rain would just make it worse. So we usually get to our camps early and then when the afternoon showers happen we are nice and warm in our tents.
Karanga was extremely foggy. We were basically in the middle of clouds the whole time. It was pure fog everywhere. When we usually get to our camps we cant see the summit but at about 10 to 11pm each night we do get to see it and it is absolutely gorgeous and every night we get closer to it. I didn’t realize it but one of the climbers told me that every night after dinner when I got out of my tent ( usually for the bathroom) I would gasp and say “ wow” when I saw it . He told me on the 4th day that I did it every night and I laughed because I didn’t even realize it.
That night for the first time we could see the lights of Moshi. Every night before that all we could see was other parts of the mountain and this time we could see lights from the city. I tried to rest because of tomorrow was D day. Tomorrow we would climb to the summit at midnight and even though we would walk tomorrow to Barafu and then rest from about 12/1 till midnight today was just as important in terms of rest. That was the advice I had gotten for this trip. Eat properly, drink a lot of water, and rest. It was like you were a baby again and these were the only 3 things you had to worry about and they were really emphasized. Every time I spoke to anyone about it they reminded me to eat – because appetite is apparently suppressed up there and to drink ( despite my wanting to not drink) and to rest. I think by my second to third day I had decided that I wasn’t going to let my disgust with the bathrooms get in the way of me getting to the summit. Because if I didn’t drink water that could really threaten if I would get to the top. Dehydration is a serious issue and also leads to you being more prone to altitude sickness. I would hate to have come this far and because I hated the bathrooms, not drink and therefore get sick so I just sucked up the bathroom conditions and drank whenever I could. I had plenty of snacks but was keeping the chocolate for the summit day and for extreme conditions when I really needed energy. I had taken biscuits , and nuts, and dates, and dried fruit, crackers with me and would munch on those forcing myself to eat. My water bottles were right next to my sleeping bag too. Resting was also a little bit of a mission. Because every night I would wonder about the next day and how difficult it would be worrying that I would get sick right before the summit. I just wanted to hold up till the summit. Even if I got really sick after the summit I didn’t care – I just wanted to get to that summit. It would have sucked to have gotten this far – a camp before the summit and then get sick. Freddy kept telling us not to think. He told us not to worry about the normal things and our rest was essential. It’s funny becuas when he tells you not to think you think even more and your mind starts to wander to things that you haven’t thought of for the longest of times. But that would mean youre jeapordizing your summit so despite everything I tried to focus on eating, drinking , and sleeping. At this point, I think it was the 4th day and I kind of craved some kind of encouragement. The few words said by mama keki and the email I had been sent by Fatema had been repeating in my mind for the last 4 days and I just needed a push. Yet with the lack of reception in these areas this had to either be found from Freddy and Alfred and the others and from within. One more day – tomorrow night I would be summiting – Hopefully..