Kilimanjaro – “Uhuru Peak” (5895m)

Tanzania… July 9, 2007… 06:07am… -12°C… 5895m… Uhuru Peak!

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Never have I been so indescribable tired and happy at the same time:-)
Yes, I made it! All the way to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak!

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Machame Route: 6 days & 5 nights – 110 km total – from gate 1800m to summit 5896m. (“Zugspitze” = 2960m)

Day 1 & 2:

After an early start from Cape Town I arrived after a good 18 hours journey via Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro Airport at my hotel in Moshi where I got welcomed by a security guard armed with a machine gun…
All next day I spent cruising the local town where I was mostly busy trying to get rid of self-appointed city guides who would not stop following you until given some change or a kick in the backside. Later in the evening I then met my climbing partner who was going to join my mission for the next 6 days. All I knew so far was his name and that we would share costs for guides and porters. And somehow… I knew it: “Deforest”, a 65 year old librarian form Colorado, USA.

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Day 3:

Early breakfast at the hotel (850m) – 1,5h drive to Kilimanjaro National Park entry gate (1800m) – 3 hours sorting out guides, porters and registration – 11:00 o’clock: I’m on the track!

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6 hours through dense rainforest & about 20km later we arrived at Machame Hut (2980m) for our first overnight camp. Besides our party (2 climbers, 2 guides, 7 porters & 1 chef) there were roughly 15 other climbers employing about 60 staff which turned the whole idyll into a rather busy atmosphere. Everyone thought the old dude was my dad & I must have been the first white “brotha” with blonde dreads the porters have come across. And despite their amusement it was a pretty hard job not to insult them everytime I rejected the finest, purest, best smelling, aaaaaaah! “No, not on the mountain!” But the malaria prophylaxis did the job anyhow and Diamox, a drug reducing the symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) made me piss like a racehorse every half an hour!

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I could not believe how much useless shit our porters carried up the mountain!
Candle-light dinner: “Deforest” told me about adventures during 40 years in his library & I described the beauty of Swedish chicks travelling the Aussi-coast.

Day 4:

Machame Hut (2980m) – 6:00am wake-up – slight frost covering the tent – 10km to Shira Camp (3840m). Pretty cool was the temperature drop from 26°C to 4°C in about 10 mins when the sun went down. Not so cool is the sun intensity at high altitude: with SPF 60+ (!!) my face was on the safe side but I totally forgot about my hands and fingers which on the following day turned into a bright red and a scary looking blue the days after which made it a real torture when I had to wear gloves. Now, 8 days later I still have blisters between the loose bits of burned skin on the back of my hands!
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A porter coming out of the first layer of clouds Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance. Isn’t she beautiful?!

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And thanks guys for feeding me fried bananas and pancakes!

kili10Sunset Zigeiners out there! Imagine having no other choice then using such a “long-drop” at night with only a head torch on ya head and temperatures well below freezing level!
I never in my life have frozen that much (in my fingers)!
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Day 5:

Acclimatisation day: Climb high – sleep low. 8 hours from Shira Camp (3840m) to Lava Tower (4630m) and back down to Barranco Camp (3950m). By now I suffered the worst diarrhoea u can think of!

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“Elipokea”
- one of our guides -
Ya ya… I didn’t believe it myself but those gay walking sticks (also called:
“trekking poles” *grunt grunt*)
really make a difference!
Pretty cool
camping spot, ey!?

Day 6:

Barranco (3950m) to Barafu (4550m).
“Only” -5°C in da morning but I was freezing like a penguin since all my body energy was concentrating on a heavily working stomach.

kili14 Meanwhile I haven’t eaten for 2 days and my reserves are slowly running low… This was the hardest day so far covering a steep 14km section (8 hours) with decreasing oxygen in the air.”My knee hurts like hell & I’ve got the runs…. but I’m f*ckin’ happy!” kili22

kili15The kitchen kili16Porters resting

Summit Night:

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With only 2 hours of sleep (including a pee every 30 mins or so) Deforest, Elipokea, Frank (the other guide, I called him Frank cause I kept on forgetting his real name) and da Zigeiner left Base Camp just before midnight with a cup of tea and a biscuit(!) for the hardest and most exhausting night ever!

In just over 6 hours we “raced” up those remaining wishy-washy 1300 meters, taking one full breath in and one full breath out per single footstep.

During the last hour and a half crushing over the ice-field from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak I seriously had to fight tears since it was simply one of the most beautiful und gigantic moments of my life. 06:07 o’clcok in the morning, minutes before sunrise I made it! I climbed the roof of Africa!!

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With about -12°C and a harsh wind picking up and not wanting to run the risk of cooling out we only had about 10 minutes to enjoy the most mind-blowing sunrise you can imagine before we continued our 7km way down back to Base Camp for further 3 hours.

Still not haven’t eaten I really struggled holding myself upright with my legs giving way more and more on the steep decent. I fell over a few times caused by pure exhaustion and I had to stop a lot to rest. I was f*cked!

Back at Base Camp we stopped for about 2 hours to have a short rest and sort out our gear. 12 o’clock sharp we carried on for another 16km downhill to Mweka Camp (3100m).

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Day 8:

Leaving the camp at 7am we finished the last 18km in not even 2 hours(!) and arrived back at the hotel early afternoon. The rest of the day I spent in Moshi hunting for proper food and souvenirs before I enjoyed the loooongest shower of my life:-) 4am next morning I was already on my way back to Cape Town…

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To sum things up, it was one of the hardest and most exhausting things I have ever done but nevertheless easier than expected. I only lost 2kg.

P.S.: And ha ha, I was wearing the same underwear for the whole 6 days…  and I’m still alive:-)

P.P.S.: Thanks Ol for da pressure! I had yr words in da back of my head at every single step.

P.P.P.S.: And never, NEVER seek advice from an African when it comes to equipment/gear: They have a different definition of cold, very cold or freaking cold.
If he tells ya to expect “life-threatening-almost-impossible-to-survive” conditions…
=> prepare yrself as if you went out for a nice day skiing, just bring along more sunscreen!

*cheers*

A few last words to my climbing buddy “Deforest”:

“As a 65 year old marathon runner having competed in 37 states with your last race finished earlier this year and a physical condition on the same level as a 25 year old, you earned my very special respect! Thanx mate for sharing the moments on this awesome & unforgettable trip!!”

deforest

The following is a small abstract of questions he (and I have NO idea why?) had asked our guide:
[In red colour my thoughts]

  • “Is that north?” => No, south.
  • “Is that the moon?” => What else should it be, *#%*!
  • “Is that north?” => No, south.
  • - “Is that snow?” => Well, *#%*, we’re at 5500m,
    it’s -8°C and it’s white!
  • “Is that north?” => No, STILL south!
  • He puts one of his two bags through the x-ray security check at the airport and seriously asks the officer: “The other bag too?”

July 9, 2007  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: ZA + Kilimanjaro 2007 Views: 6588

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