Days 17 to 22
13.02.2011 - 18.02.2011
[sorry i've run out of patience with this slow internet, photos will follow]
Killi climb day 1
13 February 2011
After a mad dash to get our washing dry, a 5 min breakfast and last minute bag stuffing- we waited for an hour and a half for the guide to turn up (we could have finished drying the laundry….TIA….).
We ended up talking to some Australian girls who made there way to the hotel by local busses called the dulla- dulla. There are frequently more people then seats and passengers hanging out of the door way. Personal space is at a premium along with fresh air if you’re not seated beside a window. Being squashed into our minibus started sounding better.
It was a crazy 2.5hour drive to the Rongai Route gate which was madness. There were people everywhere. We waited about 40 mins before setting off through a light pine forest and potato fields. It soon started raining so we geared up and then of course it stopped…
We arrived at the Simba camp site at 2,700m, to find controlled chaos. Apart from music festivals, I’ve never seen so many randomly placed tents. We got settled in just before the rain set in. Our new air mattresses did a great job of removing bumps, but we were still on an angle that was similar to sleeping on a slippery dip… oh well. Dinner was good and after warm ‘washy wash’ we went to bed.
Killi climb day 2, 14 February 2011
It rained most of the night so we awoke to a lot of mess and mud. After a good breaky we packed up the bags that had exploded in the tent and headed off at about 8:00am. It was a 4 hour gradual up hill walk to the ‘2nd cave’ which is where we had a warm lunch.
We tried to explore the second cave except that the porters and cooks had taken over and were using it as shelter to prepare their clients food (and use as a bathroom).
After lunch we set off for another 3 hours and reached Kikawela camp around 4pm – along the way we reached over 3,800m.
It is progressively getting colder each day. They keep saying the weather on the mountain is unpredictable and won’t indicate what to expect next. We have enough gear to keep us warm - some of which ísn't the most appealing look -
Here are a few cool Swahili words we’ve learned”
- Jumbo (hello)
- Mambo (hey, how you doin?)
- Poa, Kacheeze Kamandizzy (said in response to Mambo means – I’m ok, as cool as a banana)
- Lala salama (sweet dreams)
Kili climb day 3, 15 February 2011
We woke to icy rain falling on the tent (and a happily chirping bloody bird that C wanted to throw a rock at) – yep it was freezing. It was a 3.5hour trek up hill over rocky ridges through the icy, snowy rain. We were fully kitted with wet gear, gloves etc, but it was pretty cold – no idea what it is going to be like on summit morning!
We made it to the Mewenzi Turn camp site by about 1pm – there is a lake here which apparently freezes regularly. It is bloody cold! The cloud comes rolling up over the hills so one minute you can see out across the hills, the next you can’t see five metres in front of you. We are just at the base of Mt Mewenzi it is breathtakingly beautiful – all covered in snow it’s like having a Swiss Alp on your back door step.
After a warm lunch we had a rest then went on an acclimatisation walk up to the top of a ridge – 4,550m. We were treated to a beautiful glimpse of Kili between the clouds and the back hills of Mewenzi.
We had the last of our warm washy wash for a while (yep, I really like washing myself in a 2cm deep bucket of tepid water in a dome tent when there is snow falling outside – what’s better is watching C do it after me (not pretty! )), dinner and then bed. It’s amazing how early you want to go to bed when it’s cold outside.
Kili climb day 4, 16 February 2011'
There was a lot more snow on the tents this morning – C had to literally shake the tent to shift the ice and snow off. It looked like a winter wonderland (I think people who call it that do so from a warm room with a fire going. When camping, it is just another frigging cold day!).
We set off toward the Kibo camp across what is called the lunar desert – it is quite beautiful - almost similar to the gibber rock on the Birdsville track – but cold. We passed the resting place of an airplane that crashed two years ago, killing the pilot and four passengers. Apparently it was a plane from Kenya that didn’t have permission to go over Killi (there is a bit of a disagreement between Kenya and Tanzania about who owns Killi) and got caught in bad weather. There isn’t much left at the site, but it’s pretty devastating.
We walked into Kibo camp, cold, wet, windblown and a bit puffed (from altitude). It is a bit of a zoo – the climbers who had gone toward the summit the night before hadn’t returned so there wasn’t much room for us to set up camp.
All twelve of us huddled in the mess tent (with snow flooring) while the guides and porters did their magic and set up our tents. After lunch we were sent to bed for an interrupted sleep until an early dinner and a summit briefing.
17 February 2011 – Killi summit night (our five month wedding anniversary)
Henry the chief guide frequently reiterated the instructions, 4 layers up top and 3 layers below, the accent is impossible to copy but burned into our memory now. Each of us layered up with thermals, fleece jumpers, beanies, gloves and down jackets and still felt the chill. It was a full moon and the wind had dropped so apparently it was ‘great walking conditions’ hmmmmm not sure about that.
We set off at 12pm up a Montpelier st style hill (very steep) covered in snow that looked like it would never end. Our first stop was at Williams Point which took 1.5 hours.
For some reason along the way I decide to overtake some people that were buggering around - C was behind me every step but it wore us out – not a good idea.
We had been warned each briefing that between Hans Meyer Point and Jamaica rock the surface was very steep. After 2hrs of hiking from Williams point, we were becoming very concerned as it was already steep, we were taking far longer then expected and the snow was becoming very treacherous. The catch was we weren’t told when we passed Hans Myer cave.
We found this out when we reached Jamaica rock, but by this time both C and I were over it. My feet had long since frozen and I was convinced I’d have frostbite. I had quite a lot of trouble with my fingers freezing – I couldn’t get both inner and outer gloves on and my fingers were cramping. But we trudged on, in single file, only making conscious decisions to step where the person in front had last stepped.
We were told that it was another 45 mins to Gillman’s Point (the top of the hill) – which also meant that sunrise was around the corner – this lifted our spirits a little and we kept going.
At Gillmans we were given hot sweet tea that will never taste as good as it did at that moment. Our chief guide, Henry, said that we had just a few more corners to get to the summit….. it was another 2hr scramble around the rim of the crater – which was a 100m drop into snow…. I may be ok on rocks, but add snow and ice into the mix and I’m useless! Chris stood behind me catching me each time I slipped. Henry had devised a new path because the usual path had too much snow on it.
We finally saw the sun rise from Stella point which is where three other routes join into the summit. At that time I thought it was one of the best sites I’ve seen – that burning red ball rising, giving heat and light (yep very deep in know….)
When we finally got to the summit although there was a great sense of achievement (and exhaustion- C) – it was a bit bitter sweet- there were heaps of people cramming around the sign, waiting for their time in front to get a picture… I felt like yelling at them to stop and take stock for a minute – not just be interested in ‘getting the photo’…. C was in a bad way at the top so I forced him to eat a muslie bar and have more water – he perked up and shared a coke that he’d carried up with the other guides – they appreciated it.
After our 15mins (literally) at the top we turned around and headed back down – along the treacherous snowy path around the crater rim. It was pretty scary as the snow was now melting into ice, so even less grip now. After a few stops past Gillmans, Jamaica we reached long lines of gravelly – ‘skree’ which is much easier to go down on if you, run… so C and I had a great time running face first down the mountain – and falling on our asses a lot…
Once back at Kibo we were given a bit of time to rest, then after lunch we were sent off down a different route, the Merangu route (also known as the Coco Cola route) to the Horombo camp. It was a bloody long walk – we were totally buggered by the time we got there. I fell apart a bit, everything hurt, it was cold, I was filthy – but C pushed me along.
After another warm washy wash - we had dinner and fell exhausted into bed in tent that although the most level so far, had some big rocks underneath. Going outside was hazardous as the tents ropes were tied together creating perfect trip wires for the unsuspecting visitor just trying to go the bathroom..
18 February 2011 – kili climb day 6
We woke early and after breakfast and another tipping ceremony we headed off. We were allowed to go at any pace we wanted to so C and I were soon left on our own to enjoy the scenery. About half way down we were hit with a massive downpour – some sort of last test of the mountain. We reached the lunch point and I was absolutely soaked - my wet pants seemed to have sprung a leak. After lunch one of the guides (who we called Mr President because his name was Barrakas) encouraged us to go as fast as we could – to beat a record for the last section.
He has bloody long legs and after years as a porter and a guide is very shore footed and fast like a mountain ‘chicken’ as Henry the chief guide pronounces in English (when really he means mountain cheetah) we went as fast as we could and made it down in one hour and twenty minutes.
At the bottom gate we waited for everyone else to get back by foot or by rescue vehicle and got our certificates. There was a great deal of euphoria, but this was tempered when the guides also casually mentioned they had not seen a snow dump on the mountain the night of our climb for over fifteen years!
After a long trip via Moshi we made it to the hotel just before eight pm. We cleaned off, re-packed and had a late dinner with the group.
We found out that a 30year old English guy and a porter from different teams actually died the night that we summited. Some of our group think that they remember seeing him at Gillmans – being helped by two guides. Also mentioned was that only 55 out of 78 people attempting to summit on our route made it.
It really brought home how dangerous Killi is and that we were very lucky to have each other looking after one another, but also to have great guides that knew what they were doing. I think that a lot of people underestimated the size of the task – even us to some degree – which makes me agree that it isn’t just about getting to the top it’s about the journey…..C and I now have a saying…. Up Killi and back- if we can get through that then most other things pale in comparison… bit of deep an meaningful for you!
Next stop the magical land of Zanzibar!