Kilimanjaro Day 10: Summit Day

Sunday October 5th

Day 6 Midnight — Barafu Huts (4600m) to Summit (5895m) and down again to Barafu then down to Millenium Camp (3400m)

At 11pm we are all ready packs on standing outside our tents making sure we have all our water and the like. Colin is still not feeling better, at that point we figure he is the only one not to go up tonight — really too bad.

We all get into single file according to Victor’s orders. I found out later that he put anyone who he thought might have problems towards the front. I was near the front. With all my sickness, I am not surprised. I’m personally having serious doubts about this by now. I’m still feeling weak and did not eat as much as I could at supper.

And then off we went into the moonlit night. It is cold, brutally cold. Colder even than Edmonton in the dead of winter. My feet are starting to freeze — my socks are just not warm enough. I am continuously wiggling my fingers around poles. It is definitely “pole pole” (“go slowly” in Swahili). One step in front of the other. At one point Aaron is moved in front of me — he is having trouble walking and breathing. The pace is slow. 3hrs in Chris gets mad as at the back of the line it is so slow he’s beginning to feel the cold. Keli is looking very cold as well. Sujji is singing and ahead with Victor, boy she has boundless energy.

About an hour or two in we hear a shout that Kifaru is on the mountain. Sure enough there he comes bounding past us. Fantastic — all of us are going to attempt the summit.

After passing 5000m I start having breathing problems. I am not getting enough oxygen into my system. It is now painfully slow for all of us, three steps, three breaths. The horizon is getting light and Mwenzi peak is to our back and right. The wind is gale force. Suddenly the steep winding path ends and we are at the bottom of the scree slope leading to Stella Point (5700m)

Keli is in a bad way, she cannot breathe and she is too cold. The extra assistant guides take her pack (after much cajoling from all of us) and almost carry her up the slope. The scree is very loose, but so much easier that the slate scree in Canada. The horizon is getting lighter and the glacier wall is to our left. I have never seen the horizon that wide, that immense. It is a scene I will never forget. I am the second last to reach Stella Point, just as the naked sun rose majestically over the horizon, bathing us in golden rays. Mwenzi in the background, the glacier blindingly lit up. I don’t believe I have ever seen a more beautiful sunrise, my eyes fill with tears. I collapse on Stella Point, it’s only another 200m height gain from there to Uhuru Peak.

Several people turn back here from the other parties. Keli is close but I help as does Victor and with one on each shoulder we carry her. I can only do this for about 20m — I am really struggling to breathe. Mike and Chris continue with her. Aaron is with me, but he can barely walk. I cannot take photos, my energy level is too low and I decide my objective is to summit, I am not capable of more. I also knew that after summitting I would have to get down quick.

I take it slow and drink in as much beauty as possible. The glacier walls, the crater plateau to my right. Unbelievable sights and unforgettable.

On the way to Uhuru I run into Colin he has already summitted with Oswald and is returning. Aaron is really suffering. Slowly I make it to the summit with the others. This is the moment I had waited for – it is a vindication of all my decisions and a recognition that I had not only gained a country, found a life, but reached the top of the world on my own steam. I collapse in tears; it is the most emotional moment I have had up to this point in my life – to achieve a dream that I’ve had since I was wee little. Even thinking about it now makes me tear up.

We take a group photo and off we came down. If Uhuru Peak was the summit of my emotion, the path down was the deepest well of despair. My blood sugar is extremely low, my water is frozen and I am feeling the effects of AMS more severely. At one point Victor is holding me and I black out and come back. Even more disturbing I’ve developed a fever. My temper is short and I immediately pass out on my return to Barafu Huts.

Aaron has to go check out one of the climbers from another group who was suffering from cerebral edema. I feel very bad for Aaron as he has had no rest. For the record almost everyone has now had the stomach sickness that myself and Sujji first got — to some degree or other. Santhi is trying different Cipro doses as are running out of the antibiotic (who would have thought all of us would have gotten sick?!).

After a couple of hours sleep, I weakly head down from Barafu. Aaron calls the outhouses there the “Pits of Putrescence”. A fitting name. I will not be sorry to see the last of Barafu. My humour and health picks up as the afternoon wears on. Even a few hours after summitting the whole thing seems to be a vivid dream, though the numbness in my toes is a constant reminder.

We reach Millenium Camp on the Mweka route fairly quickly. Vegetation is again abundant and the air now feels thick with oxygen. Amazing.

After getting settled in we get Victor to write up the list of names of every porter/cook etc. so we can arrange tips. One porter “secretly” drops a note to Chris on behalf of “all the porters”, claiming that the guides were crooks and we should give the porters the tips separately. We ignore the note. Though the next day we do inform any porters we find how much they will be getting.

It is perhaps a sign of the trip that shortly before going to bed I went behind the tent to take a piss in the woods only to find that four of us (me, Santhi, Mike and Chris) had all gone to do the same thing and here we all were in a line! We laughed!


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