Summit bagging - the first and only 5000+

January 19, 2009 - Arusha, Tanzania


Getting on the internet has been a bit difficult (and costly) since we've been camping most of the time, but we're at the Outpost Lodge in Arusha where internet appears to be 'free'.  We're here one night and then off to safari for 5 days.

We have a little bit of catch up to do so here goes:

Our journey down was relatively (at least for me!) uneventful. London fog (ha ha) prevented us from leaving Heathrow on time so we ended up missing our flight to Kili.  We had to spend the day in the Nairobi airport, finally leaving at 6pm.  We arrived to our hotel in one piece, and surprisingly with all of our luggage!

The next day we set off to attack Mt. Kilimanjaro.  The first day was spend hiking through lush forest with really cool trees (that looked like ferns) and flowers.  It was slow and steady uphill for most of the day - pole pole, our guide kep saying (slowly, slowly).  At the end of the day we were both quite knackered as we were still recovering from the jet lag.  Lucky for us, we didn't have to do anything upon arriving at camp.  Camping Kili style is unlike anything we've every experienced.  We had no idea what to expect so we were quite surprised when warm wash water and soap appeared at our tent door.  Even more so when we were summoned to dinner in our own private mess tent.  We were still wondering when we were joining the rest of our group! 

Day two of the trek we started to find our groove.  The scenary was breathtaking from all angles and once again, it was pole pole up the mountain.  We began to feel the affects of altitude as we got higher and higher.  Nothing too bad, just noticeable breathlessness. Our guides and porters were talking excellent care of us though, we were fed extremely well and made to feel like royalty. It was kind of weird at first but we quickly adjusted to not having to carry our own packs and having hot
lunches mid-hike!

Day three was, you guessed it, more hiking and climbing higher.  This was a particularly hard day though as our goal was to hit 4600 m.  It was a tough slog and we really started to feel the altitude.  So much so that we had to bail at 4200 m and head down.  The way down was absolutely gorgeous though.  Cool, foggy forest with big groundsels (very cool pineapple looking trees). We won't lie to you, after that day, we wondered it we'd make the summit at all, but thankfully, day 4 was an easier day, lower mileage and lower altitude. As we continued up there were fewer and fewer trees and signs of life, leaving us wondering what we were doing up there!  After climbing the Barranco wall we hit 4020 m feeling good!  We crossed lunar like landscapes and finished day 4 with new confidence.

Day 5 our goal was base camp at 4600 m and only a few hours of hiking.  We arrived again, feeling good and tried to get some sleep before our 11pm wake up call to hike the mountain.  As rain and wind pelted the tent our confidence was now waning.

BUT! There were were at 11pm, with tea and biscuits from Sylvester, warming up and putting on every single piece of clothing we had.  We began our slog at about 11:45pm and off we went.  A trail of headlights above and below us from other hikers. It was truly a slog too.  Cold, windy and at times, rainy (yep, you heard right, not typical Africa weather!).  We kept trudging pole, pole all night long until finally, we reached Stella point 5000+ m.  We had a quick cup of tea and then set off for Uhuru peak.

At 5:30am we made it!  And we were the first team of the day too (James actually had to run as a sneaky German began sprinting in front of us though they'd been behind all along - cheeky!).  My hands were frozen clubs by that point so I managed only one photo before passing the camera off to the guide who took the rest.  James organized Mom's ashes so I could open the tin and let them go with my club hands.  Now a part of Mom will always be in Africa!

The descent was a bit more ardous than we had anticipated, which is fitting as neither of us really had any idea of what we'd signed up for with Kili.  After one more night at a lower, well oxygenated camp, we made it back to the hotel safely.

Tomorrow we're off on safari for 5 days, then Mafia Island for the 'sea' portion of our Tanazanian sea to sky, or rather sky to sea adventure!


Janine Beckett:
January 19, 2009
Congrats on the summit!! So great to hear from you guys while you're over there. Enjoy safari! Get pics of lots of cats for me.
January 21, 2009
You two are awesome, one of my dreams is to go back there and have that adventure. Hope all is fun and exciting (not too much though), my advice beware the tsetse and the vervets, and you should be just fine. looking fwd to pics and more stories when you get a chance
rob davey:
January 21, 2009
hey guys! i assume that that 'keep it clean' comment was for my benefit? i resemble that remark! sounds like you're having some good craic on the dark continent. hope you find some tasty waves (spicoli!) and have a great trip. bring on the saucy pics of james!!! cheers ...
Joe Tyburczy:
January 30, 2009
Way to go! How was the view from the top? Can't wait to see the photos. Did you get time to do any training -- or just so hardcore you reached the summit fine without it?
Hope your trip continues to be AWESOME!
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