Published: April 5th 2009March 5th 2009
Kilimanjaro - Machame Route - Day 4 - Friday 6th March
I woke up on the morning of day 4 after a very good night’s sleep, much to my relief after the freezing cold night I had at Shira Caves. We were up early and the sky was very clear. We had a beautiful sight of the summit once again and so we took the opportunity to take our team photo, all seven of us! I had with me my guide, Felex, four porters (one of whom was my waiter) and Alex my cook. They were all very friendly although I saw nothing of Alex the cook as he was always buried deep in his tent, cooking!
The day started slowly as we were only going to be walking for about 3 hours and were ascending about 600m. Karancha was at about 4200m and Barafu, the camp we would attempt to summit from was around 4800m. We left Karanch camp at about 9.30am. We were one of the last groups to leave the camp but after the tiring day before I was thankful for the rest! The hike was slow; as we wanted to make sure we had no
problems in terms of altitude sickness due to the fact we were going to ascend over 1000m in a little over 12 hours.
The hike on day 4 is relatively easy with very few steep sections. The first hour or so was very gentle with the last hour being quite a lot steeper up to the edge of Barafu camp. We passed the comic relief team along the way and at one point we were asked to stop and wait whilst on the path. The reason being one said celebrity had to spend a penny and so we were asked to wait. By this point I was growing a little tiresome of the group having been asked not to take my camera out near them, as I was a suspected paparazzi, as well as having to stop and wait on the path to let them finish weeing! I did however recognise the amazing thing they were doing and have since learned that they raised in excess of £1.4m, which is an amazing achievement. I also get the privilege of telling everyone I was there. So I guess it wasn’t that bad! Haha
We reached Barafu camp just before
12noon and it was still very nice weather. In fact it was almost hot enough to just be wearing a t-shirt. All the tents were set up by the time we arrived and I jumped in mine and awaited the arrival of my hot lunch (Sausage, chips and beans!). Felex came to have a chat about the plans for the midnight hike and we decided that due to the quickness of my pace that we would wait until just after 1am to set off to make sure we weren’t hanging around in the dark for too long!
A quick diner around five o’clock and then to get some sleep in anticipation for the early wake up and some porridge to make me “strong like loin” in Felex’s words.
The sound of the opening of the zip of my tent came at 00.35am. I’m not sure how much sleep I had had but it felt like one of those times where you were sure you’d only just fallen asleep! “Strong man,” came the voice of Felex my guide, “Are you feeling well?”
“I feel good, ready to go!” came the reply in my sleepy state. Felex’s torch
shined straight into my eyes, looking for any signs of altitude sickness. Even if I had been feeling a little uneasy I knew that in my stubbornness I would have kept quiet about it but I did feel pretty good. Just a slight headache but as Felex had said he too had a small “paining in his head”, it didn’t worry me too much.
After some porridge and lots of liquid we set off, headlights facing up the mountain into the darkness with nothing but faint lights in the distance zigzagging up the slope. It took us a little while to get out of the camp, as I didn’t realise that one, it was so big as a lot of the different routes converged there and two we were camped right at the bottom of it.
Most people set off from Barafu camp at or around midnight in the hope of reaching the summit just before sunrise at 6am. As we had left a little later, 1.20am to be exact, I expected we had around a 5-hour trek ahead or us. In the dark.
My watch was hidden under layers and layers of clothes and so looking
at the time was no easy thing. It probably helped that I didn’t know how slow the time was going or how long we had been walking for but Felex kept reassuring me that our pace was good. The zigzagging headlamps came closer and closer until we started overtaking some of the groups ahead of us. The path was very narrow and quite slippery where there was scree on either side, which made passing a little difficult. Soon the headlamps ahead of us started to disappear, and it became very difficult to distinguish between what were stars and what were lights!
We reached Stella Point just before 5am. Stella point is at about 5800m and so is very close to the summit in terms of altitude but is about an hour away from it when hiking. Getting to Stella point for me was a big step closer to the summit as I knew from not it was a lot more of a gradual climb. Felex gave me a big hug as we reached Stella point; I think it might have been a relief to him having finished the hardest section of the climb.
The final hour was easier
in comparison to the earlier hours of the morning but it was getting increasingly cold. I was wearing three pairs of socks, three pairs of trousers, two t-shirts, one fleece jacket, one extreme temperature jacked (which was rated to -20 degrees) and a waterproof jacket, as well as two hats!
We were the second group of the day to reach the summit, which surprised me, as we were the last to leave the camp in the morning. It was till pitch black when we arrived but we could just make out the sign in order to take the all-important picture that would prove my being there! We managed to wait around to see the beginnings of sunrise but as it was so cold and I thought my fingers were going to fall off we started our descent just after 6am.
Descending from the peak was quite emotional. My feelings overwhelmed me as I though about what I had just done and how the 4 days previous to it had all culminated to it. It was incredible to think we were on the highest point in the whole of Africa and I wished I had someone I loved there
to share it with me. “One day I will drag my Brother or my Mum up here!” I thought!
We passed lots of people on the way back down as I passed on my words of encouragement. From speaking to people at the next camp I don’t think there were many people that didn’t make it. I was back in my tent at around 7.30am, so in total it had taken 6 hours and 10 minutes to get up and down from Barafu camp to Uhuru Peak. I rested in the tent for a little over an hour before we hiked for another 3 hours down to Mweka Camp at 3000m. By this point my legs were very fatigued and I found the walk down quite difficult. My energy levels were low but we made it there ok after just over 9 hours of hiking that day.
I spent the evening of Day 5 chatting with other “climbers” about their experiences during the morning as well as discussing how much we were tipping our respective companies!
The last day on the mountain started very early in the morning as we had aimed to be
at Mweka gate by 9am and it would take about 3 hours. I had started listening to music as I walked as Felex and I had ran out of thing to talk about from his 7 children, the many grumpy clients he has had in the past to the local politics of his village. His English wasn’t the best but he was good company nonetheless. At the gate I signed the climbers book confirming I had reached the top and received my certificate there and then.
I said goodbye to all my porters and the cook at the gate as Felex and myself travelled back to the Springlands Hotel and into the centre of Moshi to draw some money from an ATM for all their tips (over £200 in total!)
Lucie came to meet me at the hotel later in the afternoon, which was really nice. We spent the evening catching up over dinner and I spent the night sleeping extremely well on my first bed for nearly a week.