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John Guilford's Hikes

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa on 2006-10-17/23


Date: 2006-10-17/23

Location: Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa

People: (including myself): Jim (and others)


Day 1: 10/17 - Start to Shira 1
			Alt.	Miles
Londorossi:	12:40
Start walking:	1:20
End Road:	2:45
Start:		3:15	10000	0
Shira 1:	5:10	11800	2-1/2
-
Day 2: 10/18 - Shira 1 to Shira 2
			Alt.	Miles
Out of tent:	7:00
Lv Shira 1:	9:00	11800	0
Shira 2:	1:00	12600	6-1/2
-
Day 3: 10/19 - Shira 2 to Barranco
			Alt.	Miles
Lv Shira 2:	8:30	12600	0
Lava Tower:	11:30	15100	6
Lv Lava Tower:	1:45
Barranco:	4:00	13000	9
-
Day 4: 10/20 - Barranco to Karanga
			Alt.	Miles
Lv Barranco:	8:30	13000	0
Top of Wall:	10:15
Karanga:	12:40	13000	3
-
Day 5: 10/21 - Karanga to Barafu
			Alt.	Miles
Lv Karanga:	8:30	13000	0
Barafu:		11:15	15000	5
-
Day 6: 10/22 - Barafu to Summit to Mweka
			Alt.	Miles
Rest:		7:00pm
Get Up:		11:00pm
Lv Barafu:	12:00am	15000	0
Stella Point:	5:45		3
Uhuru Peak:	6:45	19340	3-1/2
Lv Summit:	7:15
Barafu:		9:40	15000	7
Lv Barafu:	1:15pm
Mweka:		4:30	10200	11
-
Day 7: 10/23 - Mweka to End
			Alt.	Miles
Lv Mweka:	8:15	10200	0
Out:		11:20		7?
Day One: Start to Shira 1 Camp

The weather had been a bit wet in the days leading up to the climb, and we weren't sure what to expect on the mountain, but it was looking pretty good as we drove out of Arusha in our Land Cruisers. 

[ PIX1 ] The first stop was Londorossi, just inside the National Park that encompasses Kilimanjaro.  There we hired the multitude of porters who would carry virtually everything for our party of 17 clients.  This was a relatively slow process as all our stuff needed to be unpacked, divided up, and weighed.  They have strict rules about the maximum weight any particular porter can carry.  If a porter is caught carrying more weight than the allowed limit, then the tour company gets a hefty fine.  Thus, they divide up the loads, weigh them, and each porter carries the same things for the duration of the climb. 

Let me digress a bit here and discuss guides and porters.  I arranged this trip through a US based Bio Bio Expeditions.  Their guide, Jorge, was the person we dealt with the most.  Jorge hired two local head guides, Frank 1 and Frank 2.  They, in turn, hired the rest of the porters and guides.  There is an entire hierarchy of porters/guides.  All of them carry.  For the lowest level porter, that is all that they do.  They have no other tasks in camp.  As one progresses up the hierarchy, they get more tasks.  For example, some are responsible for maintaining the latrine.  Some are cooks.  At the top of the hierarchy are the various guides who ascend to the summit with us, the guides and assistant guides.  Of course, those with more responsibility get paid more. 

The basic porter made about $50 plus tips for the week's work.  They carry everything we used except for our personal day pack, which contained water, clothing, and anything else we might want during that day's hike.  A couple members of our party decided to hire their own personal porter to carry their day pack.  Hence they carried essentially nothing during the daily hike.  Their personal porter's job was basically to stay with us carrying that person's day pack (plus their own stuff) and be available whenever that person wanted access to the day pack. 

After the porters were hired and the loads divided up, we continued up the mountain.  They had us hike a little ways up the road to stretch our legs and see some of the flora/fauna down in the more temperate parts of the mountain.  They then picked us up, and we continued driving up the mountain. 

Unfortunately we had some mechanical trouble with one of the Land Cruisers.  We had to keep stopping while they crawled under it (in the muddy road) and tried to get it going again.  Eventually they pushed it off the side of the road and we crammed the people into the remaining vehicles.  Due to the delays, they drove us higher up the mountain than they usually do. 

They took us to the end of the road at about 10000 feet.  While the porters unloaded the vehicles and got organized, we, the clients, ate lunch.  Here, the weather wasn't quite so nice.  It was cooler and there was a fog/mist hanging around that prompted us to don raingear. 

After lunch we started the first "real" hike.  This was a short hike due to the late start.  For most of the clients, this was their first experience with hiking at altitude.  A few people, like my brother and I, already had experience with altitude and knew what to expect.  Some of the others were more surprised how quickly they tired when the trail went upwards, and how fast they recovered when the trail leveled out. 

The first hike was across the Shira plain, and broad, reasonably flat plain on the southeast side of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Due to the fog/low clouds we could not see the actual mountain. 

[ PIX2 ] After a couple hour hike, we arrived at Shira 1 Camp.  The porters had passed us by soon after we started from the lunch area.  They already had the camp set up.  The clients used large (huge by my backpacking standards) 2-man tents.  My brother and I shared one.  At each camp, the tents were on a first-come basis.  When we arrived at a camp, we just picked an unoccupied tent and claimed it. 

[ PIX3 ] In addition to our tents, there was also a cook tent and a huge "space station" dome tent used for our meals.  In this tent, they placed folding tables across the diameter.  We could sit all the clients (17+guide) at this table (so there were 9 people per side).  There were also additional chairs away from the table. 

To complete our amenities, they carried up two sit-down toilet seats along with a small privacy tent for client use.  Unfortunately the roof of the tent was somewhat leaky which caused us not to dally. 

After getting settled into our tent, we joined the rest of the party and had dinner in the space station.  After dinner we pretty much went straight to bed.  The first few nights I didn't sleep very well.  It was probably a combination of jet-lag, excitement over the climb, and the novelty of everything. 

I wondered where the 80 or so porters slept.  They obviously didn't have the roomy 2-person tents we did.  I later asked and found that they crammed themselves into the cook tent and the space station tent after the clients left for the night.  The porters ate dinner after the clients and had breakfast before we did in the morning. 

Day 2: Shira 1 to Shira 2

The morning dawned cloudless and sunny.  It had dropped below freezing overnight, but it warmed up quickly in the sun.  The morning routine, which we would basically follow for the rest of the climb started.  About 6:30 or so we'd wake up and start getting our things together.  A porter would stop by our tent with hot water and tea.  While we drank that, we packed up our sleeping bags, mats, and clothing.  Everything except what we'd use for the day went into our duffle bag.  When I was preparing for the climb, I bought two differently sized duffle bags.  The larger one seemed huge to me and I would be embarrassed to ask the porters to carry that, hence I took the smaller one.  This had one advantage for me - I had debated what sleeping bag to bring on the climb.  I had a smaller, warmer down bag, and a larger synthetic bag.  In my recent climbs using the down bag I found it to be too warm.  Hence I had planned on the synthetic bag.  However, with the smaller duffle I had to switch to the down bag for space reasons.  This was a good thing as I found I needed the extra warmth of the down bag.  I think I would have been cold without it.  With the down bag, I was reasonably comfortable at night.  However, even with the down bag, the smaller duffle was pretty full and a bit of a challenge to get closed in the mornings.  On the climb I noticed other people with (I thought) huge duffle bags, so I would not have been out of place with the larger bag.  However, had I taken it, I probably would have brought my other sleeping and been cold. 

When my bag was packed, I'd leave the tent, make my morning absolutions, and head over to the space station for breakfast.  For most of the climb they had fresh eggs for breakfast in addition to oatmeal and toast.  They didn't have coffee, but they did have different types of tea plus hot chocolate and a hot African beverage whose name I don't recall. 

[ PIX4 ] While we had breakfast, the porters struck the tents and started packing up the camp.  After breakfast, we got our day packs and started hiking.  Soon thereafter, the line of porters (carrying our camp) would pass by us, moving faster, arriving at the next camp ahead of us.  There, they'd set up camp before we arrived such that everything was ready when we got there. 

Our route was one of the lesser traveled routes up Kilimanjaro.  In the beginning our group was mostly by itself.  As the days went by, though, other routes joined ours, it got more crowded, and we had to share the campsites with more and more other expeditions.  Our tour group would send off a couple of fast "runners" first thing in the morning.  Their job was to hurry to the next camp and try to secure the better sites for our group to use. 

This hike was still across the Shira plain and reasonably flat.  We were still acclimatizing and didn't mind the easy hiking.  The sunny warm weather was delightful after the cooler, wetter day we had previously.  We got our first view of Mt. Kilimanjaro this morning.  It wasn't a terribly great view; however, as the sun was behind the peak, back lighting it and causing it to be mostly a silhouette. 

Our hike today was longer than the first day's hike but still reasonably short.  We were taking our time climbing the mountain to give our bodies time to acclimatize to the altitude.  In some ways, we were just killing time at altitude while our bodies adjusted. 

At lunch time we arrived at Shira 2 camp.  This was less than a thousand feet higher than Shira 1 as we were mostly crossing the Shira plain.  We did gain enough altitude to look back across the plain and see where we'd been.  About lunch time the clouds came in and we returned to the misty/foggy weather we'd seen the first day.  That turned out to be the standard pattern most days: it would be clear and sunny at dawn, it would be nice in the morning, about mid-day the clouds would come in (often you could see them building down below and approaching), and the afternoon would be wet.  Sometimes the skies cleared in the evening, but it cooled off quickly in the evening so we didn't spend much time star gazing. 

Our guide had planned a voluntary afternoon day hike for anyone who wanted to go, but with the wet weather he had no takers.  He was just as happy not to have to go himself. 

We spent the afternoon either in our own tent or in the space station reading or chatting. 

We again retired soon after dinner. 

Day 3: Shira 2 to Barranco via the Lava Tower

[ PIX5 ] This day started the same as the earlier ones, with warm tea and sunny skies.  Not counting the actual summit climb, today's hike would be the longest and most difficult hike of the climb.  The goal today was to get some more elevation both for acclimatization as well as to give the guide a chance to see how well the various clients responded to the altitude.  The plan was to hike up to a rock formation called the Lava Tower at just over 15000 feet.  There we would have lunch before descending down to our next camp, Barranco, at 13000.  Thus we'd have little net gain in elevation for the day, though we would climb another 2000. 

There is a different route that bypasses the Lava Tower and doesn't climb up to 15000.  This is the route that most of the porters used to transport our camp.  Some porters did carry the space station up to the Lava Tower for our lunch. 

One of our group, unfortunately, wasn't adjusting adequately to the altitude and had to head back down after breakfast. 

[ PIX6 ] Shortly before we got to the Lava Tower the weather pattern repeated itself, and the clouds came in.  The climb to the Lava Tower was a new altitude record for me (previously it had been Mt. Rainier at 14400).  Due to acclimatizing, I felt pretty good at 15000 feet.  Certainly I felt better than I had at the top of Rainier, but on Rainier I gone almost straight up from sea level in about 24 hours. 

They didn't bother hauling the cook tent up to the Lava Tower, so they used an area inside the space station to cook the water for lunch. 

[ PIX7 ] After lunch we spent some time taking pictures of the Lava Tower and each other before heading back down towards Barranco.  The fog and mist was about us in force by now, and I really couldn't see the broader terrain we were hiking through.  Mostly my world was the trail and immediately surrounding area. 

[ PIX8 ] [ PIX9 ] In the late afternoon we arrived at Barranco camp and settled in.  I was somewhat tired by the day's hike but feeling pretty good.  I think all of us were wondering how we'd do on summit day.  People respond differently to altitude, and it is hard to predict how any particular person will react until they're there.  Even then it is hard to predict.  Some of the people who had the most trouble on the way to the Lava Tower did well on the summit climb.  Conversely, some who did okay at the Lava Tower hard an extremely hard time on the way to the summit.  But at this point, we didn't know how we'd do.  I think many of us were afraid our bodies would end up failing us at the crux.  That fear aside, I was reasonably happy with how I performed on the way up to the Lava Tower and back. 

Day 4 - Barranco to Karanga via the "Breakfast Wall"

[ PIXa ] [ PIXb ] This morning was bright and cloudless like all the earlier ones.  This allowed me to both get a good look at the (what I now knew to be) valley we had come down the previous day as well as the route we'd be taking today. 

[ PIXc ] [ PIXd ] Barranco camp lies in the bottom of a flat valley.  The route out climbs the rather steep wall of the canyon for quite some distance.  They call this climb the "Breakfast Wall" as we climb it right after breakfast.  There is a decent trail up the side that really doesn't have significant exposure, though it is mostly narrow with some scrambling required.  By now a number of other groups had joined us, so the campsite was getting larger/more crowded.  The climb up the Breakfast Wall was pretty slow.  That wasn't due to the difficulty - it was due to the traffic jams.  Everyone had to go up the same trail out of valley.  Normally we let the porters pass us by as they move faster and need to set up the next camp.  However, if we did that on the Wall, we'd end up waiting all morning as the seemingly unending line of porters proceeded up the wall.  Hence we tried to let them by when we could, but there were times we had to get in line and just work our way up. 

Eventually we worked our way to the top of the wall and the trail broadened out and flattened.  Other than the wall, today was another easy day after the previous climb up to the Lava Tower.  The trail rose and fell as we traversed the side of Mt. Kilimanjaro

[ PIXe ] [ PIXf ] We arrived at Karanga in time for lunch again.  The further we went on the climb, the poorer the campsites became.  Initially, on the Shira plain, we had lots of flat level ground.  As we went higher, the ground became more sloping.  Semi-flat areas had been carved out for the tents, but the results weren't perfect.  It became harder to try to orient your sleeping bag with the slope.  Ideally your body would line up with the slope with your head at the higher end.  Sometimes you had to lie across the slope and things would tend to slide down to the downhill side of the tent.  Thus there was some interest to be nearer the front of our party when we got to camp so as to have a better choice of the available tents (and you could try to find a leveler one). 

After lunch a sporadic light rain came in, and our guide again had no takers for his optional afternoon hike.  We spent the rest of the day till dinner reading, talking, or playing cards. 

Day 5 - Karanga to Barafu

[ PIXg ] [ PIXh ] [ PIXi ] This was another short day time-wise, though we would gain 2000 feet of elevation.  Our acclimatizing time was drawing to a close and it was time to actually climb the peak.  Today would take us to the final camp before the summit bid. 

Barafu is the highest camp below the summit and the first one we used that didn't have a nearby source of water.  It lies on the far rim of a canyon that cuts the side of Kilimanjaro.  The porters have to descend to the bottom of the canyon to get water.  We had to descend and cross the canyon before switchbacking up the far side to the camp. 

In camp, we had lunch and tried to get some rest in the afternoon.  We had an early dinner and retreated to the tents to try to get some rest about 6.  I got a little rest, but like most of us I was too keyed up to really get any sleep.  Arguably the main point of the entire trip was looming before us.  Tonight we'd find out whether we would be up to the effort. 

We got up about 11pm, had a last minute tea and snack at 11:30, and started up towards the summit at midnight.  It was near to a new moon (not to mention overcast with occasional light snow) so it was very dark at night.  Our world mostly retreated to the reach of our headlamp.  From the lights moving higher up the mountain, I could tell that other groups started off before us. 

Day 6A - Barafu to summit and back to Barafu

When we first started, I thought the pace was exceedingly slow.  We take one step, pause, breath, and then take another.  However, it soon became apparent to me that this was really about as fast as I could continuously go.  In fact, I have to say that I think the guides did an excellent job setting the pace.  I'm sure the pace was slow for them, but for us it was as much as we could handle.  Due to the slow pace we arrived at the summit less than exhausted and feeling reasonably good.  But I'm skipping ahead of myself. 

On the way up to the rim, we'd climb for an hour or so and then take a short break of only a minute or two.  This was time to take care of personal needs, perhaps have a snack, and get a bit of rest.  Like most of my high altitude climbs I brought more snacks than I felt like eating.  The goal was to give us enough time to do what we needed to do, but not so long that people got cold.  I could tell that they tended to stop at the same locations on the summit bid as if you moved off trail to find some privacy, you'd come across the results of other people who had had to "take care of business". 

It would have been cool to do the summit climb during a full moon.  I expect you might be able to leave off the head lamp and climb via moon light.  If nothing else, you'd be able to see the surrounding terrain.  With the new moon, however, you could never really see very far.  Perhaps this is good in that you can't see how much further you have to go and despair.  With the limited range of vision, you really can't tell if you're almost there or just starting. 

I don't really remember too much of the actual climb.  With the dark I couldn't take pictures.  I sort of retreated into myself, putting one foot in front of the other.  You get into a rhythm and just keep going.  In some ways it is like zoning out.  A very light snow fell during the ascent.  It was just enough to turn the ground white which made it trivial to see the trail and footsteps ahead.  It wasn't enough to affect the footing and it didn't last hardly any time after the sun came up. 

[ PIXj ] [ PIXk ] We reached Stella Point on the rim of Kilimanjaro a bit before dawn.  The crater was still in the dark though we could see swirls of fog/mist blowing around down there.  Dawn was spectacular.  We took pictures and congratulated ourselves on the achievement.  Getting to this point was the hard part of the climb.  The true summit lies about a half mile around the rim from Stella point.  It still takes effort to get there, but that effort is easier than the climb up to the rim. 

[ PIXl ] [ PIXm ] One of our clients really didn't handle the altitude well.  He was helped up by a couple assistant guides who almost had to drag him up the trail to Stella Point.  The guides consider the rim to "count" as far as climbing Kilimanjaro.  This particular client turned around there and headed back down.  The rest of us continued through the growing light towards Uhuru Peak as the summit is know.  The dawning light lit up the remaining glaciers on Kilimanjaro with a lovely warm light. 

[ PIXo ] It was a bit below freezing but the skies had cleared with no more snow.  You could tell the prevailing wind direction by the blown frost rime on the leeward side of rocks. 

[ PIXn ] After a slow hike around the crater, we finally arrived at the very top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak, 19,340 feet.  The sky was still clear and we spent a half hour taking pictures with various combinations of people in front of the summit sign.  It felt like we photographed every permutation of our group.  Then it was time to start back down.  The weather turned earlier in the day than in previous days.  It wasn't long after we started down that the clouds came in a blocked out the sun. 

The climb down from Stella Point to Barafu was anticlimactic.  In one sense the climb was over - we'd reached the summit.  All that remained was the long slog down.  We were tired.  We didn't have much sleep the night before and we'd already been hiking for 8 or 9 hours.  With daylight we could at least see the terrain we had climbed the previous night. 

Needless to say, the trip down went faster than the climb up.  What took almost 7 hours to ascend took barely 2-1/2 hours to descend.  Back at Barafu, we had a quick meal and retreated to the tents to get a quick rest before heading further down the mountain to Mweka camp. 

Day 6B - Barafu to Mweka

After a couple hour rest, we broke camp and headed down.  The trail down to Mweka is straight down.  It is a one-way (downhill only) trail that isn't wasted on niceties such as switchbacks.  It goes pretty much straight down grade.  From the summit to Mweka, we descend more than 9000 feet in 16-1/2 hours. 

After the thin air at the summit, the air at Barafu felt pretty thick.  I had to remind myself that this was still higher than the top of Mt. Rainier.  As we descended the air continued to thicken and vegetation started to appear. 

[ PIXp ] The emergence of green initially felt strange.  I hadn't realized until then that I'd spent the past half week in rocky terrain that was almost entirely browns and grays.  The plant life started out small and low.  As we kept descending, the plants got taller.  Soon we were amid small trees and then large ones. 

Going down was hard on the knees even if easier on the lungs.  I did okay, but some of the others got pretty sore on the way down.  At times it was as if we were descending a never ending stair case.  I was very impressed by the porters.  They loped past us carrying 60 pound loads.  Stomp, stomp, stomp.  I couldn't see how they could do this w/out destroying their joints.  They must have titanium knees. 

The terrain also got wetter as we descended.  Mweka camp was pitched in an area cleared out from the forest.  It was different from our previous camps in that the ground was somewhat muddy.  Our earlier camps were rocky/sandy/gritty but not muddy.  We had our last dinner on the trail and retired for a well deserved night's rest. 

Day 7 - Mweka out

[ PIXq ] The next morning was a gorgeous, sunny day.  A short walk back up the trail led to a clearing with a wonderful view of the summit of Kilimanjaro.  I lamented that I didn't summit this morning instead of the previous morning.  Today we would have had great views all morning.  Still, I couldn't complain too much.  Our weather was nice enough.  But being on the summit this morning looked like it would have been stunning. 

[ PIXr ] After breakfast we had the traditional closing ceremony with our porters.  It would be the last we'd see of them.  They would pass us (as usual) on the hike out, drop their loads at the bottom, and hurry back to the starting point to try to get another job.  This is their livelihood, and the more trips they take, the more money they bring home. 

The first part of their ceremony is pay.  Each porter comes up, gets his pay for the trip, and gets his share of the tips that the clients all contributed to.  Then they line up behind our bags and sing a traditional song.  I could identify the porter who carried my bag on the trip (remember from the beginning I said that each porter carried the same load for the whole climb.  Thus my duffel was carried by the same porter the whole time) as he stood behind my bag.  This allowed me to find him and give him a bit of an additional tip. 

[ PIXs ] Then we were off on the final hike of the trip.  The trail got wider and better and soon it was a dirt road.  The weather got warmer as we descended.  By the time we got to the bottom, we were tired, dirty, hungry, and dirty.  On the way down from Mweka all we could think about was the hot shower back in Arusha. 

[ PIXt ] As we neared the bottom we started seeing other people.  These are local natives.  Many of them were children.  They were a bit of a pain as while they weren't exactly beggars, they were rather close.  They offered to have you take a picture with them and then ask for money.  "Photo? Photo?" was followed by "Dollar? Dollar?" Not wanting to deal with the hassles, I tried to avoid even looking like I might be taking their pictures.  When they weren't trying to get their picture taken or asking for money, they were cutting large leaves from the trees.  These they bound into bundles and carried out. 

My brother, who is a softer touch than I, got caught up in the begging.  Two kids approached us and asked Jim for one of the several carabiners that he had clipped to the back of his day pack.  They hounded him a bit.  He felt bad for them, and gave them one.  This marked him as a sucker, and they redoubled their assault, asking for the other one.  Jim ended up feeling he had been unfair - there was two children and he only gave them one carabiner which they couldn't share.  So he gave the other kid his other carabiner.  They hounded him a bit more, but he had had enough, and eventually they gave up. 

[ PIXu ] We ended the climb at a little compound where we met up with the rest of the tour group (and I met up with my wife who had come out to Africa a week after I had, skipping the climb but joining me for the following safaris).  It was strange being back in civilization with flowers and buildings after being on the mountain in tents for a week.  It was only a week.  It makes me wonder how people who do expeditions lasting months feel when they return.  Pam was glad to see me, but not so glad that she wanted to get too close.  Apparently after the week on the mountain, we had developed a bit of an, uh, "aroma."

The compound was walled and even had a guard at the entrance.  That was good as it was the only way we could survive the crowd of people outside trying to sell us stuff.  We had peace and privacy during lunch and while we boarded the bus.  After we boarded the bus that would take us back to Arusha, they opened the flood gates and the bus was immediately surrounded by folks yelling through the windows trying to sell us stuff.  Some folks bought things after haggling over prices, but that isn't my thing, so I just ignored them until we left. 

Conclusion and final thoughts

One thing I've thought about is whether I'd do it again, which is perhaps another way of saying "was it worth it?" If it wasn't for the cost, I'd do it again.  It was a great trip and worth doing at least once.  That said, I doubt I'll ever climb Kilimanjaro again, mostly due to my limited resources and the desire to go someplace else that I haven't been to already. 

Of all my high altitude climbs, Kilimanjaro was the easiest.  I mean I felt climbing Kilimanjaro was easier than climbing Mt. Rainier or Mt. Adams.  One reason for this is that the slower pace gave me more time for acclimatizing.  Probably the biggest reason was the porters.  Unlike my other climbs, they carried everything.  I just had to carry myself.  That makes a big difference. 

I should mention medication a bit.  Prior to heading for Kilimanjaro, I saw my doctor and got prescriptions for Diamox and Dexamethasone.  The former medication speeds the acclimatizing process.  To be most effective, therefore, you need to take it for the whole climb up.  By the time you discover you need it, it is too late to start.  In some part of my mind, it might have been nice to say I climbed w/out the assistance of drugs.  However, I wanted to enjoy the climb as much as I could, plus I wanted to maximize my chance of success.  In hindsight I can say I was able to make the climb without major problems.  But prior there was some doubt.  So I chose to take the drugs.  Diamox not only helps acclimatization, but it is also a diuretic.  We had ample water available, so we had no problem keeping hydrated, but it did means getting up a couple times a night to head outside the tent to take care of business. 

Regarding Dex, I was told it was for treating high altitude edema and hence was supposed to be used only in a crisis situation.  One of members of our party was friends with (if I recall correctly) the chief cardiologist of some large hospital in the San Francisco area.  She said that newer research indicated that dex also had effect in reducing other high altitude problems.  In the better-safe-than-sorry line of thought I ended up taking a dose prior to the summit attempt.  I'm not sure if it helped or not. 

During the climb I found it interesting to view the group dynamics among the clients.  There were several different groups (of between 2 and 4 people) who knew each other before the climb, as well as some individuals.  For the most part we did not know one another prior to starting the climb.  What surprised me was how rapidly we got comfortable with each, enough to talk about intimate issues (generally regarding various bodily functions) that I'd not normally discuss with friends let alone strangers.  I think shared hardships tend to bond people together.  It is along the lines of an old mountaineer's proverb that says on a climb modesty is inversely proportional to altitude. 

In general things were pretty jovial in camp.  We'd laugh at the stupidest things.  It seemed to happen more as we got higher.  We started saying, "Oh, that was a 13000 foot joke" meaning it was a joke that was funny if you were higher than 13000 feet but not funny lower. 

I can't begin to say enough nice things about our guides.  They had a great attitude and really made the climb pleasant for us clients.  They were very professional and worked hard to make sure as many clients as possible would succeed up to the summit safely. 


Pictures:


[ PIX1 ] At Londorossi weighing the porters' loads. 

[ PIX2 ] Shira 1 camp in the fog and mist. 

[ PIX3 ] The "space station" tent where we had meals. 

[ PIX4 ] The line of porters passing us just outside Shira 1 camp. 

[ PIX5 ] Leaving Shira 2.  The porters are still taking down camp. 

[ PIX6 ] Our group just before the Lava Tower.  The summit is visible through a break in the clouds. 

[ PIX7 ] Beginning the descent from the Lava Tower in some weather. 

[ PIX8 ] John standing next to a Senecio plant. 

[ PIX9 ] Barranco camp at night.  You can see some silhouettes of porters inside the Space Station. 

[ PIXa ] Morning tea service.  This was at Barranco camp, but it happened every morning. 

[ PIXb ] The valley leading down to Barranco camp.  We didn't see it the previous day due to fog and clouds. 

[ PIXc ] The Breakfast Wall.  You can see the line of people ascending. 

[ PIXd ] Jim on the Breakfast Wall ascending one of the steeper parts. 

[ PIXe ] Jim (and others) approaching Karanga camp.  Karanga is visible on the far side of the valley at the top of the steep trail visible on the right half of the picture. 

[ PIXf ] John on the way to Karanga. 

[ PIXg ] The summit of Kilimanjaro as seen from Karanga on the (sunny) morning of day 5. 

[ PIXh ] The looming clouds below Karanga.  They looked ominous but didn't catch up with us till late in the day. 

[ PIXi ] Jim and John at Karanga with Kilimanjaro in the background. 

[ PIXj ] First light viewed from Stella point on the crater rim of Kilimanjaro

[ PIXk ] Inside the crater of Mt. Kilmanjaro. 

[ PIXl ] One of the remaining glaciers on top of Kilimanjaro lit by the dawn. 

[ PIXm ] Dawn from the rim of Mt. Kilimanjaro

[ PIXn ] John and Jim by the summit sign at 19,340 feet. 

[ PIXo ] The wind blown frost growing sideways on the rim. 

[ PIXp ] Descending from Barafu to Mweka.  Someone is carrying a wheeled stretcher back up the mountain.  You can tell that this is a deluxe stretcher since it has shock absorbers (others we saw did not). 

[ PIXq ] The summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro from Mweka camp on the morning of day 7.  Notice how clear the weather was! Too bad we summited the day before. 

[ PIXr ] The porters standing behind our bags at the closing "ceremony" at Mweka. 

[ PIXs ] The porters passing us (yet again) on the way down from Mweka. 

[ PIXt ] Almost out now.  The trail has become a road.  You can see a couple of the locals carrying cut leaves in the center of the picture. 

[ PIXu ] John after the climb of Kilimanjaro.  Boy! Does he need a shower!


 
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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015