Saturday, Oct 21 (Kilimanjaro—Karanga to Barafu)

I’ve now transitioned from my least favorite to my most favorite time (i.e. from the evening to the morning). The sun is up, the sky is clear, and things are warming up. Twenty four hours from how, I will hopefully be on the summit.

These camps definitely looked lived-in. There are little bits of trash everywhere.

It is a pain living on a slope. There are small flat spots dug out for the tents, but these are level only in a relative sense.

Oops—I just saw one of our tents rolling down hill with two porters racing after it.


We are now up at the Barafu camp—a new height record (16,000 feet). We are now higher than Mt. Rainier, but this will be where we start the long slog to the summit. (I think the name “Barafu” is Swahili for snow or ice-cube.)

Today’s hike was probably the nicest one yet. We had mostly sunny weather, with nice views most of the way. At the end, though, when we got to the base of the climb to the ridge upon which was Barafu, it started snowing and got noticeably colder.

We were hiking along some shale type of rock. It tinkled like glass when we hit it with our poles. I’m again feeling very optimistic. While we were setting up camp, a pair of hikers came down, having summited last night. She said it was awesome and that she was glad to be down. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day.

One thought that I had was that normally I plan my hikes around the weather. On this trip, the hike was planned first, and the weather is what it is. We hike regardless of the weather.

I guess the plan is to eat lunch, snooze, have dinner, snooze, then start hiking for the summit.

Halfway up the trail today, I realized that I had left a pair of carabiners in the tent this morning when I was packing up my stuff. I was guessing that the porters would not notice, and that the ’biners would still be in one of the tents. I figured that I would ask at lunch if anyone had them.

There was a scramble at the end of the hike to claim tents, and the ground is quite rocky and slopey, so the more level tents are in great demand. John and I were slow in doing this, and we thought that all of the tents were taken (i.e. that not all of them were up yet), but I found one that was still not claimed, so I claimed it. Strangely enough, this was the same tent that we had had the previous night, and my ’biners were still there, right where I had left them.


It is now after lunch and time for our siesta. I had a good appetite for lunch. It seems better than for dinner and breakfast. On the hike up here, I started with a long-sleeved tee and a fleece shirt under my Gor-Tex, but then I dropped to just the tee. I was warm at times, although I got cold when the snow came. When we got to camp, I threw on my down, and amazingly enough I was too hot. I couldn’t believe it. I had to take it off and switch to my fleece sweater. I have a slight headache now, but not as bad as at the lava tower.

Based on some comments that some of the others in our party were making, John is thinking of taking some Dexamethasone for the summit attempt. It is nominally used to treat cerebral edema, but people were describing it as being useful as a preventative. I have not made up my mind as to whether I should take it or not, but it seems hard to refute the argument that it might help and doesn’t appear to hurt. It seemed to do a good job for Kerstin and Wanda.

At lunch, I made a joke that was amazingly well received. Some people thought it was the funniest joke of the trip, but I suspect that hypoxia was the cause for that. Someone said that her grandfather had died with his baby teeth still in, so I asked if he had died really young. For some strange reason, people thought this was hysterical.

We have a running “joke” here, that jokes get funnier at higher altitudes (due to your brain being starved for oxygen and not functioning correctly). So we’ve developed a scale as to what altitude you need to be at before a joke becomes funny. For example, a good joke might be an 8,000 foot joke, but a bad joke might be an 18,000 foot joke. Maybe you have to be here…

We also found it strange how readily we’ll talk about bodily functions here. These are people who I had never met a week ago, and here I am discussing personal things that I would never have dreamed of talking about under normal conditions. It would be tempting to blame it on the altitude, but I think it is more shared adversity (coupled with altitude-related bodily-function issues.)


It is now after dinner. Everyone’s nerves are on edge as we go through the final preparations. What do I wear? What do I pack? How will I do?

The sun has just set, and it is starting to get cold. I have a bad cough, and John thinks that he may be coming down with a sore throat.

We are like warriors on the eve of a battle, preparing our gear. I think we will all be happier when we start hiking. We need to prepare now, and then try to rest until 11:30.

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