We’re officially at the halfway point of our entire climb! Today marks the beginning of the 2nd half of our trek and things are only getting tougher. This is also the point where the Umbwe and Machame routes intersect with the Lemosho Route, so we’ll have a bit more company on the trails going forward.
It was bitterly cold last night. It was the first time I woke up feeling cold in my -30 sleeping bag. There was some frost on the tents this morning and I could see my breath in the air. After yesterday’s tough day, we were all happy to hear the news that today would be a shorter day, only 4 hours of total hiking time to our next camp. But my happy face was quickly replaced with one of worry when I was told that the first thing we had to conquer was the Barranco Wall.
Towering above us was what appeared to be a flat, rock-faced wall. It looked like the scene in The Princess Bride where they had to scale the Cliffs of Insanity. Inconceivable I thought! I started getting really nervous. Were they really going to make us climb that?! What kind of safety measures did they have in place?!
As we neared the wall, it didn’t seem quite as daunting of a task but it was still a long way to the top. We began our ascent and wouldn’t you know it, there was actually a bit of a pathway along the rock wall. We had to scramble (using all four limbs) in order to climb most of the path. But I actually found it to be a lot of fun and really enjoyed it! It was unlike anything else we’d encountered on the trail thus far and made we feel like we were kids playing on a jungle gym. It was a good challenge and the view behind us was incredible as expected.
We continued climbing after that, ascending to a top altitude of around 13,800 feet (4,200m). At this point in the trail we were high above the clouds. It was a surreal feeling looking out into the distance and just seeing a blanket of clouds. My teammate Cheryl Bernard said it was like looking out of an airplane window, except our feet were firmly planted on the ground.
From there we began our descent to our next camp. It was hard on the knees again, but there’s something interesting that happens when you’re going down that the body just ignores the pain it’s in and just keeps moving.
At one point we reached a spot on the trail where we could see our camp in the distance. It didn’t seem too far away and I got excited, that is until we were told that we had to climb down into the valley and then back up again to camp. Ugh.
Both portions were equally tricky. Descending was slippery with not a lot of traction on the trail while ascending was steep and had big rocks we had to step up onto. I was told that the porters in charge of water in camp have to make this trip multiple times a day, carrying 20lbs of water on the way up. I decided right then and there that I had no place to complain about the climb and that I would use as little water as possible in camp.
We arrived in Karranga Valley Camp (12,800 feet) and got things organized in our tents. We were situated right at the base of Uhuru Peak, its snow-capped top gleaming in front of us. Talk about a beautiful sight.
After lunch we had a small debrief about summit night, which was going to be happening the following day. To be honest, every time summit day comes up my stomach tightens and my heart rate quickens. I’ve heard and read many stories about the altitude wreaking havoc on people, that your water freezes and you get dehydrated, people having out of body experiences, and the grueling nature of the climb. To say I’ve been feeling anxious and nervous about it is an understatement.
I grabbed a chair from the mess tent and sat outside in the sun to write about the day’s trek in my journal. The physical nature of the past 5 days was starting to catch up to me and I was beginning to agonize over the summit day. At one point I looked up and fully took in the scene in front of me. Camping high above the clouds, the sun was setting in the west and I got present to where I was, on the side of a mountain watching the sun set with nothing but clouds in front of me. It was at this point that I realized that I was tormenting myself over something that hadn’t even happened yet and it wasn’t going to accomplish anything. I closed my journal, relaxed my shoulders and decided to enjoy the moment and celebrate what we had accomplished so far.
Have any questions about Day 5 on Kilimanjaro’s Lemosho Route? Let me know in the comments below!
Come back again next week for Episode 6 of my Kilimanjaro video series!