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Video: Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route – Day 6

It was another bitterly cold night on the mountain. I suppose at this point I shouldn’t be surprised anymore. But I’m realizing how unprepared for the cold I am. I didn’t sleep very well because of it. My mind was also racing about the fact that Day 6 meant that the summit climb was closer than ever. I wanted so badly to get a full night’s sleep, knowing there would be little to be had of it for the next 36 hours, but that desire just made the attempt even worse.

Morning panorama of our frost-covered tents.

I climbed out of our frost-covered tent to a phenomenal sunrise. It looked as though an orange spotlight was switched on, bathing the carpet of clouds below us in a golden glow. The sun couldn’t come over the peak fast enough to start thawing out the ground and warming up our bodies for the day ahead. I looked up at the peak thinking we’d be meeting one another very soon. She just stared back, almost like she was taunting us to try to climb her.

Our final camp before making the summit climb wasn’t too far off. We were expected to be on the trail for only about 3 hours that morning, climbing up over the ridge to Barafu Camp, the gateway to Uhuru Peak. It was basically a straight climb all the way to Barafu, getting steeper and steeper the closer we got. The final ascent into camp was very steep and rocky, a taste of what was to come.

The porters on the trail are incredible. They carry up to 50lbs from camp to camp.
Pushing through to our final camp before the summit climb.
Nearing Barafu Camp and looking back on the trail we just covered.

When we arrived at Barafu Camp it was like a little town. Tents were set up in every nook and cranny of the narrow, rugged camp and there was a lot of activity happening around us. Groups were arriving and groups were just coming off the mountain, having summitted Uhuru that night. I couldn’t tell if the quickening of my heart rate was the result of the higher altitude (15,000ft!) or my reaction to seeing the weary faces and worn down demeanour of the climbers who were descending. My nerves were already building each day on the trail and now they were full-on. Tonight was the night.

We had lunch and a debrief about what we should wear and pack for the climb. I quickly realized that I hadn’t brought enough layers and warm, insulating clothing. Luckily our doctor Ellen had an extra pair of longjohns that she’d let me use. My clothing game plan was the following:

  • longjohns
  • leggings
  • hiking pants
  • waterproof-shell pants
  • t-shirt
  • long-sleeve shirt
  • sweater
  • 2 rain jackets
  • a ski jacket
  • scarf
  • wool hat
  • 2 pairs of gloves

I really hoped all this was going to be enough.

We were then instructed to organize our packs and then get some sleep before dinner. I really didn’t sleep much at all. It was nice and warm inside the tent with the sun shinning down so at the very least it was relaxing, but my brain wouldn’t shut off about the climb ahead.

It’s tent city in Barafu Camp.

Dinner was served at 5:00pm. After cramming in as many calories as possible, we all headed back to our tents to sleep as much as we could. Again I was restless, tossing in my tent, trying to find a comfortable position. The nerves were really setting in now and they were starting to turn into some fears. I was scared about hiking in the dark. I was scared about hiking during the coldest hours on the mountain. And I was scared about how my body might react to the altitude. I really wanted to make this summit and stand at the top of the peak saying I did it. But all these unknown factors were messing with my mind.

It turned out that I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep before our 11pm wake up call. I basically slept in what I was going to be wearing, so I just had to add my top layers on. I met everyone in the mess tent for a quick bowl of porridge and some final preparations. I added a couple of packets of hydrating powder to my water supply and stocked up on energy bars. I used the only item of clothing I wasn’t wearing and wrapped it around my water pouch. I also took my hand towel and wrapped it around the water hose, taping it down to provide some sort of insulation from the freezing temperatures we were going to be encountering.

I felt like the Marshmallow Man (and probably looked like it too) with all the layers I was wearing, but I felt warm and that’s all that mattered to me. We did one final group huddle, organized ourselves into a single-file line and began the hike out of camp.


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