Mount Kilimanjaro -Karens account of the climb.
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, Oh My God - it was beeeeeeeeeep hard (I would swear there but I have family reading this!!). No doubt the hardest thing I have ever physically done before. We decided to do the Machame route as it is physically more challenging than the Marangu route, goes through beautiful and different scenery, landscape and vegetation and is good for acclimatization. You also camp rather than stay in huts which we liked the idea of.Here it is - Day 1 - hike for 5 hours to an altitude of 3100m (Machame Camp). Our first taste of the days to come, not to mention having to drink at least 4 - 6L of water (each day) to help with acclimatization. Excuse me for saying this, but that does add up to a lot of toilet stops - something we were getting very sick of and it was only day one.- Day 2 ( Shira Camp) - Get up early. Eat breakfast in the tiny mess tent, it is now we realise that they expect us to eat like kings on this climb - we know we need the energy but it is quite ridiculous how much food they give us (an example of a what they give us each day: Breakfast: fruit, toast, porridge, eggs, salad and sausages + tea, hot chocolate and ginger tea. Lunch: Soup, bread (usually stale) fruit, juice, egg, chicken, cake Dinner: Soup, bread, chapatti, pasta, vegetables, meat, fruit and tea or hot chocolate) obviously we couldn't eat most of it so the porters seemed to like us because it improved there rations! Toady's climb was steep all the way we left the dense foliage of the rain forest and walked along the steep rocky ridge covered with heather. Again we hiked for nearly 5 hours and camped at an altitude of 3700m. We got our first taste of how cold it gets at night and froze in our sleeping bags,. thus had very little sleep.Day 3- Hike again for 4 -5 hours. We walked to Lava Tower at an altitude of about 4400m and then went down hill to our campsite at 3900m (Baranco Camp). Poor Dave suffered from altitude sickness when we reached camp, splitting headaches and nausea. We rugged up tonight as we weren't going to make the same mistake as last night.Day 4 - The tough one - I was dreading this day. We had to hike for about 7 hours. The first hour was up a very steep rock face of Baranco Wall, then we we finally got to our camp (Barafu Camp - 4600m) we had to quickly get ready for the summit climb which would take place at midnight. I started to get altitude sickness but wasn't going to let that stop me. We got into every piece of clothing (thermals, long sleeve top, 2 jumpers, 2 trousers, water /wind proof jacket and pants, 2 pairs of socks and gloves, neck warmer, beanie, and balaclava!!! We could hardly move. We ate as much dinner as possible and then went to bed for 4 hours.Day 5 - Started to climb to the summit at midnight. It was bloody freezing despite the fifty layers, and because of the altitude very hard work - not to forget long and steep. I thought I was going to get frost bite on my fingers and toes. Our guide was very helpful and friendly and was constantly taking off his own gloves to warm up my hands. It was about -15deg. We plodded slowly up the mountain in a trance like state, step by step listening to our Ipods, and focused on reaching the top.. The sky was clear, scattered by stars and the bright lights of Moshi glowed beautifully below. Just being on the mountain in the middle of the night was an amazing feeling, battling the thin air and bitterly cold wind. We spent most our time staring at the ground and the feet in front, trying not to look up, as each time we did the dark silhouette of the mountain and the glow of the creamy white snow on top, reminded us just how far we had to go. It was too demoralizing and disheartening and I was just trying to forget how high we had to climb and how cold it was. Dave was suffering from a thumping headache and I was throwing up but still we climbed on. Finally after six grueling hours we made it to the top, Uhuru peak and 5895m. We were the first to reach the summit that day!!!! We had done it - 5 days of solid hiking and we were now on the roof of Africa!!!. We stood atop the highest mountain in Africa, the highest free standing mountain in the world and watched an amazing sunrise. Best of all, we had it all to ourselves - not another tourist in sight. The scenery was incredible, the sun slowly revealing itself and massive glaciers reflecting the first of the morning light. It was emotional - the only problem was it was so bloody cold it was difficult enjoy it. We couldn't stay up there for long, it was just too cold and it was necessary for me to descend due to my altitude sickness - so after 10-15mins we turned around and started the long and painful trek down. Dave still had his headache and I was sporadically vomiting - we needed to get to a lower altitude. It took us 6 hours to climb up and only 3 to get back to our campsite at Barafu, roasting along the way in the harsh morning sun and under a dozen layers of clothes. At camp we re-fuelled and had a short power nap, before another 3 hour trek down to where we would sleep that night -at 3100m. All in all we hiked for 12 hours on day 5 (and about 17 of the past 24hrs) - we were exhausted, our faces burned and our quads ached.Day 6 - Our last day and I was glad - our legs were tired, and my knees were killing from the downhill climb and after 6 days I needed a shower - my hair was disgusting - I wrapped a scarf around it it was so bad. Today we walked for about 3 and a half hours to the bottom of the mountain - there we had a bottle of bubbly for making it to the top - we deserved it!!! I only wish we had another 3.We had done it, we had conquered Kili.When we finally got to the hotel I realised just how tough it was - I couldn't move from the bed - I was dead tired - my face all red and dry from the sun at altitude and freezing wind, and both of my big toe nails were bruised and black and it was only a matter of time before they fell off due to the impact of walking down steep rocky paths (gross I know). I could hardly walk.Was it worth yet??? YES the challenge was amazing, the experience unforgettable, and the landscape beautiful.Would I do it again?? NO - once is enough!! And I can tick it off my before I am 30 list (just in the nick of time)