Summit Day dawned early. We had a 2am wakeup call. Lucky for me, I had been able to sleep from 8 to 12:15, and just rested from then until 2. The altitude was still affecting Will, and he hadn’t slept at all except for a small catnap the previous afternoon. Today would prove to be a verrrry long day for him.
After a breakfast of porridge and choco-coffee (everyone needs a little chocolate to help power them up Kilimanjaro!!), we set off at exactly 3am. The weather was gorgeous. A clear and starry night, and with the moon just two days past full, we didn’t even need our headlamps on. And though it was cold, it wasn’t Ice Age cold, and there was very little wind. It was actually quite magical….As we snaked our way up the side of Kibo, we had glorious views of the sunrise over the horizon behind us, lighting up Mawenzi. It was mostly clear all the way to the top. Adrenaline powered us up and up and up, but we were still going pole, pole. We didn’t take a lot of pictures since it was pretty cold, and getting colder as we climbed. The sun coming out did help, though, and was a huge benefit to the 3am start instead of a midnight start. There was hot sweet tea waiting for us at Gilman’s Point at 18,400′. We had hiked up over 3,000 feet; the hardest part was over (well, except for trying to find oxygen molecules at 19,000′ for the next couple of hours…)
Unfortunately, Will was not feeling well at all. The altitude, lack of sleep and intestinal distress of the last couple of days had really taken its toll. As we reached Gilman’s Point, he remarked that he had had a very weird experience the past 20 minutes or so.. he had been ‘somewhere else’! Hmmm… where is that oxygen canister again?
One of the unforgettable moments of the trip: Our first spectacular views of the glaciers as we rounded the rim of the crater.We reached the summit right at 10am. Our 3am start time really paid off, as we had the summit to ourselves. Many groups leave at 11pm or midnight to be at the top at sunrise, but one downside to that is the crowds at the summit sign. And we felt our sunrise views were amazing the way we did it. Everyone was a little more relaxed on the way down, knowing we had all made it to the top; Will showed amazing resilience and perseverance to power through his fatigue, with the help of our expert guide, Pendael. Will had a tough time on the way down. Mark, Anne-Marie and I met four of our porters from camp as they were headed up the hill to meet up with Pendael, Edson and Will. They had even called for Ernest, the camp manager who happened to be the biggest guy in camp, to help Will down. Will, for his part, didn’t seem to care about getting off the mountain, he just kept telling them to ‘leave me here… I just need to sleep.’ He was amazing; despite being sick the entire way down, he made it back to camp just under an hour after us. We all took naps, and despite Will’s best protests (‘this plan is not working for me’), we set off again at 4pm for SEVEN MORE MILES of hiking. Yes, it was downhill, but it was a lot after the past 2 strenuous days. Horombo Camp never looked so good as it did around 7pm that night when Will came in! We had hiked up 4,000 feet and down 7,200 feet, most of it above 15,000′. A good day.
Our Kili Outfitter: Nature Discovery