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Lemosho Route: Day 6

September 2, 2010

Day 6: Barafu towards summit, then down to the gate
Summit attempt time: 2 hrs
Elevation change: +250 m
Final elevation: 4950 m

Descent time: 10 hrs
Estimated distance: 17km
Elevation change: -3100 m
Final elevation: 1828 m

We were woken up at 11 pm to get ready to make our attempt at the summit. I have to admit 3 hours of sleep didn’t greatly improve my condition. I didn’t really feel like myself. Dave would ask me how I was feeling and most of the time the answer would be “I don’t know.” I was just feeling kind of foggy. Our guide Mark called out during breakfast to ask how we were doing. Dave answered that he was a 4/5 and always dramatically timed, I vomitted again. I suppose that means I’m a 1/5.

We very slowly made our ascent towards the summit. It seemed like it took forever to just get to the trail. Barafu camp is humungous. I was eager to get to the trail and the switchbacks. I figured draging my feet along the trail was not a problem. I am stubborn and determined. I can beat my mental woes, it’s the physical ones that I’m worried about. When I felt that we finally arrived at “the trail” only to learn that it was another mess of rocks. Damn! It just felt like a lot of energy to lift myself up all the rocks. I put on my Ipod to power through. The first song the played was fittingly titled “Impossible.” A lot of groups passed us. It was kind of demoralizing to see the lines of headlamp lights disappear in the distance. “What percentage have we completed so far?” I asked. 5% was the answer. Shit! We’ve been climbing for almost 2 hours. Doing some quick math lead to some disastrous estimated arrival times. I continued on anyways. Sometime soon after Dave observed me staggering back and forth. After a discussion with our guide Dave called the end to our attempt. After a lot of discussion I accepted this as fact. After even more discussion it was decided that Dave would decend with me rather than carrying on toward the summit.

There is a bit of fuzziness that occurred at this point. Without a goal I just really wanted to go back to hotel. The scenery of kilimanjaro had been amazing. The hiking was awesome. This was truly an amazing experience. But I was tired of feeling sick. I wanted to feel like myself again. I wanted something to eat that didn’t disgust me. I wanted to be warm while I slept. I had heard that the gate was only 2 hours from the last camp that we were supposed to walk to today (psst – this is entirely untrue). We questioned our guide about the length of the time to the gate. I understood 5 hours. Dave understood 7 hours. So a decision was made to walk down to the gate. Okay so it was a little irrational. It was two in the morning. I completely admit it. I didn’t even realize that this decision would affect other people. We walked back to Barafu camp and the porters were woken up and started to take down the camp. Right…now I am feeling rather self-involved. My decisions have consequences. I should remember this.

We began our decent towards the gate in the dark. I realized pretty soon into our trek that this was probably a bad idea. But now I felt obligated to see it through. As the sun came up we were welcomed by a beautiful sunrise. There was not a cloud in the sky. It would have been an amazing summit day. I was jealous as I looked at the summit knowing there were dozens of successful hikers looking down. What seemed like a lifetime later we made it to Mweka camp. It had taken well over 5 hours to get there. I thought it was supposed to take 5 hours to get to the gate. David and I rested as our guide walked around finding cell phone reception to call for a driver to meet us at the gate. I was feeling much better. “I feel like myself again” I told Dave. I was also starting to get really hungry, a feeling that had been lost on me for the last couple of days.

From Mweka camp the trail turned into a groomed trail. You would think this would be better but it really wasn’t. There were makeshift steps of mud/earth held up with wooden logs. This made the whole process quite slippery. Dave and I both experienced near falls on several occasions. We had been told by one of the hikers from the large Aussie group that this segment was 2 hours. It was just never-ending but the jungle/rainforest was beautiful. It was moss-covered and in contrast to the dusty trail at the beginning of the Lemosho route. Even though I was tired, I still stopped to admire the new flowers available in this zone. Suddenly we could see an opening at the bottom of the slippery trail that we had been on for 3 hours. The end! Or so we thought. The groomed trail lead to a muddy road. A long and deeply rutted muddy road. At this point Dave’s legs were shaking. Every step was painful. I obviously had more than one blister. I had tied my boots on tight but this didn’t seem to help. Finally we arrived at the gate. It was disappointing to sign in, see all the previous people’s accomplishments, and not receive a certificate. We dolled out the tips to our crew unceremoneously. Avoiding the many people hawking souveniors we got into the awaiting proper Good Earth Tours jeep and began our journey back to the hotel. The office wanted to know if I wanted to go to the hospital but I declined. They even came to the hotel many hours later to check on me just in case. It is odd that our guide never said anything about my health but the office seemed really concerned.

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