Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fri 17th Sept - Day 4 - Mawenzi Tarn camp (4330m) - Kibo hut (4700m)

Ok this is where it gets serious - today we head to Kibo huts - base camp for the ascent. I slept really well, my headache has gone I'm not getting breathless, no nausea, I'm eating like a horse in general it looks like I'm coping with the altitude really well. Still got this stupid cough but otherwise I'm feeling pretty much back to normal.

So after brekky we head out of the corrie away from Mwenzi peak and now directly towards the main peak of kili.

 This is nice easy walking, downhill to start with then across the saddle which has a very gentle incline for the most part. There is virtually no vegetation out on the saddle - its bone dry and by about 9am its actually quite hot with the sun baking the rocks and it reflects up from the ground at us - there's even a heat haze! The wind is constant and blows up dust devils across the moonscape.
 There's not much to see really - Kili is a constant presence that dominates the whole landscape, reminding us what we've got to do tonight - its quite strange to think that we'll be setting off in darkness to climb it. The route up the mountain is so clear and from down on the saddle it looks ridiculously steep - the top bit looks almost vertical!

About 1/2 way across the saddle we come across the site of a plane crash - its the wreckage of a small sightseeing plane and unfortunately 6 people died. It was 3 years ago, but because its such a desert and is so dry, the wreckage has not deteriorated - its looks like it only happened a few weeks ago

As the morning wears on it gradually starts getting more cloudy, we've noticed that in general early in the mornign the cloud base is way down on the plains and we start off the day in brilliant sunshine. Then as the plains warm up the cloud base lifts and rises up and gradually starts reaching the altitude we are at from about 10am onwards. So as the morning wears on it starts to get less sunny, cooler and more windy. Across the saddle there is no shelter so by about 11:30 its really getting quite cold and because we're walking so slowly I'm not generating much body heat and for the first time I have to break out the gloves and goretex jacket and add my fleece beanie.
For some reason Vincent doesn't seem to want to stop for lunch, so I'm also getting really hungry - mind you to stop and just sit in the open would probably not be a good idea, but it would be good to stop and eat something!
We eventually stop about 1:30 at the only rocks in sight - its got really cold by now and has even started to snow! not nice fluffy snow, its to dry for that, but small sharp ice ball type snow - the sort that really stings when it hits you. Its actually not very pleasant so we all stuff our lunch down as quickly as possible - my hands are absolutely frozen by the time I've finished and I'm really cold so in about 10 minutes all of us are keen to move on to the Kibo huts so we can get to our tents and get some rest. 

About an hour later we arrive at the Kibo huts, and again our porters have managed to secure front posy and the most sheltered spot for the dinner tent :-) 
Its really busy, there are tents everywhere - this is the main base camp that all groups congregate at before making summit attempts. For the 1st time on the trip we don't have the place to ourselves. 

There is a nervous tension in the air - all the guides and porters know what to expect, they've seen it so many times before - Vincent reckons he's been up Kili at least 50 times! 
None of us tourists have a clue what to expect and we've been advised to rest as much as possible and try to get some sleep, before tea at 5, but there are people standing around talking - mostly guys being all bravado and macho about how they're going to cruise up the hill. Funny thing is its usually the people who are most full of themselves who come, I just potter up to the start of the ascent route - it looks even steeper than ever when you're right up close. And theres a handy sign telling us that its at least 5 hours uphill to Gilmans Point. Am filled with apprehension about this, its snowing even harder now and has got really cold. Am not looking forward to heading off at midnight. 

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