Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thur 16th Sept Day 3 - Kikelewa Cave (3600) - Mawenzi Tarn camp (4330m)

Its another lovely clear morning with a beautiful sunrise - down below us looking across the Tanzanian plains all you can see is a sea of cloud - you know when you look out of a plane and its all white and looks soft and fluffy below? its like that. really cool.

We're all getting really good at the morning packing routine - as soon as Lucas comes round with the morning tea its all a bit of a mad flurry to get everything into the kit bags before brekky at 7. Vincent likes us to be packed before brekky because it means our tent porters can get a really good start and get to the next camp site before any of the other groups - so far this seems to be working well as we always seem to get the flattest pitches :-) Maybe thats why I'm feeling so much better - after 2 days of good hearty stodgy trek food and good sleep I'm definitely feeling more normal. I've still got the nasty gungy cough, but I think its freeing up a little - I hope so, its only 2 days now until the ascent.

I'm a bit surprised that I haven't felt any symptoms of altitude yet, no headache, no nausea, no breathlessness - maybe its because I'm taking diamox? mind you nobody else appears to be showing any symptoms either and the only other person taking diamox is Heather. It's also getting noticeably colder at night and in the mornings now - I haven't had to stick my feet out of the sleeping bag to cool down and sitting at tea or brekky I need about 4 layers to stay comfortably warm

Today is a short day, only 3-4 hours, but its going to be very steep and rocky, which will test out boots and heels. I've decided to stick to just one pair of thin socks - it hasn't been cold during the days so there hasn't been any need to double up yet and since switching back to 1 pair of socks after lunch yesterday my boots haven't been rubbing so my heels haven't come up with blisters which is another good thing.

  As we leave camp we start heading steadily upwards, we're heading up through moorland vegetation and its turning into another warm sunny day. I'm really liking being in a small group - we seem to get out of the camps before any other group and again we have the trail to ourselves. Its so peaceful and quiet, with just the sound of the wind and our boots - I'm quite surprised that there doesn't seem to be much animal or bird life. There certainly isn't any song birds up here. Pretty soon the vegetation starts to thin out and its getting more and more scrubby and more barren and rocky and by the time we stop for group catch up its pretty much looking like a moonscape with the odd stunted bush or clump of grass clinging onto life in any sheltered spot out of the wind. Its very arid here, the wind is constant and just sucks out any moisture in the air or ground.

By now the group is pretty much shaking itself out into an order - its usually me, Ian and Louise up front on Vincents heels, then some way back is generally Fritz - I think he's beginning to find it quite tough and is not really eating well enough to keep up his strength - could be a symptom of altitude sickness, but he says not. Myself, Ian and Lousie are all eating anything and everything that gets put on the table and then we have 2nds or 3rds! lack of appetite is a symptom of altitude sickness so looks like the 3 of us are doing just fine! :-)
After Fritz generally comes Heather, she just ambles along at her own speed accompanied by Juma, then lastly is Sarah with 'Mike' (his name is Lucas, but for some reason we all call him Mike!)

Up till now the trail has steadily been leading towards Kili and its looming bigger and bigger each day, today however, after the rest stop we start to head away from Kili towards the jagged spikes of Mwenzi peak - it looks very stark and bleak but quite stunning. Today we'll be camping by a tarn in the bottom of the corrie.

We arrive into camp about 12:30 - not all of the tents have arrived yet, mine included so I amble around taking a few photos. There are lots of white necked Ravens at this site - apparently they are quite a nuisance and very aggressive. We've been told to make sure our tents are closed at all times as they will go into the tents and take things!
  My tent turns up after about 1/2 hour, so I go and get my sleeping bag laid out and stuff before lunch.

 After lunch we have a short 'optional' (not really..) acclimatization walk in preparation for tomorrow. We're currently at 4300m and the acclimatization walk will take us up to 4500m - the theory is that by going up an extra few 100m we will then be sleeping at a lower altitude which will help our bodies adjust to the altitude. Having said that, we'll only be spending about 10mins at that altitude so I really don't think its going to be very effective.

For the acclimatization walk we head up the side of the corrie going even more slowly than ever - its very steep and we're on scree so our footing is quite slippery - our calves are getting a very good workout. Apparently the terrain is similar to what we'll experience on the climb itself, which is not encouraging - if we have to be climbing up scree its going to be very tough. By the time we get to the top of the climb I am a bit breathless and my cough is worse, I also have a slight headache so it looks like I'm getting the 1st symptoms of altitude. I'll have to make sure I drink lots of water this afternoon - I've got through about 3 litres so far, but 4 is recommended.
At the top of the corrie, we have a fantastic view of Kili - we can really see the route up from Kibo huts

its starting to look very daunting, so I'm a little bit apprehensive right now.

This afternoon is rest as much as possible, then tomorrow is about 6 hours across the saddle - the bleak moonscape that is in these pictures. We only go up about 400m in altitude so that should be relatively easy, but we're now at the pointy end of the trip and with the beginnings of altitude effects its going to be even more important to take it very slowly and gently and try not to over exert myself.

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