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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Reaching the Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro - Page 4

Written by Carolyn Bonello
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There is something about volcanoes that fascinates me, and finds me craving to conquer their summits to be able to satisfy my curiosity and peer down their crater rims. Having climbed Mount Etna (3350m) in Sicily and Gunung Agung (3142m) in Bali, (Cotapaxi (5897m) in Ecuador was weeks away but the trip was cancelled at the last minute), the time had come for something African – Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania was the next conquest. At an altitude of 5895m, it is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, and I promised myself that one day soon I would have my picture taken at the summit, Uhuru Peak.


Barafu camp is a very inhospitable place covered in rubble and broken glass and, worst of all, infested with a species of rodent known as rasmus. I would have paid anything to have a helicopter come and lift me out of the nightmare at that point. Tents set up as usual, we were expected to get some rest until around 11pm, at which time we would start our final ascent to the summit.


Feeling the effects of the altitude, my head throbbing and exhaustion overwhelming, I needed large amounts of coaxing and TLC from my better half to feel convinced that I could actually reach the summit later on that night. His efforts were not in vain.

Uhuru peak, here we come

At 10.30pm sharp, our guides brought warm tea and honey bread to each of our tents and urged us to get ready. With biting-cold, gale force winds blowing outside, we instinctively put on all the gear we possessed, layer after layer, until we could barely move shoulders and elbows to a quarter of their full range of motion! – but at least we were warm!!


No amount of physical or mental training could have ever prepared me for what we were about to experience in the next few hours. Carrying only the bare essentials – a headlamp, camelback and the sickliest, most sugary sweets we had, we formed a single file behind Gawdenz, interspersed by the seven assistant guides. Struggling to keep upright, we battled the gale and stumbled up the rocks and scree, barely able to see more than a meter in front of us.


Hour after hour, we pushed on, setting mini goals and just focusing on placing one foot firmly in front of the other. Glancing behind me, the initially bright line of head torches had now dimmed to a few scattered lights several meters apart –some of us slowed down, and two others had to turn back (ironically, the two doctors). I tried to keep positive and stuck to the leading group, convincing myself that I was not mad for having undertaken this challenge.


With temperatures at around minus 25 degrees Celsius, my camelback, that was strapped to my chest, froze, so apart from not being able to sip any water, I had a block of ice chilling my already freezing body. My last reserves of energy were used to open my mouth and chew jelly beans which my partner forced in every few minutes. This is what kept me going until finally, at 6am, a burnt-orange glow filled the sky and the biting wind died down gradually, replaced by a warmer, more bearable breeze. Reaching the Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, travel Africa, travel tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro climb, Tanzania, Uhuru Peak, Marangu Hotel, Moshi, Shira plateau, Machame camp, Barranco Camp, Barranco wall, Karanga valley, Barafu camp, Stella Point, Mweka camp,, Carolyn Bonello


As the sun rose, so did our spirits, and I could hardly believe my eyes when Gaudenz announced that we had reached the crater rim - Stella Point (5790m). Too tired to even consider the short walk to peer down (as I claimed to love doing) I collapsed on the volcanic terrain, totally oblivious of the fantastic views that lay below, and waited , as each member of the group slowly appeared, some held up on their feet by the guides, others almost dropping dead on arrival!


(Page 4 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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