Thursday, 16 October 2014

Kili done!

We climbed Kilimanjaro last week.
Still can't get my head around the fact that we have actually done it. It was the hardest but best thing I have ever done.
I'll do some more in detail posts on kit, best/worst bits, guides porters and tips for anyone maybe considering going or just more interested in the details, but here's a short round up on what happened.

We flew out to Tanzania on 3/10/14 and arrived on 4/10/14 tired and ready for a nights sleep at a hotel. As usually independent travellers it was interesting to be corralled in with a big group, but we went with the flow. After a briefing and kit check we had some free time to chat to the rest of our group (23 including the leader and doctor). The next morning we were up early and onto the bus, finally on the way! We waited for some time at the gate, waiting for all the bags to be weighed and the paperwork filled out.
Day 1. Finally, around 11am I think, we were on the way. Day one was pretty good, getting to know everyone in the group as well as the guides. We walked through the forest and it was steep but not too challenging. We had a pretty lively night at the first campsite, machame camp, with games, singing and dancing, and a headlamp rave. Nobody had any altitude effects too bad yet, we were at 2800m.
Day 2 was harder, both terrain wise and because I started getting some altitude sickness. The terrain was rocky and steep with a lot of clambering, we gained a lot in height that day and got to 3800m that night camping at Shira camp. The sickness came over me pretty fast, I started off feeling ok then after one steep ascent suddenly felt sick, sleepy and dizzy. This didn't go away on resting and I just wanted to lie down. We got to camp for lunchtime though so I had plenty of time to lie down and try (unsuccessfully) to eat and not throw up.
Day 3. After a good nights sleep at Shira camp and some diamox and anti sickness tablets I felt better the next day, ready for lava tower. This is the highest we would go before summit night, we left Shira camp at 3800m, got to lava tower at 4600m for lunch (where I felt surprisingly ok, having felt rough the whole way up I just magically got over it at some point!) then went back down to 3900m at Barranco camp. This was a hard day, not helped by wet weather and the tents being wet when we got to camp. The team pulled together though and helped each other out. I'll write a post about our amazing team and how it helped us to have such a cohesive and motivating team, it'll be a soppy one guys be warned!

Day 4. We got up early, and after a rather breathless rendition of happy birthday and a hokey cokey to warm up we were off to climb barranco wall. A few people in our team had found looking at the wall all evening intimidating, being climbers we were looking forward to it! Although it was easier that we are used to (it's a scramble not a climb) the altitude effects made it hard, Tom climbs grade 6C's and is breaking into 7's but even he got our of breath going up Barranco! I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest at one point. After a photo break at the top we were then off on an undulating up and down through Karanga Valley to Barafu Camp at 4600m. We ate then off to bed early as we had to be up at 12 for the summit.
Summit Night. This came around fast, we were merrily dancing around the morning before, now we were all eating breakfast at 11pm and offering to share out hand warmers and sweets. This was it. We were off. It was 6 hours of walking in the dark up a steep slope, in the cold, with wind. However, it was a full moon and a clear night, we could see Moshi illuminated below us, and the snake of headlamps going to to the summit. Every stop I tried to soak in the beauty, but to be honest it's a bit of a blur. I remember people being sick (one memorable quote was 'Ed's puking everywhere so we're having a 10 minute break') and people turning back, but our team carried on. We tried to sing and chat like we had on previous days but it was decidedly lacklustre for a while then petered out and we just marched on. But at the breaks we tried to motivate each other, we talked about how the sun would be up soon, and offered sweets and snacks around, or even just gave someone a pat on the back and said 'well done'. Raymond our guide dragged me up a few points, and carried my bag, and kept me smiling at breaks. These guys are incredible. When we heard the sun would be up in half an hour we got quite excited, then once it did come up we basked in it like reptiles!
Reaching Stella point seemed the longest part, you can see it for so long but it takes forever to get there. Then it's a little longer to the peak, not a challenging walk but I didn't want to go...we did though. Tom cried, I cried, everyone cried at some point that day I think. We wandered about a bit dazed at the summit.

It's a bit of a scrum at the top to get a photo by the sign, so we muscled in and then started the long descent down. Do not underestimate this part, the descent from the summit back to Barafu took hours,  my toes were in so much pain that I cried (I have never cried so much in the space of 5 days). Tom fell over a few times. Then it was lunch then another 2 hours down to Millennium camp where we all felt better, it's 3900m still though. We had dinner, then all went off to bed pretty much straight after. Tom and I slept for 10 hours!
Last day. We had the tipping ceremony, and a last dance on the mountain, then it was off down to the bottom. It was a loooong downhill, but we were in high spirits (although mine ran out about an hour from the end when the pain in my feet was almost bringing me to tears, typing this I still cannot feel my toes properly). I had a minor cry when I saw the sign for Mweka gate (not a full on sob just a little tear and a thank you prayer!). We had some Kili beers, champagne, a last hokey cokey and a laugh (we were a loud group!)...then off on the bus.

I'll write a bit more in detail once I organise my thoughts on it, I'd like to write something about the guides and porters, and altitude, and some tips for girls specifically, and on what I took away from this. It will take me a while to get it all down, and it's so hard to describe unless you've been there what it was like....and I don't think I'll be able to accurately describe the 'A Team' we went with :)
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