Date: Oct 2 2015 Friday
Route: Unique Rongai Route
Destination: Kikilewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp
Duration: 3hours walking (+ 1hour acclimatization hike)
Elevation Gained: 627m (2,057ft)
FitBit Steps: 26,655
FitBit Calories Burnt: 3,850
(If you missed it – here is my look back on Kilimanjaro Day 2)
Wow, how did I ever get so lucky as to wake up on an adventure with my husband in Tanzania, Africa on none other than Mount Kilimanjaro itself AND get to see this sunset that was so amazing it is beyond words. This was our favourite sunrise of the trip, and we got one every morning!
The sunrise was so great and the day looking so nice, instead of serving us breakfast inside the dining tent the Team Kilimanjaro crew pulled the tables and chairs out into the middle of our camp and we ate under the warm sun. I have had breaky in some pretty cool places, but sitting outside soaking up the Africa sun looking out ABOVE the clouds was just so awesome! Seriously if you attempt Mount Kilimanjaro for nothing other than the sunsets and breaky above the clouds, I would totally support you!
After we wrapped up breakfast, brushed our teeth, used our lovely toilet tents, poor Lana completed her 30 mins of heel blister prep, and we all had day packs ready with water/snacks/rain gear; we started out from camp with a bounce in our sunny step at 8:15 am.
Today was a short day on the Rongai Route but it was an uphill slog. The Kili sentiment “pole, pole” (meaning slowly, slowly in Swahili) was particularly welcome today. At one point I muttered to our slogging crew that “this sh@t just got real”. It felt like we were actually climbing a mountain today. There was no break in the up and up and up and up …
Almost all vegetation was left behind today and I could finally understand what other climbers had described as ‘it feels as if you are walking on the moon.’ All grey with big chunks of rock, no green and barely even any a scrubby bush or moss to be seen. Grey, rock, dust = moon.
Our Assistant Guide Felix lead our troop today and that meant with every step all I cold hear was the sound of his much too large corduroy pants scraping thigh against thigh and his hiking boots, also about 3 sizes too big, scuffing along the trail. Swish, Swish. Scuff, Scuff. While that likely sounds as if it would be totally annoying, and trust me it normally would be to me too, on the mountain it was actually just the sound of our pace in my head. I followed the swish and scuff like it was a drum or the beat of some mountain music. Album called Corduroy Burn by the famous Felix MacBigBoot. (ha ha)
Today is also the day I discovered that Felix rarely steps down or up from or over things. No matter the trail, rocks, or terrain he will step on the tiniest little point of rock if it keeps his body and legs at the same height. So unless absolutely impossible to avoid he never steps up, down and over rocks in search of the most secure step possible like I do. I realize this likely saved him so much energy. Most of mine was being wasted in going up and over things or stepping down off things just to step back up on to the next high rock.
To entertain myself I followed right behind him and decided I would step exactly as he and where he stepped to see if it was as slick as it looked. I was not slick at all. In fact I was just wobbly, off balance, and wearing myself out trying to keep up. So I returned to my trusty old slightly hesitant, cautious (not timid) step up and over rocks as has served me so well every other hike I have taken.
On the trail today there were lots of these rock piles – where other hikers had precariously balanced rock on rock like small towers all along the trail. Basically the equivalent of an Inukshuk. These piles of rock, that Leo called something like ‘canyon’ but with a cool Swahili accent, are meant to mark the trail when the path itself can no longer be seen under the snow.
We came into our next campsite at 11:20 am. While this is just three hours later we were glad to see it. The up and up and up trail today mixed with the increasing altitude is enough to wear a girl out. I needed me some popcorn and hot tea to recover Kili style.
We were welcome with a yummy warm lunch of ginger soup to start, followed by spaghetti with meat sauce and shredded cheese to sprinkle on top, and pineapple slices for dessert. While this was not quite as exciting as our surprising grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries on day 2 for lunch (mmm) it was quite delicious all the same.
For two of our troop the most exciting part about lunch was that this was a meal withOUT green peppers – apparently putting these in every meal as the Team Kilimanjaro crew seemed to do was the worse kind of torture for my husband and our friend Scott. You would think the 84 km up and over a mountain would be tough but that was peanuts compared to the peppers!
At mid afternoon, we were led up on an acclimatization hike. Basically that just means one of the guides takes us farther up the mountain, about 200m or so, where we hang out for about 20mins, then come down. While up there Paul and Lance usually have to pee again, and us girls take some pictures, or like me I scoop some scree into a little pile and use it like a backrest on my nature provided lazy boy (the ground). I was worn out from doing a garbage bag fashion show to entertain my fellow trekkers and needed to sit down to recover.
A fashion show you ask? Well you see, I didn’t want to risk wet clothes at that altitude, and it looked as if it might rain on our acclimatization hike which made me very grumpy, so at the loving advice of my hubby I wore a garbage bag under my not-at-all-“waterproof” jacket and at the top decided to ‘work it’ for some pics before I took it off when it actually didn’t rain at all. I will spare you the fashion show pics!
The idea of these acclimatization hikes was to have us climb higher than we sleep. The rule of hiking at high altitudes is to ‘climb high, and sleep low’ – take your body past where you will be resting so that your body feels better at the altitude you sleep in comparison to where you hiked to. Most hikers feel much better if they follow this simple rule and it has increased many, many people’s chances of making the summit. This same rule is deployed on Mt. Everest, K2, Annapurna, Mount Saint Elias, and all others just as it is on Kilimanjaro.
For those of us who came into camp with a bit of a headache, maybe some nausea or even just a generally feeling of ‘bla’ – these acclimatization hikes sucked to have to go through but were totally worth it. The climb up was tough, the time at the top was a pain, but as you came down that pesky headache magically cleared up. This day’s acclimatization hike cleared up my Mawenzi Tarn Hut Camp little headache quite wonderfully.If only climbing up a hill would solve a headache here at home!
For supper we had pumpkin soup, followed by chicken stew served with rice, and sweet bread of some kind for dessert. Along with, of course, all the hot water and powdered hot drink stuff you could ask for.
Another late night for us on Day 3 … ha ha ha who am I kidding?! We were in our sleeping bags by 7:00 pm again.
There are lots of books that tell you sleeping at altitude is really hard (the diuretic medication, poor breathing at lower oxygen pressure, headaches, nausea, etc.) so its best to spend as much time trying as you can in hopes of at least getting a few hours in. Oddly, Lance and I had no problems at all with sleeping. In fact, I think he had some of his best sleeps on the mountain and I would have too if my excitement to be there in the first place didn’t keep me awake!
(If you are into it – here is my look back on Kilimanjaro Day 4)