Barafu Camp to Summit to Mweka Camp (8/1)
We woke up at midnight. There was frost on our tent and fly. We had a light breakfast of toast and hot beverages. At 1:00 am we started under clears skies, a full moon and no wind. You couldn't ask for more ideal conditions. The air is so thin up here. Eventually I fell to the back of the pack. I took a slow pace. We had several porters to assist us with the climb. At the second break I let one of them take my pack. He kept wanting to take it, so what the heck. It will make my climb easier. The porter was great. At stops he would help me pull stuff out of my pack and looked after me. These guys are great.
Later in the night I became more separated from the main group. I had two porters with me. Early in the morning it started getting colder so I added my Gortex jacket when I hiked. At rest breaks I would put on my parka. We generally kept rest breaks to 5 minutes. You do not want to cool down. So basically you stop, put on your parka, down some water, have a carb-boom, and then start loading up.
Finally around sunrise I crested Stella Point. This is the crator rim. A few high fives and quick chat with Allen and off to the summit. The true summit Uhuru Peak, is another 1,000 feet up from Stella Point. It seemed like it took me forever to get there. I was light headed with a little bit of coordination issues. I passed my team members who were heading down.
So after an hour or so (I think) I reached the highpoint around 7:40 am. The highest point of the African continent. One of the seven summits. A new high altitude record for me, 19, 340 ft. I dug out my camera. It had some ice crystals on it. We cleaned them off and the porters took a couple pictures of me. I took a few of the glaciers around the summit and the volcano cinder cone. I probably spent about 10 minutes at the top.
It was time to get down and get some rich air. I was spent. I pushed my self to my limits. I still had to get down to Barafu camp and then make it down to Mweka. It's going to be a long day. At Stella Point you take a different path back down. You go down this huge rock and scree field. I had my two porters with me. One one either side holding an arm. We raced down the scree field. It was controlled chaos. For the first 1,000 feet or so I basically ran down with legs going everywhere. After about a bit, my coordination and strength started coming back to me and I did not need the porters help. We took our time going down, taking short breaks. Finally we got out of the scree field and had a real trail to hike into Barafu camp.
We got back to Barafu about 11:00 am. I was spent. I wasn't sure how I could make it the rest of the way down. I climbed into my tent and rested for 30 minutes. Finally Allen made me get out of my tent and have lunch in the mess tent. I couldn't eat a thing. I was too spent. I drank some liquids at least.
I then had to go back to my tent and pack everything up for the trek down to Mweka camp. It was hard packing up. I was tired and we were still at 15,000 feet. It seemed to take a while to pack. I would put a thing or two in my pack and then would take a break. I was breathing pretty hard.
At 1:00 pm we headed down. Luckily it was all down hill. Gravity would be my friend. I kept to the back of the pack. The trail was dusty and not that interesting. So onward I trudged. One foot in front of the other. The trail goes through the Millennium camp and the guy at the green government hut there sells cold sodas. Allen bought the back of the pack sodas. I had a Fanta Orange. Man was that good. That gave me some energy to keep going. After enjoying our sodas and some of the scenery (we were entering the forest again) we kept going down.
After one break Andy hurt his leg. Allen stayed behind with him and the rest of us moved on. The trail in this section is very rocky and lots of places where you have to step down. A little further on the trail we spotted another person who was injured. Downward we continued. A ways down we came upon this one guy carrying this heavy looking wheeled stretcher. We wondered if he was going up for Andy. I would hate to ride down in that thing.
We pulled into Mweka camp at 4:00 pm. This place is the worst camp we have been at. It's dusty and muddy. Everyone is wedged into small camp sites. There are people everywhere. We found our camp site and dumped our packs. About 20 minutes later Andy and Allen came limping into camp. We then went over to one of the green huts and registered. They also sold coke and beer here. As we were signing in. Ryan came by on a beer and soda run. The guy goes over to a bunk and pulls back a foam mattress to get the beers. Pretty wild.
They had hiked in food for tonight's dinner. They had Tilapia fish and lots of other stuff. I still was not hungry. Everyone was concerned that I was not eating. I knew I would be fine in the morning. Once I rested. So I sat in the mess tent until about 7:00 and then went to bed.