Kilimanjaro, day 4 – day 6

DAY 4 – Moir Camp by Lent Hills, 4 165 m

The next morning started with the usual ritual of “shower”, checking our vitals, and me having a peanut butter toast for breakfast. Already on the second day of climbing, I woke up with a hunger and need in my body to have at least one toast in the morning. The altitude, the hikes and the air somehow made me in need of readjusting my dietary regime, which made Freddy quite happy. Well, I wanted to reach the peak, so I had to stay dialed in with what was necessary for me at this stage. There was no sign of my earlier headache crisis.

On the way to Moir Camp; Mt. Meru on the horizon

We had 14km ahead of us for that day, with an additional acclimatization hike in the afternoon and hence left the camp as soon as possible. At this point, I was still waiting for the soreness of muscles to appear, including few blisters, but everything was ok. My heels showed no signs of blisters, my back was all good despite sleeping in the tent, and my legs were all good to go. I must admit, I was positively surprised, having read about sore bodies, blisters, etc. in many reports of other climbers, but nothing like this was happening to us.

The hike to Moir camp was one of the best days of that trip. I walked with my speed, while enjoying  a lovely chat with Daniel. We crossed the Shira plateau that is actually a caldera – a collapsed volcanic crater. It means that we hiked on the remains of the first three volcanos of Kilimanjaro. It was impossible to see much of them, because they extinct over 500 000 years ago, but the remains resembled a Mordor in some places. The habitat changed from a Mordor-like grounds to green lush bushes and finally to rocky path at around 4 000m. The day was warm and we were in very good moods. I managed to negotiate the tomato soup for dinner with Freddy, who readily obliged my suddenly urge for my favourite soup, anyway.

On the way I stopped quite often to have “madji” and enjoy the surrounding views. Being above the clouds makes one feel almost invincible.

We reached Moir camp after 4.5 hours walk. The crew was resting, and we decided to have a short nap before the afternoon hike to 4 300 m.

Afternoon acclimatization walk to 4 300m. Mt Meru shyly peaking through the clouds.

The evening was completed with our daily routines, “shower”, impossible task of cleaning our boots from the dust, repacking our daily backpacks for the day after, measuring our vitals, and dinner with the negotiated tomato soup.

DAY 5 – Barranco Camp via Lava Hut, 3 976m 

We were up and ready by 7am. Usually we were awaken 05.30am, but that day ahead would be a small test for us, so we were allowed a longer sleep. The overnight camp was at Barranco, by the infamous Barranco Wall 200 m below Moir Camp, but the trail to the camp led via the Lava Hut at 4 637m. The reason why it was a small test for us was that many climbers had had problems reaching the hut at that altitude. If we would have problems reaching the Hut, then summiting could have become a major challenge.

The 7km hike started very nicely, with Daniel keeping me company as usual. Raymond, our assistant guide and the Other Me were already well on their way up. I was happy that we had two guides in our crew, so neither of us was forced to walk with the speed we were uncomfortable with.  Due to the altitude changes, the temperature and the weather could change from warm to cold to warm. The majority of the hike passed in a nice and sunny climate. The hike itself was easy, despite few ridges on the way. However, I started to feel the height somewhere above 4 300m, as the air became thinner, and breathing was bit more strenuous. Yet, I enjoyed my time and the views.

The Lava Tower offered additional acclimatization before the path gradually lost its heights towards

Barranco Camp

the next camp. I reached the Tower after 3,5h in a good mood, managed to dance and sing “churra, churra” (song about a frog in Swahili) with Freddy and Daniel, and re-joined the Other Me. The top of the mountain was teasing us from what seemed to be a close proximity. It was quite a view.

The Tower also serves as an overnight camp for those climbers who decide to challenge themselves additionally on the way to the top. It was a path leading via a Western Breach, very steep and technical part of the climb. The hikers needed an additional equipment to reach the edge of the crater through the glacier.

Our second part of the hike was a different experience from the first half of the day. Suddenly we walked in the clouds. It was easier to breathe as we were descending 700m, but everything around was grey, and the trail was uneven and rocky. The lower we walked the easier it became to breathe, and the greener it was getting.

After 2 hours of descending, we arrived at the Barranco Camp. It combines several routes and therefore the camp site tends to be very crowded. This was the first time since we arrived to Arusha that we got phone connection. We managed to inform our family that we were ok, and we were still on the way. The peak was emerging from behind the clouds in the sunset, but I was focused on what was coming on the following morning, 257m of Barranco Wall. I was nervous.

DAY 6 – Karanga Camp via Barranco Wall, 4 033m

That day started earlier than usual, and by 06.30am we started tackling the ascent. Daniel wanted us to be first on the wall, before all the other groups and crews had their breakfasts. It was a steep, rocky, uneven ascent, and in some places the path required us to be more acrobatic. Due to its challenges, the trail can be very crowded, and hikers may be “stuck” there for several hours.

Barranco Wall – view from the camp

The reality of the Wall turned out to be nothing like I had imagined. Interestingly enough, I actually had a lot of fun, and after 1.5 hours of twists and contortions of a climb, I admitted to Daniel that he had been correct. The Wall was indeed “a piece of cake”.

At the top of the Wall the trail continued to Karanga Camp, located in a Karanga Valley. The difference in the altitude between two camps was minimal, but the 2 hour hike through two deep valleys was not the most pleasant one for me. First we descend steeply down on the sandy path, then went up, and again, till we finally reached the camp. The second valley was also the last point where there was a stream to take the water. During the afternoon we watched several porters from different companies, carrying buckets with water to the next camp.

Karanga Camp is located between Barranco Camp and the base camp, Barafu at 4 673m, and it is skipped by many groups that are on the shorter itinerary. We witnessed several groups of exhausted climbers, panting through their slow walks to the next camp. They had at least 4 to 5hours more ahead of them. We used this stop to rest and have last long sleep. The Other Me and I still had no muscle pains, blisters, and no headaches.

By the evening the clouds cleared out, and the view of the city at the foot of the mountain appeared. Imagine this sight: sky lit by million stars above our heads, and the city lit by million lights at our feet. This was priceless!

Finally we zipped our tent and sleeping bags for our last all-night sleep.

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