Gusting winds, scree from the rim, 1285m (4215 ft) altitude gain, rapidly freezing water, mid-night summit-day start, and loss of appetite due to mountain sickness – will strip you naked of attitude or ego if you got any.
And I have surrendered myself to her as she makes no allowance for mental weakness. There is nothing I can do at this point than just putting one foot in front of another, head down and hope that I can see her peak. Ten grueling hours later, I made it to the roof of Africa and I choked. I wanted to cry, but I had no strength. I called my parents from the peak and told them I made it. It was the best feeling ever.
Summit day is 80% mental toughness and 20% physical strength. I once again have proven to myself that “I can do it”.
Day One: I had picked up a copy of “The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior: An Autobiography” from B&N the night before my flight to Tanzania. I usually don’t read on plane but this time, I was keen to read this book. And this book grabbed my attention like nothing before, and I couldn’t just put the book down. My hotel in Moshi town is 45mins drive from Kilimanjaro Airport. And I was keeping my eyes sharp to spot Massai youth herding their cattle. For a moment I forgot I had come to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro. I was obsessed with the thought of Massai tribe. To me, the Massai community represented something more than just native African tribe. I guess it has got to do with my village childhood.
Route: Lemosho Glades (2,100m) to Mti Mkubwa (Big Tree) (2,750m)
The drive from Moshi to Lemosho via Londorossi park’s gate (2,250m) took about three hours with a 4×4 vehicle. At the Londorossi gate (2,250m) we acquired our climbing permit and registered. Original plan was to start the hike from 2100 meters but the road was really bad and we had to start hiking from 1800 meters.
To reach Lemosho Glades the vehicle follows a narrow trail leading through corn and potato plantations. On arrival at this departure point, Raj,our awesomest guide, sorted out all baggage and food that needs to be carried up the mountain. We received a lunch pack, and headed into the forest towards the first camp, Mti Mkubwa (2,750m).
This is the only route on Kilimanjaro where you walk through a series of valleys, resulting in a frequent gain and loss of altitude. Tents were pitched at the camp, while water was collected and meals prepared for supper. We got to the camp site after sunset. And the overnight temperatures reached freezing levels, and we had to bundle up that night.
Route:Mti Mkubwa (2,750m) to Shira 1 (3,500m)
It was a tough uphill hike and we took about 8 hours to get to the camp site. Don’t take the need for anaerobic workout easily. I had to take multiple breaks as my legs were giving up every few steps. It was a freezing night with rain, followed by frost. Third day in a row, I couldn’t fall asleep. It must be a combination of jetlag and altitude.
Route:Shira 1 (3,500m) to Shira 2 (3,850m)
I felt the altitude sickness for the first time. I was a little disorientated. I was joking to my friends that I feel like moon walking. Things got better after 2 hours. Overall, the hike was pleasant and short. Shira 2 is where people from other routes join Lemosho route. So, the campsite was a little crowded. But, I enjoyed talking to fellow hikers, after all, the best part of travelling is meeting new people.
Route: Shira 2 to Barranco Hut (3,948m )
The day was very difficult with stomach cramps. First half of the day was an incline of 45-50 degrees angle for about 4 hours. I managed to do well in the morning. However, second half of the day got me. It was up and down hills with drastic altitude changes. I got knee pain, head ache and nausea.
Route: Barranco Hut to Karanga Valley (3,963 m)
Barranco Wall hike was totally awesome and a little intimidating. One of the porters, actually dropped a bag that came rolling down the hill. What if that was a person??? !!!! After the wall climbing, we hiked down into the Karanga Valley. They day had few ups and downs and crossing many small streams before crossing the river just before camp. I had taken diamox 250mg this morning because i was sick last night. And I regretted the decision. I had some severe side effects, the entire face and neck felt like I had just come out of dentist’s office with strong tingling feeling. So, i discontinued the tablet immediately. For an average hiker, today should have taken 3-4 hours, but for us it took about 6 hours. Partially because all of us had one problem or the other.
Route: Karanga Vallley to Barafu Hut ( 4,600 m)
The climb was through rocky and barren terrain on the way to Barafu Camp. This camp site is a very cold and windy area. I was nauseous and couldn’t eat dinner the night before. I ate a few potatoes and Raj made me ginger-garlic-lemon mix to fight nausea which worked like a magic. I made it to 4600 m as smoothly as I can in less than four hours. Dinner was served at 5:30PM today and we had a quick three hours sleep before starting the summit hike at around midnight.
Route: Karanga to Summit
I am humbled to reach the top. I called my mother, who is my primary source of inspiration in life, from Satellite phone to let her know that I made it.
Day Eight and Nine:
These days are dedicated to going down hill all the way to the entrance. Very very hard on knees and toes and they are hurting like crazy. But, the sense of accomplishment is much higher and no pain can distract me from it.
To read about how I prepared for this trip, read here.