Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Running Out of Ground - Trekking to the Roof of Africa on Mt. Kilimanjaro - Part 4 - To the Top of the Volcano - Days Six and Seven

There are shorter routes to the top of Kilimanjaro but I was not interested in a 'burn-run' to the top of a mountain - I was not interested in "bagging a peak." I discerned that most of the people I met on the trail were here just to reach the top. I had no such desire and the top of Kilimanjaro was never really a "goal" for me. My goal, if there was one, was to experience the place, to enjoy a hike day after day on such a grand volcanic edifice. I had some resistance to signing on for this trip because arriving at the top held no allure for me. With these pre-conceived "goals" in mind, I was surprised when I realized that failure to reach the top never really crossed my mind, while we were trekking. We had a great guide who was invested in our success and he made the pace reasonable so that it was not only doable, but actually not that hard. And the group I was with was nothing but positive. The cold and the dirt were hard in some ways, the climb was not in any way. Such is the reward of good leadership and pacing!

Day Six - Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp

Karanga morning camp scene.

Sunrise light on Kilimanjaro from Karanga Camp.

This was not our ascent day but we could clearly see the our route up on the mountains east (right) shoulder.

White-necked ravens waiting to pounce on any unattended food.

Check out this view of the mountain from about 14,000 feet. Only one mile up is the top.

Helen R. feeling no pain at 14,000 feet.

Chris H-N. taking photos on the mountain.

George A. was the best dressed man on the mountain. Here he is communing with the rocks.

The trail from Karanga Camp (background) toward Barafu Camp.

The many moods of Mawenzi are shown here in the next set of pictures. This is the third volcano in the area.

Mawenzi.

Late afternoon light. I just loved seeing this 16,893 foot peak from Barafu Camp. This is a big mountain!

Late evening shot back to Mt. Meru.

Day Seven - The Pay-Off - Barafu Camp to Stella Point and Uhuru Peak


Sunrise over Mawenzi on our ascent day, August 19.

The initial climb out of Barafu Camp. I was expecting dread at the thought of climbing 4,000 feet in 2.4 miles, between the elevation of 15,000 and 19,000 feet. But climbing Kili is as much of a mental exercise as it is physical. There simply was no time to think of dread, just one foot in front of the other and keep moving, Po-le. po-le (slowly, slowly).

A quick break for water and a snack. Mawenzi in the background.

Climbers making their way upward. We had a beautiful, exquisite day for the climb.

We passed this group heading up the mountain. I didn't think of it at the time but passing another group was kind of a miracle. The average age of our group was 53 years and if you exclude the two 30-somethings our average age was 59.5. In fact, our guides repeatedly called us 'babu's' (grandfather's). We were some of the oldest people on the mountain - most trekkers were in the 20's and 30's. Obviously, age is just a number.

Upwards toward the sky.

Nearing Stella Point, the lip of the crater rim. Look at the smile on Helen's face!

Sign at Stella Point. To a man, we were all surprised that it only took us 4.5 hours to climb the 4,000 feet.

Chris and Wayne at the top.

Helen and Wayne at Stella Point.

It is another 300 vertical feet and about 1/2 miles up to Uhuru Peak. Along the way we pass the warm edge of the Rebmann Galcier.

The glaciers face is about 50 feet high. They obviously are declining with time.

James celebrating getting his whole crew to the top.

Approaching Uhuru Peak on a gentle grade. The air was quite thin but the sun was out and relatively warm.

Wayne and Helen on the Roof of Africa.

This is what is left of the Furtwangler Glacier on top of the mountain. Note the tents pitched in Crater Camp at the base of the cliff for scale.

Remnants of the Ratzal Glacier on the eastern lip of the crater rim. Note the Ash Pit on the left. See an aerial photo from a jet of this feature taken from one of my previous blog postings here.

I noticed numerous fulgurites on the top of the peak where summer lightning had melted the rocks. This one is about 4 inches across.

Unbelievably, the descent down was equally as hard as the ascent! We took a parallel trail in the cinders and it was a lot of work to descend 4,000 feet on the same day. I found that I was out of breath on this down-hike as much as the up-hike. Like I tell my clients in Grand Canyon, "Down is hard, up is slow."

Back at camp the crew sang Swahili songs for us celebrating with us in our accomplishment. It was a magical moment for us.

2 comments:

Dr. Jack Share said...

Astounding photos and documentary! Congratulations to you both, Wayne and Helen, on your ascent. What a way to spend a birthday!

Gaelyn said...

This is absolutely amazing, outstanding and remarkable! Middle age people rock.