Jonesy's Kilimanjaro Climb Diary!

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by _Jonesy, Jul 1, 2011.

  1. _Jonesy

    _Jonesy Member

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    Hey guys this is going to be my diary from my epic journey to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro! Going to do it in parts, already rewritten Day 1 and working on Day 2 now. Will post the days as I write them and I hope you enjoy!

    For those of you who are inspired by my story you can donate here as I am still trying to reach my target for the charity I did it for :) Cheers!

    Donation Page

    Enjoy!
     
  2. _Jonesy

    _Jonesy Member

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    Kilimanjaro Climb Dairy – Sunday 19th June – Saturday 23rd June 2011

    Prologue

    Climbing a mountain is a very strange endeavour for the trekkers involved. You have the physically challenges as well as the social and mental difficulties faced throughout the entire venture. You have the jubilation and excitement, right down to the nerves and fear due to the extreme conditions faced. Frostbite could shake your hand at the top; sunburn could greet you at the bottom. Altitude can play with your mind and lack of sleep can make you weary and tired. On top of this, climbing a mountain can be terrifying for those scared of heights, as at plenty of times a sheer drop awaits you with open arms should you make a simple bad step.

    I neither want this diary to be depressing or a twisted romantic tale of the trust. I want you to read this and know what I felt and what I went through to reach the top of the world’s highest freestanding mountain; Kilimanjaro. I want you to know how amazing it felt to be at 5896m above sea level, and how much of an achievement it was to make it at all. Above all else, I want to be able to read this in 10, 20, 30, or more years and remember exactly what I did.

    You are about to join me on my epic 7 day climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, and I hope you enjoy.
     
  3. _Jonesy

    _Jonesy Member

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    Day 1 – Cloud Forest.
    Machame Gate to Machame Huts. Time Taken: 9 Hours. Altitude Reached: 3000m AMSL.


    Waking up after a good night’s sleep in a comfy hotel room is a stark contrast to what I would be experiencing the very night and the 6 nights to follow that. I awoke to some excitement with an undertone of nerves.

    “I can’t believe I am finally starting the climb”

    I thought to myself, feeling something I have only ever felt before first going on a big rollercoaster. Infact, that was the best way to describe it; while others felt their own personal emotions, I was excited while nervous. I kind of knew what to expect I believed I would be fine, but I was entering an unknown territory and placing my life and trust in the hands of something almost out of my control. I couldn’t wait to begin, but I also felt so nervous I struggled to eat a great deal that morning. I was distracted, my mind playing through all the potential emotions I would encounter and considering how mentally stable I was to decide my body should go through with this.

    A few photos after breakfast and everybody seems calm as we get on the coach for the hour journey to Machame gate – the starting point for our climb. The people in our group varied vastly. We had larger, muscly guys who looked confident of themselves, we had skinny guys who were distracting themselves by enjoying a bit of banter and chatting away. We had small girls who looked more suited to the charity work than a dangerous climb up a mountain as well as a few overweight girls who would definitely struggle. Reaching the top would be a huge achievement for these people. With that said, the company Kilele Africa and the route does have a high success rate so we will see what people can accomplish. Either way, this is clearly going to be a life-changing event for many of us.

    We arrived at the gate at around 9am. The gate was closed to stop the street sellers from heckling us. I didn’t understand this, why would we bring money on a mountain where the weather will likely destroy it and further, why would we buy a painting just before starting? I digress; the starting point is beautiful, well-kept and adorned with signs outlining safety and guidelines. For example, 10 years of age is the limit on people attempting to reach the summit. I know from reading that a 7 year old is the unofficial youngest and 11 the official youngest. For trivia sake, people in wheelchairs, people that are blind and people up to 81 years of age have climbed this mountain from one route or another. If they can do it, I sure as hell can too!

    Incidentally, while waiting I can see a very young boy waiting and looking very cool and confident with his dad. He will be on our daily route so it will be interesting to see him throughout the week.

    And so soon after preparing and using the last real toilet facilities we begin. We begin walking on a 4x4 road that is reasonably steep. I decided to stay nearish the back in order to pace myself and talk to some of the new people I have not met in my group yet. Mostly girls, so plenty of things to interest me here. About 5 minutes in and I already felt a bit tired but I think that is a slightly mental thing due to the epic trek ahead as soon after I felt normal again. I would describe myself of average fitness because I hate cardio, but eat healthy and walk a lot as well as training at the gym. I felt fit enough for sure, but I still knew instantly that this would be difficult.

    Soon we found the end of the 4x4 path, marking the first kilometre killed out of approximately 40km. The path narrowed to a roughly single or double file corridor that would lead us to the top. It is basically a cut out of the rainforest to allow trekkers to know the route to Machame Huts at 3000m. The beauty of the forest is limitless. The trees rise high above us and some sunlight pierces the leaves and branches to reveal streaks of light and, in some places, little rainbows. Can’t find the bloody pot of gold though .

    The fauna is diverse and beautiful, so I used my camera to take a few shots albeit not as many as I would have liked. The animal life in the forest is small, down to birds cherping and large ants en masse. As we stopped to look at a pool of hundreds of these, one climbed up a girl and bit her, causing her to itch for the next few hours at least. There are meant to be Columbus monkeys about but I haven’t managed to see one yet.

    Oh and for those who believe in signs and all that jazz, as I heard a slight cracking noise above me I thought nothing but being at the back of the pack only a few seconds later the noise grew and I turned to see a huge branch fall onto the path below only 2 metres behind me. If we had been 10 seconds previous that would have hurt somebody badly. A sign to turn back perhaps?

    I got to talk to several people in the first few hours. Everybody seems really friendly for the most part and it is good to re-mix the group as the group I had been in for 2 weeks was begin to annoy me. A few judgemental people and annoying ones was as bad as they came but it was nice to get to know some new people for sure. I talked to a few girls, one is in my OUTAC group and is loud and a bit boyish, but nice all the same. Another is quite friendly and I find her best mate very attractive, but also very quiet. I would say there are only 2/3 girls I like in this group, 2 Irish and 1 from Kent so a little posh I guess. Will hope to get to know them better as time goes on.

    Going to the toilet in the rainforest is funny, mainly because of the contrast between the endeavour of the girls against the ease of access for the lads. Find a bush and pee rather than find a bush, undress, squat, wipe and hope to god nobody sees you. All a good laugh after we get used to it though!
    Lunch was also early. The tent was a squeeze but we got salted popcorn and hot drinks first, followed by chicken salad and rice. This is easily the best meal I have had since arriving in Tanzania.

    Now you are thinking how the hell do we have tents and meals prepared? There are about 30 trekkers yet around 85 porters and guides. This number is insane and is necessary for the transportation of the tents, food, cooking equipment, main bags etc. These porters quickly gain my respect as the loads they carry are extortionate and a large number of them die on the mountain every month due to these weights causing them to fall either due to a misstep or exhaustion. Onto the guides, they are very friendly and enjoy talking to us. Epa, the head guide, says we are one of the few groups that likes to have anything to do with the guides. I find this a shame as they are all so friendly and smiley.

    There is not much to say about day one after this, walk, rest, drink, piss, walk, climb and feel knackered for about 6 hours until the vegetation began to change. The trees got smaller, they looked less healthy like something out of a horror film. Long dangling vines would fall from the more exposed branches until we got to lower shrubbery. We were now exiting the cloud forest and entering camp 1 at 3000m AMSL.

    Entering the camp we all had a little celebration before signing in and finding our tents. The tents were 2 man with enough room for us and our main bags. I hate tents, I am usually cold and too tall for them so getting in and out is a pain. Pretty much unpacked and went straight for food, which was basically the same as lunch but I wasn’t complaining. Also got to sit opposite the pretty girl but she barely said a word and all I got was a few catches of her eye now and again. We managed to persuade her Sumu Sana meant the food was very nice and got them to say it to the porters. We giggled as we knew it meant very poisonous from our Swahili lessons but let the joke run. Wonder how long it will last before they realise they’re getting funny looks back haha. Also, the girl is called Naomi and is the same girl who found me in a club and talked to me drunk for an hour. She doesn’t remember but it seems she needs all the alcohol to be able to speak properly.

    About 2 hours later I headed off to bed. Sharing a tent with Chris is a good bet, great guy I get on with well and very organised and doesn’t fuck about. Definitely the kind of person I’d like to spend time with on a mountain as it is a good balance between peaceful sleep and good conversations. We are also quite likeminded too. Really happy here.

    Day 1 out – goodnight!
     
    #3 _Jonesy, Jul 1, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2011
  4. _Jonesy

    _Jonesy Member

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    Day 2
     
    #4 _Jonesy, Jul 1, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2011
  5. B_subgirrl

    B_subgirrl New Member

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    Looking forward to hearing about this. I've been excited for you for months! Hope you had a fantastic time.
     
  6. LaFemme

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    I also can't wait to hear more. Very exciting and something I wish I could do!
     
  7. _Jonesy

    _Jonesy Member

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    Day 2 – The Long Climb to the Shira Plateau.
    Machame Huts to Shira Huts. Time Taken: 6 hours. Altitude Reached: 3850m AMSL


    Would just like to start by thanking LaFemme for a very very generous donation to my charity. I don't expect anybody to donate but it really means a lot and will go a long way, believe me. I will show you the photos to explain that more clearly when I figure out the best way to do it! Thanks again, LaFemme.

    Last night it was explained in the briefing that we would be awoken at 7am for shorter but more arduous day of incline up to the Shira plateau. The Shira plateau is invisible from the towns away from the mountain, simply looking like a continuation of the peak itself. This is how I envisaged it, a long walk with few flat calms, I did not expect to see a vast alpine desert to cross in which the middle resides the main peak of Kibo itself. To get there though, we had to pass up through a rather dangerous section of rocky cliffs surrounded by what is left of all vegetation nearer to the base. This vegetation is always a cool reminder of how far we have come which, despite all our efforts, is so far very little.

    What an awakening it was too. Although we are all eager to set off I myself never survive well on mornings. Usually my body is not hungry when just starting up but will be an hour after, so I need to force feed myself breakfast which my body very rarely appreciates, causing me to feel relatively sick for the immediate aftermath before feeling hungry due to not actually eating enough at the time. My body serves to annoy me sometimes but, I have a mountain to climb. I ate what food I could and packed my bag before putting it on the mat for the porters to carry. Sometimes I feel like it is cheating to have porters carry my things up for me but it is mountain safety policy… well… let the poor porters suffer for the sake of our safety. The culture shock still gets to me sometimes.

    I also had to wait to get my camelback filled as well as backup water flasks. I prefer the flasks but in terms of ease of use being able to have a giant straw coming out of my backpack is beneficial. It can however, be a pain to use as it takes a lot of energy and the main times I find myself out of breath are infact while walking and trying to suck up the water. Just another chance to train my lungs, I suppose.

    We were also warned that today is the day some may start to get AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness. This is a fancy way of saying bloody awful headaches the likes of the worst hangover and vomiting that would put anybody off continuing. If this became severe, our trek would be over but no amount of training can prepare or prevent this sickness. Some people get lucky and are ‘built for the mountain’, not getting any illness. Some people, even pro athletes, can get it horrifically and must stop. It is a roll of the dice and all you can do is hope and remember, Everest Base Camp is actually higher than the peak of Kilimanjaro.

    So we began. First we crossed a small field in front of which looked like a never ending stairway to heaven, through the clouds with no break in sight. This is what the first hour quickly became, dangerous rocky and narrow; a small path that never had any break in its harsh incline. We stopped for a break at what can only be described as a rock slide and we were surprisingly calmly warned that slipping here would probably mean at least a broken limp or two. Fair enough. A few pictures later and we continued, myself at the front for no reason other than I get sick of stepping on peoples shoes and I am fairly sure they feel the same way. I like my own uninterrupted pace, it can be slow but I hate having to be careful for others steps where, although I would like to help them, I prefer to go into a kind of trance where I can concentrate but also go on as I would. Maybe a bit selfish but my pace has for some reason become one of the frontline ones and staying at the back actually seems to make me more tired.

    Soon we approached a group of people we recognised with one of our guides. 2 of the females of our group were, for lack of a better word, very unfit. Somewhat overweight and clearly struggling to keep motivated on the first day, they were instructed to start ahead early so that we may all meet up halfway and get to the camp together. I have a lot of respect for these people in that, I like them as friends and they clearly have a huge amount of determination behind them to keep on pushing. I am confident they will not break, no matter how difficult it seems, and they will do their best to make it to the summit. One of the girls name is Bernadette and her friend Kelly actually stayed with her. I have been working with these 2 for a couple of weeks now in Africa for the work placement and they have a heart of gold. I really hope Bernadette (the worse off of the two) makes it.

    There is now a lighter hue on the rocks and leaves signalling the fact we are approaching the top of the clouds where the sun can shine through. We all look forward to seeing the sun for the first time on the mountain, lighting up the beauty of our surroundings and giving us clear line of sight at the majestic views we are to uncover. Not much further now, and the trees will be gone, replaced by awesome views and expansive spaces of a fossilised glacier, with only the rocks remaining. Kilimanjaro used to be very white, indeed, there was in the 19th century much debate over whether they were clouds or whether snow had found a home in Africa. Many called the idea of snow on Kilimanjaro ludicrous, but when the pioneering teams made it to the summit it was indisputable, glaciers and snow blessed all the mountain on a continent where this was thought impossible. Forward to today, and these beautiful glaciers are melting – the Shira plateau used to be a glacier I believe, which is why all the boulders are spread across it. As little as 20 years ago infact and, in about 10-20 years, Kilimanjaro will be bare of all white. I find this a huge shame and I am glad to see it before it is taken by our global climate.

    Continuing up and I am getting very tired indeed. Tired and hot, moreso hot though as when walking I quite clearly boil. I take off one of my base layers to find that my under armour is covered in sweat. I got a photo of it, as it explains why I haven’t needed the toilet yet. I wonder how many layers I will need on summit night. I feel much better for drinking and taking that off and I continue until finally, the bright blue sky appears above our heads. This is the awe-inspiring moment where it dawns on me:

    “Holy &*£$, we just climbed through the cloud level”

    As I realise how high we even are. It is an awesome fact, and already the mountain is changing the way I feel and my character in general. I look at things from a different view, and while I still have this challenge to accomplish, things do seem more precious and beautiful on a whole.

    This is definitely a photo opportunity as, just around the corner we see where we are headed and the clouds as they brush across the front of us. Beautiful but soon we want the sun to disappear as it must have doubled the heat. I need to soon refill my camelback as the water supply is being drained much faster now as we keep climbing. Our path has changed now, where before we were climbing up a rocky section with parts of the forest, now we are weaving around the ouside of a cliff. 1 foot to our left, and we fall, 2 to our right, and we hug the wall. The path doesn’t seem overly dangerous, but the danger is there and very apparent. At some sections we must literally grab the sides and step up very narrow sections. I can’t help but wonder how so few people fall here, but best not to think of such things and focus on the next section. It is 4 hours into the day now but it feels longer than the day before, maybe because it has been divided into different types of landscape across the path I don’t know, but we finally see a camp that signals our dinner time. Great, I’m starved!

    As it is sunny we sit outside, with the great birds watching us as we eat. I can’t work out if they are waiting for the food or for people to fall and kill themselves; they look big enough to enjoy either. A bit morbid, onto our food. We get chicken, hardboiled eggs, soup (cucumber, I think), biscuits, bread and rice. Enough to keep us going, wouldn’t mind a Nandos though.

    Not much to say about this part. We eat, chat, go to the toilet before being told ‘Twende twende’ or ‘go, go’. Time to go. We are told we are only about 2 hours from camp now, putting us up for an arrival at about 3pm. In the short time it has taken us to get to the dinner spot from meeting them, Bernadette, Kelly and now 2 others never made it to dinner camp despite us being there for a whole hour. We assume they are eating elsewhere but it doesn’t really make sense… then again maybe it does, as I know Bernie has been quite embarrassed about her speed up to now although we do our best to encourage her sincerely!
    I need to focus on my own hide for the moment though, as the rocky danger path continues with more of our rock-climbing esque manoeuvres. It is quite samey though, just keep walking, ‘pole pole’ (slowly slower) up this cliff to the plateau above. Finally, we are told we are there, at the top and all we need now is to walk along a flat path to the camp only 30 minutes away. This calls for a photo moment I think! As taking photos we notice someone. A huge overbearing presence, staring at us, breathing down our neck, challenging us, daring us, telling us to have a go, if we think were hard enough. This is the first time we have seen Kibo, the monstrous peak which we have yet to battle. It suddenly seems much bigger and for some, a little nerving. For me, I’m quite looking forward to it, I like the challenge, and I will beat that mountain.

    We arrived at camp at about 20 past 3 in the afternoon to again find our tents set up and popcorn with hot drinks ready for us. Really think these porters deserve more than they receive, first class service, kind of makes me feel like I am personally achieving less but it is for the charity also and many of us wouldn’t make it without them! We settled in for the night, taking in the beautiful views and trying to catch our breath. I am not kidding, walking swiftly just a small distance at this altitude means I have to stop and really catch my breath. I know why, it is all to do with the altitude and there being less oxygen up here and my body will apparently adjust to this but right now, it is a bitch. Dinner is basically the same again but the brief is different. Tomorrow we awake at 6.30 (joy) and will have a very difficult day for some of us both physically and mentally as we trek for another 10 hours at an altitude which may toy with our heads and health. Sounds good to me.
     
  8. _Jonesy

    _Jonesy Member

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    Day 3 – Appraoch Kibo! And ascend to 4600m.
    Shira Huts to Barranco. Time Taken: 10 hours. Altitude Reached: 4600m. Altitude Gained: 125m… what?


    I’ll start by explaining why we only ascend 125m even though going up 1000 to 4600m. Acclimatisation. This is our body adjusting to the changes in levels of oxygen through allowing our red blood cells to carry more, or something like that. Basically we will feel like shit today at 4600m which is why we go back down to sleep at about 4000m. Makes sense.

    So today is quite obviously going to be a long and for the first part, boring one. We ascend all 800m or so on a very very very calm incline along a very flat plane. It is just walking walking and more walking in the heat, sun and dust. Not that I am complaining, I look forward to it again quite a bit. I am eager to set off, I focus on my breathing deeply to help acclimatise and I take some paracetamol to try and counter any potential headaches.

    We start off with a lot of banter. The group have invented ‘Fashion Points’ which will be tallied at the celebration meal at the bottom where the winner will get a free drink. At 60p a drink I think it serves its purpose more on the mountain than the prize. Apparantly I’m on -5 as well for zipping my RAB jacket down too far even though I need the ventilation haha. Good times.

    I am at the front talking to our guide at first but after about 2 hours I drop back and talk to a few of the girls at the back. The group is now in 3 parts, the group with Bernie and a few others, a middle group and the frontal group. Dictated by levels of fitness and determination, I stay with the middle group to talk to a few of them. They have a bit of Michael Jackson and Bob Marley playing out on their iPod’s speakers which get us all laughing singing and even the porters join in. Quite a good boost in motivation finds us catching up to the other group quite quickly, as Kibo becomes even larger in our faces.

    One more hour until lunch we are told, as we are at an altitude of about 4400m currently. It has been long so far, and is only going to get longer but on the plus side so far I feel fine. Only about 3 of us really feel bad, one being sick and the others complaining of nausea and headaches. We feel for them and advise them to drink up and keep pushing in that at least tonight they will feel 10 times better. The 2 main people who feel ill are a nice Irish blonde called Sophie and an Irish lad called Chris. Maybe it is an Irish weakness for altitude? Lol I’m just glad all I’m suffering from is the hungries.

    We continue round the path as we see where 3 of the routes meet up at a crossroads before going off in other directions again. We are heading for Lava Tower, a large structure formed by lava however many years ago. It looks beautiful already but frankly we all want to stop to devour our lunches. Yesterday was the last time we would ever get a prepared meal on tables and chairs so we eat our little packs of food where we fall on the scree and shales. I still feel fine but a few others are now complaining of illness, so half of the group are told to take a lower route while the rest of us visit Lava Tower, one of the great landmarks of Kilimanjaro.

    The walk to it though is a damned sight harder than I imagined. It looked so close but made me so tired that when we finally arrived I actually crashed to the floor drinking all the little water I had left. I recover and get up in time to take a few photos, in which I clearly look a little dishevelled. A few don’t even have the energy to do this, one of whom is the Irish Chris who refused to take the lower route. He is a fighter, but he is told he needs to recover to make it to the summit. I think he is too determined to give up though. I also see my friend messing with a rubber duck which I say I need to take photos of. I don’t know why I didn’t bring little trinkets up with me, brilliant idea. I also love the camera I am carrying. It is my Dads but I chose it for him, a Lumix by Panasonic and it takes some fantastic photos. Hope you like them if you see them!

    We don’t really stick around as we still have another 5 hours of going downhill from here, something I am not really prepared for as it is basically straight downhill about 200m from Lava Tower at 4600m. Seriously, it doesn’t look too far but it is scary stuff. I go a lot slower than everyone downhill and I don’t know why but if it stops me falling I’m all for it. We get to the bottom in time to refill our water which we must purify, and then need to go up about 100m and an hour before going back into the cloud line to the camp next to the Barranco Wall, our next target.

    This little incline section isn’t really tough as such, but we are all starting to feel a little tired at this point. Suddenly we stop, we turn, and we hear a loud rumbling sound akin to that of a jet taking off. We see someone pointing to the Western Ridge on Kibo, as we see a huge landslide falling down the mountain. I take a photo of the debris as we begin to think these warnings are telling us to get off the mountain while we still can lol. The guides say they hope nobody was on that route at the time, as the Western Ridge is where the majority of fatalities have happened for trekkers climbing Kilimanjaro. We are told to keep moving, and we are far enough away that it won’t affect us but if darkness falls over the camp before we get there it might get dangerous.

    We start to climb down into the clouds and trees that resemble pineapples now. This is also the cold side of the mountain where most of the glaciers should be, but we can’t see any now, another result of the climate. We still get the cold rush of air occasionally as wind passes over the glaciers on Kibo and down the mountain to us. This reminds me that we are out of the warmer zones now which show my main weakness. My body hates the cold, bad circulation in my hands and feet and lips means I get quite uncomfortable in it, but we will see what happens later.

    We keep going down as Sophie and Chris begin to be violently sick. We are only an hour from camp but it makes me quite grateful that the altitude is being kind to me so far, and they really do look to be suffering. I have to pass them as they are projectile vomiting and it is not a pleasant sight. The mountain is playing with them, trying to force them back but they keep going until we finally, just as it is getting dark, arrive at the camp. It is too dark and misty to see tomorrows challenge, but I think there is a well-deserved rest in order. Dinner is soon after followed immediately by bed for most of us, and I am told it is not until 11pm (bearing in mind it gets dark in Africa at 6pm where we were) until Bernie arrives at camp.

    Day 3 has been hard, but apparently it will only get harder. It is also about -5 outside and I am struggling to keep warm and sleep, but eventually I nod off. Night.
     
  9. LaFemme

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    I just love reading about your climb - I feel like I'm there. I really hope you can post pics - I'd love to see what you saw!
     
  10. _Jonesy

    _Jonesy Member

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    Figured out the best way, going to put them all on a post after the last day to make things easier. Sort of like an incentive to keep going :p

    I'm trying to make it as detailed as possible but also breaking a lot of literary rules to do with jumping from first to third person. Trying to tell a story for others at the same time as writing a personal account for myself to read in 10 to 20 years.

    Will probably refine it though, half-rushing it at the moment. Well not rushing but, I wrote 3000 or so words today alone. Gets tiring :p
     
  11. _Edu

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    First of all, let me tell you... You are a talented writer, even though English is not my first language, it was easy to read plus I really felt I was there too; your words gave my mind an idea of what you saw (I believe is way more beautiful than I can imagine).

    Its really cool that you deciced to make a diary, because it will be amazing to read it 10 years later or so, and bring that memories back! :smile:

    Also this diary is kinda inspirational! Now I feel I want to climb a mountain too (Kilimanjaro is out of my possibilites now, what can I do, no time and its faaaar away from me)... I was chatting with one of the maids and she told me there's this mountain, which has a really cool myth about why it has plenty of fruit (I'll give you details on bbm :tongue:)... Let's see what I do... Of course I'll need tons of strenght but I'm willing to do it! :wink:
    I hope that living on a city that is located +2200m above sea level will be useful. :rolleyes:

    I'm really looking forward to read the next posts! :biggrin1:
     
  12. _Jonesy

    _Jonesy Member

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    Thanks Edu for your kind words but I am still my own worst critic and I feel I can write more carefully next time. Hopefully.

    As for the inspiration you are welcome. Kilimanjaro is a good way to go, and is probably only a similar distance to me anyway. Took me 9 hours to get there by flight from Amsterdam.

    Either way, let me know what your thoughts are on your idea and I hope it goes well :) Sorry btw, 2200m AMSL won't make a huge difference :p Depending on the Mountains height anyway, if you go past 4000m it is still a huge body shock :p THe first night I really could not catch my breath!
     
  13. _Jonesy

    _Jonesy Member

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    Sorry this is so late, I have been very busy. I think I have skipped a day unless I did the Barranco Wall but I feel anybody interested in this will want to see this part mostly anyway!

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    Day 5/6 – The Summit


    Although this is somewhat a spoiler, this day was by far the most gruelling and difficult while fusing itself with the previous 24 hours to give us a mammoth 48 hour day of trekking, more or less.

    It started on the cold, hard foothills on the side of the mountain. Everything was frozen, there was mist consuming the landscape and the ground was slanted to such a degree it could not really be recognised by the eye, but gave a feeling of dizziness and loss of balance. Truly, this was the worst morning to awaken as I struggle to force myself to eat the same breakfast as we had always eaten. In response to this, almost everyone’s spirits on the trek were effectively quiet and down as we just wanted to make it to base camp and see the summit. We were close, and we knew it. We kept commenting to each other about how in 24 hours we would almost be at the summit… it felt so close.

    We set off early in the morning along a long, relatively boring section across a barren wasteland where the sun rarely reaches. The glaciers here thrive, whereas the other side of the mountain is dry and arid. Beautifully though the glaciers are, they are very cold, and I had now realised I have a problem. My gloves, the medium thickness ones I had been using thus far on the trek were not thick enough to protect me from these temperatures, evident as my fingers became numb. I tried everything to warm them but they were often cold as we passed this section, and my thicker gloves were not with me as they took up too much space in my daypack. All I could do is endure, and I had a more worrying problem to creep up on me soon anyway. This part of the trek to base camp is actually quite short, due to arrive at the camp at around 1pm. We could actually see the camp on a clear day apparently, so it isn’t too bad.

    However, I begin to feel something on my left foot. Every step I take the sting digs a little deeper and the location could cost me my summit attempt altogether. My Achilles tendon is beginning to hurt on my left foot, so much so by the next break I am basically limping. My guide suggests loosening my boots to alleviate the pressure which does help some, but not totally. I am quite worried that if this gets worse I will fail, and this for me is no option.

    As we approach base camp we feel a mixture of excitement, trepidation and anticipation. I was more excited but you could see a lot of people were nervous, if nothing else about the altitude sickness. We passed trekkers actually coming off the summit, speaking of their ordeal and the sense of awe they experienced at the top. I couldn’t help but look forward to coming down and passing those going up, with the warm sense of achievement that would accompany me.

    One thing though, it was damn cold! Freezing cold. I had all my layers on and without a doubt needed them all. Soon it was time for lunch, which we couldn’t wait to eat before going to bed at around 3 to get some needed sleep. For you see, we start for the summit at midnight in hope of reaching it by sunrise. This means that we would be walking on a minimal amount of sleep which I know for a fact cripples me. We woke up at 6 for a dinner and another pep talk. The guides rallied us, rebuilt our spirit and motivation. It was very much like something out of a film, but by the end of dinner we all felt ready to tackle the beast. We were told we would be awoken again at half past 11. When this knock came, I really would have rather kept sleeping :p

    What I had with me:

    2ltr platypuss bag of water
    2 x 1ltr bottle
    Packed lunch + sugary sweets
    Headtorch
    Camera and iPod (in the pocket of my mid-layer to keep them warm)
    Walking poles

    Wearing:

    Underarmour base shirt
    HH underleggings
    RAB mid-layer
    White Fleece
    North Face down vest
    Hard Shell coat
    2 x insulated trousers
    3 x socks
    Heavy duty gloves
    2 x hat

    I am ready to go.

    So we set off, in the pitch cold darkness. It must have been about -2 at base camp as we left, but I could not really feel it. Nobody could, we had been warned and come well-prepared. My ankle still was a little sore but not as bad as yesterday so I was quite happy about that.

    The first section of the summit attempt was narrow, and rocky. It was single file on a path that zig-zags between the rocks that protrude out of the slope. It was going to be a steep ascent, and it makes the previous days seem easy. Half an hour in and we could see the moon rising, glowing red as the Sun passed to the other side of the Earth. The stars lit up in incredible splendour while we could see the headtorches of other climbers ascending above and behind us. Our guides told us to eat, and to press on as we slowly made our ascent. By this time I realised I was ridiculously hot, amazing as everybody else wanted more layers. I gave my hardshell to a girl and unzipped the rest of my layers. For one I felt much more comfortable. A few people asked me how I was doing it though, I found this amusing.

    The issue with the water is that if you didn’t use it often enough it would freeze the pipe, meaning you could get no water as a result. I had a few near misses with this but luckily my bottles stayed largely unfrozen thank God. My foot was also holding up, although I was always aware of it.

    It was about 3 hours in when the problems really kicked off. At this stage, and at an altitude of roughly 4900m people really began to feel rough. I had to pass people leaning over to be sick, others with their head in their hands due to headache. I heard people complaining of hunger, and lack of sleep. It really was an austere time to be climbing a mountain, but on we pressed. I struggled with a lack of nourishment at the start, and the sugary Haribo really made me feel worse and a little sick. I had a biscuit, but it didn’t do any good. I just had to hope I would make it until 9am. I was focused and determined and by 6 hours into the climb we began to see the sun rising. By this stage though I was feeling so weak I had dropped to the back, resting every few steps with another lad who felt sick and was in a similar position. I should think myself lucky I got no altitude sickness, but the sickness I did get wasn’t at all pleasant.

    As the Sun rose the guides gave us a rally and a speech as we approached what I found the hardest part, the scree. On this your foot glides backwards as you take a step, making it twice as hard to get to Stella Point. I had to stop every 30 seconds or so, as I struggled up and up for about an hour of this crap. The last push I was helped slightly and I just hit the floor at the top so I could rest. A few people around me were being sick, and I began to feel better as I rested, and as I could see Uhuru peak in sight and at about a 40mins walk away. It took around 30 minutes for everybody else to turn up, and we had already missed our sunrise deadline as it was now about 9am. We would be at the summit at 10am so we began our walk up an easier section. I now felt a bit healthier, so I just took it slow and talked to people on the way up. Some people began to feel much worse as they kept on climbing up the last few hundred metres but by this stage nobody was going to fail.

    We kept on going, taking pictures of the awesome views and awesome glaciers. We passed more edges, along a maintained path until then, in the distance, was the sign itself. We approached it with a renewed sense of adventure and passion, and as we arrived we knew that we had succeeded. Pictures were taken, people were crying, people were hugging. It really was a great moment that made all the hardships more than worth going through. Other people followed us, also celebrating, even the American team that had Oxygen Masks on (I consider this cheating, you cheeky Americans) who we congratulated and enjoyed just… a moment of clarity so to speak.

    Now I felt like I could have stayed there all day, but a lot of people were getting very ill and weak and we had to begin our descent. Only 2 hadn’t made it, a girl who injured her shoulder and another who struggled at around 5000m. We knew we would see them back at base camp but hoped they would not be too disappointed! As to come so far, it is a massive shame to fail at the last hurdle.

    We were told to descend quickly, by basically running down the skree, or skiing down it. I was worried about falling etc so took a slower pace, and after a while I got very tired and hungry again. I just sat down and accidentally had a nap on Kilimanjaro at 5000m, LOL. It wasn’t until one of my friends passed me and asked me if I was ok (thought I was dead haha) that I started back down. It took us 4 hours to get back to base camp, along the way meeting up with people. It felt like a lifetime, and we weren’t back until midday.

    When we did get there, it was a moment I will really look back on and smile forever. All the guides said congratulations and applauded us and me specifically, giving me a cup of orange juice and a handshake. It was an awesome feeling which felt as good as the summit itself. I however, was in desperate need of sleep. I got into my tent and just crashed. Straight off to sleep, it felt so good to be back and finished. What I forgot, however, was the fact we needed lunch at 3pm and to set off to the next camp at about 4pm. I woke up at half 3, missed lunch and guess what? Had to endure another 4 hour or so walk without food still!

    I think I was used to it by this point, as I had been running on empty for so long. I ate what little food I had as we began another long tiring walk on a day that genuinely didn’t seem to end. I really just wanted to get back down now. We had done it, yay, now let’s get off this bloody rock!

    The camp we arrived at finally had trees again. It smelt green, albeit raining again. I demolished dinner as we all celebrated our achievement before having the best camping night sleep I ever had.

    By this point I had now climbed one of the largest of the worlds mountains, although one of the safest to do. It still felt like an achievement and I couldn’t wait to get hold of my certificate to show I had actually done it.

    But, I did it!
     
  14. LaFemme

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    Yay!!!! I knew you had done it, but still found myself cheering you on! Wonderful story and I did feel like I was there! Thank you so much for taking me on this journey with you....awesome job and for such a worthwhile cause. You're a good one D, you really are! *hugs*
     
  15. vince

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    Congratulations! That was a good read about your adventure. I hope you have more journeys and continue to chronicle them. You could be an adventure travel writer. Well done!
     
  16. Joll

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    Would love to do this! Fair play, Jonesy. :)
     
  17. _Jonesy

    _Jonesy Member

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    Thanks guys and I will vince! I will try anyway :p

    I might actually write Day 4 as the Barranco Wall was interesting.
     
  18. silvertriumph2

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    Jonesy...that was a fantastic read...thanks for all the details
    for it really gave us a chance to fell like we were making the
    climb with you. I hope you will eventually write about Day 4.
    Before you left you told me what to read up on about the
    climb and I was looking forward to reading your experiences
    at the Barranco Wall.

    Thanks for including us and letting us read about your climb.

    And YES...you DID IT! CONGRATULATIONS!
     
  19. _Jonesy

    _Jonesy Member

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    Barranco Wall Diary

    The night which saw us arrive at the camp did not allow us to visualise the huge wall standing before us. As we found our tents we had no idea what lay just down the hill, and what was staring down at us. Our next challenge, and our most dangerous day yet.

    We awoke to find the ‘cold side of the mountain’ was named such for good reason. The Sun slowly rose from the opposite face, causing the ground to be much colder for longer, and making this morning the hardest to get up on yet. On this day I did not fancy any breakfast, the idea just did not appeal to me at all. When you are that cold, and that uncomfortable, or at least when I am, it is impossible unless you really force yourself. I do not know how some people can be so hardy in the conditions, but I am clearly not that well defined.

    Soon after, we could see the monster – now staring us in the face. The summit and Kibo were very much making themselves aware at this point, staring down at us, constantly daring us to continue, if we thought we could. It’s next obstacle in our path was the Barranco wall. The wall stretched from end to end of the plateau and the only way to progress was to climb hundreds of metres on a near vertical axis. Although experience had allowed guides to find the safest and most simple route there was still a lot of scaling to be done.

    We began our descent to the wall after finding our water refilled. Today is definitely the day that the climb becomes difficult. Whether people want to admit it or not, it was becoming harder. Both psychologically and physically.

    The first steps on the wall were easy enough. It was more or less a steep path leading up and around so that we could find the edge of the mountain. We followed this until we had to climb over our first boulder. Although some of these sections were awkward, we now had the mental issue of heights thrown into the mix, for now when one looked off to their right there would be a nice drop to the bottom. This drop became larger and larger the higher we got, and the danger was very, very real as this section was the one where the majority of porters were to perish. As far as I know no deaths occurred with our group or any group around the time we were there, but we do know it does happen. Even if we do not hear of it.

    The temperature was rising now, which did lift the spirits if only but a little. The Sun was beating down on us as we stopped for food, water and photos. Some of the scenes at this position were breathtaking indeed, as was the task we still had to endure. We approached a section called the hugging rock – I imagine it has been named this as to play down the danger that this section entails, hence why we called it the hells hugging rock. This section was difficult, a rock sticked out in our way that meant, as per the name, that was had to hug and dangle off the rock above an eroded section below us that led straight to the bottom. As per usual with people my age you had the cocky few who acted like they couldn’t die, but honestly, it would have only taken one mistake.

    From here on out the climb seemed a bit more simple, just so long as one doesn’t turn around. It is a few steps and then a small climb. A few more steps, and another small climb. All the way until there it was, exhausted after 4 hours of climbing, we had reached the top. We got a half an hour to take photos (just as the clouds came in to ruin our fun I might add), and then another 4 hours of walking awaited us. We now had to actually descend back to where we started, albeit on a walking route, and then ascend another 200 metres. After all our efforts today we would only be 190m or so closer to the summit than when we started. On the other hand, we were acclimatising. Whatever.

    People still had banging headaches and felt a bit sick, although this would be nothing compared to the summit night. This walk is now the boring part of the day. We walked and talked down a rocky desert section around the mountain, and then down a steeper but more lush and wet section. It is this section in which a poor girl slipped and injured her shoulder, something which would later lead to the end of her summit attempt. After this, it was a short but exhausting (for me) steeper climb up to the camp. Just before tea we arrived at camp, and then we realised… shit, within 24 hours we will be preparing for the summit.
     
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