Not as steep as yesterday but just as unyielding. We march up from our previous camp a little worse for wear; the misting rain has turned to frost overnight freezing our tents and ensuring none of our stuff has an opportunity to dry. Still, we bundle up as the camp is quickly packed up. I feel as though this mountain may kill me today. My legs are sore and I seem to be stricken with some severe nausea. I can’t keep down my breakfast and still want to be sick. So I head off upwards with an increasing desire to lie down under a rock and die.
The pace is slow but I still need frequent rests as we wind up through an increasingly barren wilderness. We find our way to the top of the ridge. What a relief, our lunch stop is within reach and our accent has temporarily halted. Following along the top it, fighting a strong wind, we find our lunch stop. A lone tent set up on a small plateau. We huddled inside for a quick lunch although I was still not in the mood for food. Instead, I force down some crackers before we continue to the Lava Tower.
It is an impressive spire of stone sitting alone out from the mountainous landscape. At some point, this must have been part of a greater wall of rock that once flowed from this dormant volcano. It is a volcano you know. The last time this thing erupted was less than 200,000 years ago! OK, when I say it out loud that doesn’t seem so bad but still. Climbing our way to the base of the tower puts us at our highest altitude to date 4630 meters above sea level.
Reaching above us into the grey sky, this rock structure is even more impressive up close. After a moment to take it all in we begin our descent to the next camp. They say climb high, camp low. Apparently, it’s good for you so now we are going to undo a lot of our hard work today and descend 654 of the 820 meters we just trudged up. Starting with climbing down the other rocky side of this lava tower.
Down into the valley below we go. When we clear the tower we find ourselves in a narrow valley that leads down back towards that forest. Looking back towards the mountain you can see a massive chuck has been taken out of the rim of Kilimanjaro. Known as the Western Breach, that whole is the result of an explosive event that resulted in the collapse of the western wall of the rim. The resulting rock slide ripped down the mountain tearing this valley out. Now it is rather serene, silent and calm with a small stream trickling down from high above.
We cross the stream and follow our guides across a barren rocky landscape. It is a gentle downhill walk, I feel like at this rate it will take forever to descent 600 meters but my curiosity is soon answered. The steepness of our descent soon increases. We start climbing down another rocky face and find our surroundings changing rapidly. This new valley is much more fertile, the large ferns are back along with the thick fog. Somewhere here is another stream, I can hear it not too far away, we are following it along towards our destination. Down the slippery rocks and muddy paths, we keep moving.
It would appear that I should have selected surefootedness as one of my character feats because my footing is a little uneasy… I manage to roll high and stay on my feet until we reach Barranco Camp. We check in and then find our campsite on the other side of a small hill. It is a rocky plain on a slight slope. There is a lot of fog obscuring the view but it is always nice to arrive at camp and relax for a bit. My stomach is feeling a little better but dinner is still a challenge, hopefully, this will pass by tomorrow because I’ve been told tomorrow morning will put our climbing up until today to shame.
Total Distance Travelled: 10 km
Total Altitude gained: 166 meters