Kilimanjaro Day 4: Hitting a Wall

We wake up to a beautiful day. The fog has dissipated and the sun is out to welcome us to this side of the mountain. In front of us is an open vista, where the rock ends a plain of endless clouds begins.  Behind us is the mountain’s peak, reaching high above us. You know for all this hiking it really doesn’t seem like we are getting any closer to the top.  On one side is the valley that leads us here and on the other… a vertical rock wall.

Yes, as it turns out the only way forward is up. Basically, the route we are on begins on one side, the opposite side, of the mountain and we need to work our way around to the appropriate place to actually summit. On one hand, it is a stunning route on the other, it is a route that offers a few challenges. The Breakfast Wall is one of these challenges.  It is just short of free climbing at some points but there isn’t really a choice because it is the only way out.

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They call it the breakfast wall, I can only assume because it is the first thing we are going to do here on day 4.  We are off, out of camp down a rocky path toward the base of this wall. Ahead of us, we can see a line of hikers ahead of us illustrating the path we were about to take.  It winds up the face of the wall. This is no place for those walking poles that are so popular elsewhere on this trail. You need you all your limbs to conquer this rocky path.

We begin the climb; it is challenging scrambling up rocks but actually a refreshing change of pace. Traversing the rocky path towards the top of this cliff face; pulling ourselves up, sliding down, shimming along, honestly, I didn’t think that was even a thing people did outside of video games. For a brief moment on that mountain, I felt a bit like Nathan Drake. Then I realized I probably wouldn’t survive an explosive train crash or plane crash or château collapse… back to climbing then.

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The view as we climb higher is stunning. We can see the camp where we started, now totally empty, it seems like we have come so far. Then I look up and realize there is plenty more to go.  What is amazing about it is with the amount of effort just about everyone is expanding to make it to the top of this obstacle the small army of porters is making short work of the thing, hoping effortlessly from rock to rock. Unhindered by the large packs or uneven loads they are burdened with.

Finally two hours later we find our way triumphantly to the top of the breakfast wall. Sitting on top I am filled with a sense of accomplishment. I think it makes the view even more special knowing we have put that challenge behind us. After a moment to catch our breath and appreciate the view then we continue to our next camp. It is not too far; in fact, we can see the ridge for here. It is only 2 valleys from where we are now. That is right, all that hard work to get out of that last valley only to walk down into another.

An Illustration
Seriously, who designs these things?

The environment changes quickly. The lush greens of the last valley are gone replaced with a sandy terrain littered with boulders and the occasional shrub. We trudge up a hill and find ourselves crossing an undulating plateau that seems devoid of all life. Then we descend on the other side one more time following a stream.  It isn’t far but it is tricky in places. The rocky path downhill is slippery in places and badly defined in others. At one point we pass a sign that indicates the trail behind it is closed for being “too dangerous” and I can’t help but think how much worse could it possibly be?

The stream we were following meets another at the base of the last climb of the day.  This is the last source of fresh water between this point and our final descent. Porters are hurrying up and down this steep hike carrying plastic jugs.  We have elected to complete our route in 7 days instead of 6 which means we have come to the end of today’s adventure.  We get ourselves to the top and find our way to our camp amongst the rocks.

Total Distance Travelled: 5 km

Total Altitude Gained: 19 m (yeah, that’s right and you can’t be as disappointed as I was)

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