We have been heading for this for five days now, hiking up hills and across valleys, scaling rock walls and winding our way around this monolith. Day six actually begins late on day five. We are woken from our nap at 10 pm for tea and biscuits. Bundling up in many layers we collect ourselves before we embark. Darkness surrounds us and with only our headlamps and Elias to guide us we begin our trek to the summit.
It is 1200 meters up over just 5 km making for a steep challenge. we hike up out of our campsite through jagged rocks and cross a short is plateau before finding the stone wall we will follow to the summit. A few lights flicker in the darkness above us, the only significant activity in the icy night. these intrepid explorers zigzag slowly up the rock, it is an almost relentless trek uphill, the hours’ pass with little sign of progress as the cold seeps deeper into my bones. We are surrounded by darkness, not even the moon offering up enough rays to reveal our progress. My headlamp only offers a few meters of insight but it is without context in this sea of blackness.
just don’t think about the cold…
The hours tick by as we continue our assault. In the early hours of the morning, fatigue begins to set in. This seems futile and perhaps stupid. Some members of our expedition are frozen others exhausted and the only thing we know for certain is that we are on the side of a mountain. Yet I cannot fathom the prospect of turning around. We have come so far I refuse to be defeated by this rock. I focus on the ground in front of me and footsteps of our guide; every difficult step and strained breadth is one closer to the goal.
Just one step in front of the other…
The most difficult part of reaching the summit is the coating of scree that lies just before the summit. Scree for those who don’t know is a mountain’s way of telling people to fuck off. It is rough, uneven, and loosely held together; with every step forward you slide back a little making forward motion evermore challenging now six hours in this insanity. On the bright side? At least this indicates that the end is within reach now.
Just keep moving…
Suddenly the sky’s a little lighter, at first you notice a thin line painted on the horizon. it is the mountain range in the east, and as it becomes more defined so does the summit just above us. The promise of the sun provides renewed conviction, just ahead of us I can see lights disappearing over the edge and all discomfort is temporarily forgotten.
Just a little further…
Summoning everything left we keep pushing, at this point it feels as though we are racing the sun. After seven and a half hours we finally march onto the rim. Just ahead of us is a large green sign signaling that the end of our grueling uphill climb. We have successfully reached Stella Point, 5756 meters high. We take a moment here to recuperate a by grabbing a rock and enjoying a warm cup of tea. I’m feeling beyond accomplished looking down The sun is rising over an entire continent in front of us.
It feels so good to finally be at the top… OK not actually at the top. The highest point on Kibo is actually Uhuru Point. We can see from where we are. It looks like a gentle walk around the rim of this volcano. From here it doesn’t look like too much higher only another 139 meters. I don’t know if it is the exhaustion or lack of oxygen but that number doesn’t seem so high now. We’ve come this far let’s finish this thing.
We follow the rim along, towards the true peak Uhuru. It is a gentle walk compared to what we have conquered so far, but after that last 1300 meters, it is still a challenge. The cold wind cuts deep and I can feel my lungs struggling to properly oxygenate my tired muscles. This thing seems to never end, right up until it does.
There it is, Uhuru Point. the highest point in Africa. Actually the highest point on four continents. I’ve done it. I actually climbed a mountain. and a pretty big one too. OK so it is 200+ on the list of highest mountains, but like 150 of those are in the Himalayas so that shouldn’t count right? I mean I’m trying to feel good about this accomplishment here. Well, it is apparently forth highest by prominence (That is the visible distance from the ground to the summit). That’s right, this thing just sticks up in the middle of Africa with nothing for miles and I climbed the whole thing.
Distance Traveled: 5 KM
Altitude Gained: 1222 M
Feeling pretty good about myself now but we can’t stay here for much longer. Sadly despite this amazing view, we have to head back down. Little known fact: Down is actually harder. The scree has now defrosted and becomes even more unstable than when we began. We find ourselves stumbling down this steep rocky mountainside, I find myself falling down it more often than not. I am not sure I would have made it in one piece if not for our guides providing a steady hand a lot of the way.
By the time we arrive back at Barafu camp, I am exhausted. We have been hiking for over 12 hours. We lie down for an hour, possibly the best hours sleep I have ever had before we get up for a late lunch. After which we have continued our adventure onto Millennium camp which is our final stop for the day. The way down is more expedient than the way up that is for sure.
We rush down. Quickly the low brush returns, followed by the the trees where we find our camp. Set up for us, so we can crash like we so desperately want to. What an incredible day. I conquered a mountain.
Total Distance Traveled: 13 KM
Total Altitude Gained: – 863 M