We woke up in the morning at the Horombo camp, 3700 meters in the air, without much to do that day. We were feeling pretty good so long as we ignored the fact that everyone in our room woke up at least three times in the night to go pee. The best part of the night time escapes were the stars. Above the clouds and the lights of the cities below we could see everything in the sky including plenty of shooting stars. I hoped we’d see plenty on our walk up to the summit.
After breakfast we began our walk to zebra rock…a rock that looks like it has the stripes of a zebra. If that doesn’t sound too exciting to you its because it isn’t. The reason it was important was that we were using the “free” day to stretch our lungs and climb higher in altitude. For the first time since starting we were really feeling the altitude and it was making us walk slower and steadier. We climbed to zebra rock and then we, along with only two other climbers, continued further uphill toward the saddle trail…the stretch of land between Mt. Kilimanjaro and its sister peak, Mt. Mawenzi, climbing to somewhere around 4300 meters above sea level. From here we could not only see Mt Kilimanjaro clearly, but we could also see the seemingly vertical climb we’d have to make two days from now, sometime between midnight and 6 am, straight up the side of the volcano.
We spent the rest of the day sitting in the dining hall, playing cards and psyching ourselves out for what was to come. We watched as nearby clouds displayed their lighting for us, at eye level, and made jokes as none of us could control our bladders. It was a rest day and that’s what we did.
Despite the easy day we were still treated as though we were working hard. We were provided with hot water outside our hut in the morning and after our hike. We drank more tea than we could stomach. The meals were huge, all three of them, plus our snacks. We were preparing for a high altitude climb and were made to felt that way. Medical science dictates that above 2500m you are only to increase your altitude 300m per day…we were going way beyond that limit, which was OK because it was going to be a short trip up and then back down. Still though, we needed the rest and the nourishment to get ready.