After three easy days on the trail, day four was a killer. We took our time heading up to Kibo huts, knowing that if we made it to 4750m sick or feeling ill there was no way to make it to the summit the following morning. So we took our time and meandered our way up to Kibo. The trail itself was easy and although we gained nearly 1000m in altitude, and found ourselves at the end of the day in a relatively low oxygen environment, the hike itself wasn’t so hard. Unlike the hike to Horombo, the landscape to Kibo was basically desert. Very few plants live at that altitude near Kilimanjaro and within a few hours of leaving Horombo the landscape strongly resembled the alticama of Bolivia . Day four, for me, was a killer day because of the anticipation. All day on the way to Kibo hut we started at the summit of Kilimanjaro, hoping, waiting and anticipating what the final climb would be like. By the time we got to Kibo hut we were all excited and anxious to get to the summit. Doing well, with just a small altitude headache, we were prepared to rest up and get to the summit.
Although we had been to 4750m in Peru , we didn’t really realize what spending hours at that altitude would be like on our bodies. Although the body is exhausted from hiking and even breathing at that altitude, its practically impossible to sleep the afternoon before the summit. We arrived at Kibo huts early in the afternoon and went immediately into our beds to rest a little before an early dinner. Cold, excited and anxious, we could hardly sleep and spent most of the afternoon laying in our sleeping bags chatting with the other 10 climbers in our dormitory. Kibo hut is not comfortable, unlike the other huts, it’s made from stone and trust me it’s cold and has a tense feel about it- everyone approaching the summit from that side of the mountain stays at Kibo hut the night before summiting so the atmosphere is friendly, but intense. Everyone wants to make it to the top.
Unable to sleep well, we spent that afternoon and early evening resting- literally laying in our sleeping bags, drinking tea and eating what we could. After an early dinner, we crawled into our bags for a few hours of proper shut eye, which we didn’t really get, before getting up at midnight for the summit. As I lay there with my eyes closed I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Altitude or excitement I’ll never know, but I was very aware of every breath and movement I made and all I really wanted to do was get to the summit and get down.
At 11pm our dormitory door opened and a sea of guides came in. “Jambo Mama!” our guide said to me. “Uhuru. We go. You will make it.” And with that encouragement we were out of bed and layering up. Then game the bad news- our assistant guide, Frankie, was ill and wouldn’t be attempting the climb with us. Have no fear our guide assured us, one of the porters, Coleman, would take his place. Hesitant but unsure what would happen if we denied the porter’s assistance, we agreed and put our trust in the head guide. With temperatures as low as -25C at the top we were layered 1-2-3-4/5. One pair of boots, two pairs of socks, three pairs of pants, and 4/5 tops. Like abominable snowmen we packed into the little dining room to drink a small cup of tea and some biscuits. A bundle of nerves and excitement, we chatted with the other climbers, wishing everyone luck. Soon enough tea time was over and at midnight, in the pitch darkness, we set off up the trail…