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Saturday 21 Feb 2009
Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Day 5 ... Summit time baby!

Day 5  ... Summit climb
Day 5 ... Summit climb

"STELLAAAAAA!!" "STELAAAAAAAAAAAA!!" .. I swear if I ever meet anyone called Stella I will kill them right there with a lovely blunt object. Why this craziness? Am I mad? Quite possibly ... but this is the feeling you get after climbing up Stella Point... easily the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.

I even met one Canadian lady later on that equated climbing Stella Point with a prolonged childbirth! Now that's testifying!

OK backtrack ... right so the night before I had a pretty disgusting last meal (in fact maybe the food was ok, but again the altitude made it taste horrible), so I just survived on one of the energy bars Gary gave me for Christmas. I also didn't sleep very well in the -25C.

Despite this, I actually felt pretty damned good this morning.

The climb from Barrafu (4,600m) to Stella Point (5,732m) doesn't particularly look hard, it's just that it's long, constantly-upward and somewhat slippy as it's like walking up a scree slope. Plus it's a whole kilometre that you need to summit at a fairly rapid pace in order to get up there and back down within a limited timeframe.

We started up the mountain at 6am, which provided for some nice sunrise photos of Kili's OTHER peak. The path was pretty quiet with no other trekkers as most people had gone up at midnight. (later on we did meet a few people on the way down.. including 4 or 5 unfortunate fellows that were suffering from altitude sickness and required two guides to carry them down).

It was cold going up, but I had about 6 layers on (3 fleeces, 2 tshirts and the outer layer coat), and didn't feel it. The first half of the day was good going on account of me feeling much better than I had the day before. I also had a large energy bar to keep me going, and which definately came in handy in the latter stages.

I even used my mp3 player to good effect to keep me going with some nasty phat drum-n-bass beats (up until this point I'd lent Shanny my mp3 player so I was surprised there was still power left in it!).

Then as we passed the 1/3 way up point.. the inevitable happened, and the tiredness started to creep in. Still though, not much time for rest as we had to keep pressing on. THIS constant climbing is partially what makes this last leg so exhausting. Soon, as we reached the steep scree slopes, the steps became like "3 steps forward -- 2 steps back" ... it was REALLY tough to keep the upward momentum going.

My "rhythmical breathing" now reached a crescendo and I was breathing so loudly in the thin air that even I was alarmed by it. To relieve some of the pressure on my back I had to climb up with one arm on my waist and the other on the walking pole, which evidently made me look like a cripple as a few people asked me if I was in pain as they were coming down the mountain.... that really irked me. The last thing you want as you are struggling up a mountain is to be reminded of how badly off you look!!

Day 5 ...  Collapsing on...
Day 5 ... Collapsing on...

As we passed over ridge, after ridge, the mountain just seemed to never end ... then suddenly, out of nowhere, they ended! I swear that last 10m up to the final ridge was incredibly hard ... my legs were lead-weights, they just WOULD NOT MOVE! But somehow they did.

The final ridge, Stella Point, now reached, I collapsed on my back.

I stayed here for what must have been 15-20 minutes.

Luckily Shanny didn't tell me at that point, but many people who get to Stella Point give up and start heading down. That's madness considering how little more is required to get to the summit. I don't think I would have done that, but I'm glad he didn't dangle that in front of me as an option.

From Stella Point, you can see the summit in the background ... it looks so close, I imagined it would only be another 4 minutes away, but it's actually 30 mins more... up another 100m.

Day 5 ...  Top of...
Summit time partay!

At this point we saw Ali coming up the mountain after us. Shanny had asked Ali to come up to the summit just in case there were any problems with getting me down (like the other poor guys I saw coming down the mountain earlier in the day)

We scrambled up the last relatively flat sections of the mountain ... and there it was.. the summit, about 50m away.

I don't know where this energy boost came from, but I sprinted for the finish line as if my life depended on it. I flew past Shanny and Ali and jumped up to grab onto the large sign that marks the highest point in Africa. I had made it! The feeling of relief that came over me was unbelievable!!!

5,895m up baby! WOOHOO!!!!

Day 5...   Glacier at...
Day 5... Glacier at...

We took the obligatory photos .. gave the obligatory "Tanzanian handshake" (basically a 3-combo "gimme 5" gesture that took a while to master!).. and finally got to look out over the domain.

Despite the clouds that marred my view of Africa, I did get to see the huge glacier that sits atop the mountain (and is predicted to disappear by 2050) as well as the huge crater where lava once spewed out.

We chilled out up here for 20 mins, contemplating it all, before starting to head on down the scree slopes.

Now came the easy part ... we slid down those slopes like we were running home to a nice comfy bed ... Shanny later told me that he was impressed with how fast we went down the hill sides, I guess it reminded me of running down the dunes in Saudi when I was a kid.

Day 5 ...  Looking back...
Day 5 ... Looking back...

Eventually we made it back to Barrafu camp, but we stayed here only briefly to gather our things (and group-hug the rest of the crew) before we ventured off for the EASY downhill walk to High Camp.

As we ventured on to High Camp I took one last look back at the summit. It was such an unbelievably hard-task to get up there, but I felt like I'd really achieved something that'll stay with me forever: fungus on my toes being one of them Wink

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I bless the rains down in Africa

Travel blog by peterforan

Day 3  ... Lookin forward to Uhuru peak, Kilimanjaro

Day 3 ... Lookin forward to Uhuru peak, Kilimanjaro


With Toto's defining tune ringing in my head, I don khaki pants and venture full-throttle into Africa! Elephants, lions, huge mountains, men with spears intent on stabbing me (probably) and the "Cradle of Humanity" (tm)... 4 weeks ain't gonna be enough!

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Photo Album

  • Entrance to...

    Kilimanjaro

    Tanzania

    Entrance to Machame town
  • Day 1 ... ...

    Kilimanjaro

    Tanzania

    Day 1 ...  Rain!
  • Day 1 ... ...

    Kilimanjaro

    Tanzania

    Day 1 ...  Shanny "Sean", the guide
  • Day 1 ... 2...

    Kilimanjaro

    Tanzania

    Day 1  ... 2 bottles of water for support