Mt. Kilimanjaro and Uhuru peak climb Jan 27th to Feb 5th 2005
Newtown residents Barry Brick, Ken Brask, George Hollerbach and his son Jed and Harry Betz participated on our climb. For our crew we had 3 guides, 1 cook and 14 porters. Each day the schedule would be about the same except for the last day’s assault of the mountain. Wake at 6am to someone serving coffee or tea in tent. 6:30 tub of hot water would be delivered for washing. 7am breakfast. Start hiking at 8am. We’d hike anywhere from 4 - 7 hours to the next camp. By the time we got there the porters have already set up the tents and started on tea and dinner. We generally went on acclimatizion hikes for an hour or two before dinner.
Day 1 - Sunday 2.5hr drive from Kibo hotel to Rongai Route park gate. This was mostly a dirt road, very rutted. Luckily was dry, it would have been atrocious if raining. Went through various small villages. Kids were waving ever ware. Arrive at park gate, sign in, meet guides, dump off large bags for the porters and start gradual climb through rain forest at 12:45. Reach 1st camp about 5:00. Not too bad, Gerald had us walk very slowly; “bole-bole”, he said, which means slow, slow. That would be the theme for the rest of the climb. Nice dinner of tilapia, potatoes, dessert. Retire to my own tent early. This climbing is a piece of cake! Spoke too soon, heavy monsoon rains start at 8pm and last all night. Not too much sleep.
Day 2 – Rains mostly all day heavy and light, end 4 pm. The hiking is starting to get steeper and a bit more strenuous in parts but not too bad so far. Had lunch in a cave to get out of the rain. It was a mob scene, all the people climbing trying to stay dry for a while. 2 hour altitude acclimate climb before dinner.
Day 3 – The day begins clear but starts raining again, heavy at times. Everything is getting wet. They say this is the dry season; I’d hate to see the rainy season. Going to 14,500 feet today. Clouds are below us. Clear all night finally, very cold, zipper broke in sleeping bag, couldn’t get warm all night, not much sleep again. Woke up to clear skies- yea! 2 hour altitude acclimate climb before dinner.
Day 4 – Start 8:15 am, weather sunny and warm. We hike up and over a couple ridges and descend to the saddle, an area that connects Monezi and Kilimanjaro. It’s flat, barren, looks like the moon.
Day 5 – The final assault. Start from Kibo campsite (15,000 feet) at midnight as planned, very cold but clear. The route starts uphill immediately and varies from medium to steep. Gilbert takes the lead setting the slow pace with everyone in single file behind him, but seems a little too fast. Is it me? All I see is his shoes in my light.
I follow him step by step. We take turns asking for breaks- it’s like crying uncle. A little ways up we take a break and split into two groups. Seems like it’s getting colder and harder to breathe. I’m not very comfortable at this point. Large sweeping switchbacks turn into tighter ones, a couple steps then turn and so it goes for hours.
About ¾ of the way up large rocks and boulders start to appear. Gilbert leads us through them; I’m thinking: does he know where he’s going? After 6 exhausting hours we reach Gillman’s point in the dark although it’s starting to brighten up a little. Gillman’s point is the first summit of Kilimanjaro- if you make it here, you can say you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
We rest about 15 minutes. Everyone’s exhausted. We vote to push on to Uhuru, the actual highest point in Africa. This means an additional 2-hour hike around a huge crater, sometimes precariously close to the edge of hundreds of feet drop.
More uphill climbing, and at 19,000 feet, it’s torture. I had a massive headache and was gasping for breath, but otherwise felt good. We reach Uhuru exhausted, take some pictures, and rest for a short spell. Then it’s back we go, the same way we came.
It’s downhill but still very hard. Don’t know how Jed is going to make it down, he is in dire straits. George asks me to stay close by to possibly carry him down. I’m questioning whether I can get myself down.
Everyone finally makes it down to the Kibo campsite at about 12:00 noon. I skipped lunch and crashed in tent with a massive headache and nausea. I don’t know how I’m gonna hike another 6 miles to the lower camp. I take some Advil and although I feel weak I’m a little better for the hike to the next camp. I eat very little dinner, either I’m getting sick of the food or maybe it’s the altitude- who knows. I had the first good night’s sleep of the trip; I guess exhaustion will do that.
Day 6 – Pleasant but steep hike down the Marangu route to the park gate where we board a Land rover for the short drive to Kibo hotel. We each get our own rooms, our first shower in a week felt great. I drank a number of Kilimanjaro beers. Life is good.