(Since I first began publishing these, Google has disabled embedding photospheres, because no good reason. So this will probably look dumb. sorry. You can also click here.)
From the itinerary
Day 6: BARAFU to SUMMIT to MWEKA CAMP
19,340’~5,895m ? 13 mi~21 km (5 km ascent/ 12 km descent) ? 7-8 hrs ascent~4-6 hrs descent
Tonight is the night! A midnight start to conquer the highest point in Africa. This section of the route is considered one of the steepest on the non-technical paths of Kilimanjaro. It is a 6-7 hour hike to Stella Point in order to see the sunrise. We continue our way to the summit between the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers. We head in a northwesterly direction and ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. This can be the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. From Stella Point you can see the summit; just 1 hour to Uhuru Peak and the rooftop of Africa! We then descend down to Mweka Camp for dinner and celebration.
Like I said yesterday, we had a change of plans. Rather than leaving super early and getting to the summit at sunrise, we just left a little early. So. Around 3:30 we were woken up with the customary coffee/tea, then we pretty much immediately left. I went to bed fully clothed (I think everyone did), so it was a pretty quick up-and-at-em.
My camera can’t focus, but nbd.
So in the dark we start walking. And in the cold we start walking. It was really fun- walking in the dark. I tried to take as much time as possible to just look up- the stars were amazing and so much of the previous nights I was too cold to just sit outside at night for too long. Alas, we were walking in the dark, so I had to spend a fair amount of time watching the ground.
So. Walking in the dark. There’s not a lot to say about it. After a couple hours I was getting reeeeal cold. Well, not I was actually fine, broadly speaking, but my toes were getting cold cold cold! So I popped out a couple of those chemical handwarmers and jammed them into my boots. They take awhile to get started, but after an hour or so, feeling was back in Toesville. So that was pretty cool!
Eventually the sun rose.
And we just kept walking, really. It was pretty rocky, anbd pretty slow, and there were some traffic jams when we met other groups. Well, when other groups attempted to pass us because, remember, slow. As you approach the (first) summit, it’s kinda loose gravel, and we were going really slow. Like, maybe one step every two seconds. when we get about a hundred yards away from the first summit, we can see the brown and yellow “You’ve made it” sign, which pumped me up a little bit. Anyhow, we got to the first summit and got stoked and took photos and drank tea, but soon enough it was time to make the last push to the highest highest point.
It seemed like the next point was kinda close, but when we started walking it just seemed to get further. That happens a lot, actually. We’re still going really slow, but that doesn’t seem like such a problem anymore, since we’re above 19k feet, so as long as you’re going forward you’re happy. (By this point, two dudes on our trip had decided to not continue on and two were suffering from pretty intense altitude sickness.)
Maybe 45 minutes after the first peak, we get to Uhuru Peak. It’s 12:30, which means it took us 8 hours and change to make it to the top. We’re slow, but we’re stoked. And we take a tooon of photos. And we wait for our group to all show up so we can do a photo together, which takes awhile, cause the last push had spread us out pretty thin. I think you’re only supposed to spend 15 minutes at the top, but we were definitely there for closer to 45. Conveniently, I super duper have to go to the bathroom while we’re up there, so maybe I didn’t enjoy it as much as possible.
We did it, you guys!
Dad and I took our an old cub scouts flag to pose with, as well as an A&M Flag, us being such faithful Aggies. Oh, can I embed Instagram videos? I must be able to. In fact, I was just looking at an embeddged Instagram video on deadspin. okay, let’s see here…
Cool, I hope that worked.
ALRIGHT. So this seems like a logical stopping point, but it’s not. Cause we still have to go down the mountain. So we eventually wander back to the first peak, then we go down down down to our base camp. Here we ended up going in two different groups. Our group SCREAMED down the mountain, doing in maybe two hours what had taken us 7 in the morning. OBviously, going down is easy, but we were basically skiing down the mountain on our feet, shuffling through the loose, gravelly rocks that we’d been sludging through all morning. It was actually kinda fun, plus every step is an increase in oxygen, which is really great.
The third peak of Kilimanjaro, Mawenze, is visible to our left the whole way down. It gets a lot of photos taken of it. Eventually we make it down to our base camp, where we’re greeted enthusiastically by all the porters who’d been waiting for us. I think they’re all pretty happy that we made it, but I think they’re equally happy that they had the morning/afternoon off to hang out at camp and not have to carry our stuff around. Anyhow, we get lunch, pack up our tents, and wait for the rest of our posse to return from the mountain. Over the next couple hours they start to show up, but they are beat! One dude collapses in the mess tent, another is so exhausted he’s basically in a walking coma. And we still have a four hour hike to where we’re sleeping that night! Not an easy day.
Anyhow, eventually we leave that camp and start hiking to the next camp/our last night. It’s really long! I know I just said it a couple sentences ago, but we’ve hiked for like 12 hours so far and there’s still 4 more. But what are you gonna do? Ain’t gonna do nothing but keep walking. Which we do, until, jeez, like nine o’clock or something. But then we get to a nice camp, with dinner waiting for us and our tents set up. Food, brushing teeth, and our last night of camping on Kilimanjaro.