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The climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro

 
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Day Eight - On To The Mountain

   

On Top of Africa!

2/25/10: Today is the big day, the day of the summit! Actually though, yesterday seemed like the big day. Maybe now I have my answer to the question I have been asked over and over by friends and family, “What was the best part?” My answer to that would have to be the hardest part, which was conquering the Western Breach. Basically traversing up the collapsed side of the crater, through scree and boulders, in ice and darkness, and aiding another person which allowed me to not even notice what I was doing. I think that was the best part. Or the worst.

Since I made it this far though, I might as well hike the remaining 350 feet up to the top. I mean, there is a sign up there I must get my picture in front of, isn’t there?

Our instructions the night before were, “Wake up time 5:45AM, and be prepared, it will be cold! Now an Ohio boy like me should not even feel the cold, considering I came from one of the worst Ohio winters of late. The truth is, I was not even cold, not when I was tucked into my rented 800-fill down sleeping bag. And since we came up the most difficult route, we agreed to a smaller, compact team of porters which allowed much of the mess tent and supplies to be taken down to where our descent lunch would be. So this morning, we would eat in our individual tents, it was, “Breakfast in bed!”

Our plan was to get up, eat, get ready and roll out by 6:30. We were going up the shear face of the Uhuru peak, not the sloping, lengthy but easier Stella Point route, which in just a few hours would be packed with wondering zombie’s who had hiked through the night. That was the main route. Leave at midnight, and hike a long, long way, reaching the summit sometime in the early morning. One of the reasons we selected this route was because it allowed us to hike to the summit during daylight hours, this meant camping in the crater, which also meant dealing with extreme coldness.

Joshua was anxious to get going, as he was everyday. I did sense his frustration with our group as we seemed to leave behind schedule often. I could tell he did not like this, and today, I was the offender. I failed to leave my water bottle out the night before which meant as we were loading up to leave I said I needed water, which meant a scurry of Swahili conversation, some barking and my water bottles being filled like magic. At this point I should mention we were drinking melted glacier water. It was good stuff!

We set out, maybe in a huff, somewhat in a hurry. I had a problem though; my fingers began to freeze as I was getting my gear on. We were being pushed to get moving so I hurriedly put my gloves on and started hiking. Our mission was to hike up the face of Uhuru peak, our feet in footholds cut in the snow/ice, which were actually very nice. One would think you wouldn’t get good traction on a surface like this, but amazingly the contrary, we had great traction. I preferred the ice footholds to the rock trails.

The trail, which had been cut by travelers before us, zigzagged back and forth, gaining altitude with each pass. We were moving with determination, noticeably faster than days before. My fingers were killing me. I remember thinking that I was experiencing frostbite, the kind that fingers fall off from. I could not take it any longer and had to stop, remove my gloves and put my fingers in my mouth and breathed on them. I actually did that with extreme determination, I needed to warm my fingers RIGHT NOW! There was no waiting left, either warm them or they fall off. So I stopped a few times, which stopped our line, and put all my fingers into the opening of my mouth and breathed out. This warmed them considerably. Eventually, by the time I nearly reached the top, my fingers stopped hurting and seemed okay. Now my toes were freezing though. One practice I perfected on the mountain was to keep wiggling my toes and fingers as I walked to keep them warm. Now that my fingers were feeling better, I figured I better get busy on my toes. Again, my mind was occupied with other things as we hiked up an extremely steep rock/ice face. Had I paid attention to what we were doing rather than on my limbs, I might have been scared. Funny thing is though; I was never scared once this week. I think that was due mostly to the confidence I had in our leaders, and my focus on the “next step” and making it to the top!


The blue arrows are the route we took to the top, footholds cut into the ice. Actually the traction on the
ice was rather good, not slippery as one would think. Dig in and go, keep stepping up, that's all!

Maybe I should have been scared, maybe I should have spent more time doing other things, learning, listening, whatever. Now, looking back as I sit all cozy in front of this computer terminal, I think I should have done all those things better. This whole trip to me is a blur, it is like a really good, long movie I am telling you about. It does not even feel like I did anything, did I even climb this mountain? What was it like? Was it hard? What did it feel like to want to quit on day 3? It is all leaving me, and for that I am extremely sad.

As I sit here and type though, I am well beyond my notes; I quit keeping them on the mountain shortly after we began, with a few intermittent notes along the way. Now I am running on memory. This is a good thing though, as I get to relive these moments. I mean, I told myself, my coworkers, my family, my friends, strangers, everyone I met in the past 6 months, “I am going to climb the highest free standing mountain in the world.” Some laughed, some said, “yea right,” some said, “I think you can do it,” and most of my family said, “Okay, what do we need to do next to prepare you for this trip?”

I will never forget this one coworker who laughed and laughed when I began planning this. I asked why she was laughing, she said, “because I know you will never do this, you will never climb that mountain.” I have to thank her for that cause, well, I love a good challenge. If you ever want to make sure someone does something, just tell them they can’t or won’t and then watch them. It is funny the places that I drew strength from as I climbed this mountain. Most of the time was spent in my own head, thinking. Thinking about little tidbits of what people said, thinking about the support, thinking about the next step, where to place it, if it’s on a rock where I could twist my ankle, or watching that I don’t slip off a ledge.

Meanwhile I hear all of the voices of the people who have ever inspired me. I wondered what the real world was like at that exact moment. Many times I would calculate the 8 hour time difference just to picture what the people in my normal life were doing, right now! At this point, 7AM on a Thursday, they were just wrapping up their day, probably looking at the clock and waiting out the last hour or two of work. I was just setting out to summit this thing. At this point I was pretty confident I was going to make it, either with or without my fingers, but I was going to make it!

The only focus I had at this point, was reaching the summit. Not that it was hard or anything, I mean it was challenging. This was the moment that everything I had done, planned for, paid for, dreamed about came to fruition. It was all about this last push, it was all about standing in front of that sign, getting my photo, then after that, I want room service and a pool. What I did not take into account was how strenuous this day would be. I had no idea at this point. Sure, we made it to the top, we beat the masses, we got our photos but did I think about what came after that? No, never even crossed my mind. So to not spoil the story, I won’t tell you now but trust me, this day wouldn’t be over until nearly dark. From where I was at this moment, nearly reaching the top of this mountain, to where our dinner would be served was basically worlds apart.

With my toes and fingers regaining normalcy, we breached the top of the mountain. It was flat, covered in ice and snow and windy. Now we had to trek across the plateau of the top of this mountain, to the highest point, which didn’t seem any higher than where we already were, but that’s where the sign was. As we hiked across the top of the mountain, I began to see the sign, from the rear since we were coming in the non-traditional way. I also saw people off in the distance, making their way to the same spot where we were going. I may have hurried a little faster seeing them. I am glad I did, for when I reached the actual sign on Uhuru peak, I quickly had my guide snap off a couple of pictures of me. The smart thing about that was that I noticed when all of the people did get up there they all stood around, waiting for their chance to get in front of the sign for a photo opportunity. The problem with this is they cast shadows on whoever’s turn it was for a photo. So luckily I got my photo early, before the shadows were cast. I even tried later to move people back when other’s were getting their photos taken, trying to point out how their shadows pretty much ruined the photos for people but hardly anyone spoke English so I eventually gave up. I mean, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize this. But it was sunny up there so maybe people did not notice the shadows. I am sure they did when they got home though. Besides the shadows ruining the pictures, I never saw so many people just standing around, pretty much right in front of the sign. It was a huge, flat plateau, find somewhere else to stand! Take your pictures, and then go stand over there! Unbelievable! Word of advice to anyone climbing, get there first, get your pictures and step aside.

 


Here is Marek posing for a photo as we reached the top, you an see the
western breach route we took off in the distance.


Once we reached the top, we had to hike to the highest point.
This is the Top of the Mountain and the trail to Uhuru Peak.

I found a dry patch of lava rock, scree basically. Now I wrote a few days back about the Kilimanjaro tea, and if anyone read that and emailed me a request, I would send them one of those tea bags. I did not get one request so either people are not reading this, or they are not tea drinkers, or, could be something else that I totally haven’t even thought of but, I will sweeten the deal now. I brought back a pocket full of lava rocks from the top, from the bare spot you see in the photo. If you would like a small lava rock from the top of the highest freestanding mountain in the world, and a Kilimanjaro tea bag, email me and I’ll send it out to you, while supplies last. I only have a few rocks left, and 49 tea bags.


Here is the dry patch where I collected the rocks. Meanwhile in the background
is all of the climbers taking turns in front of the sign.

I used one tea bag just the other day. That taste of that tea brought back some really special memories. That’s where I live now, in the memories of Kilimanjaro, in the shadows of my mind, recalling everything I can, reliving every moment I can taste, and telling my story whenever the dwindling amount of people say to me, “Hey, how was it?” I still run into people that I had touched with my inspiration to do this thing, they say, “HEEEEYYYYYY, your back, how was it?” I love that.

This reminds me of the “Walking Man.” He is this older gentlemen, soft-spoken and intellectual, that walks up and down my country road probably ten times a day. We always wave to each other, sometimes we stop and talk, and he has a really comfortable and friendly demeanor. I think he said he used to work at Energizer as an executive and is now retired. He loves to walk. Yesterday, my nephew and I were cleaning up my side of the country road, picked up two full bags of garbage in probably only a couple hundred yards, and my friend stopped to talk with me. He said he’d been following the website and pretty much kept up to date on the climb. He did comment a few days ago when I saw him that my updates were not coming quickly enough. This is a consideration that I have always had. My strategy was to put up a new chapter ever couple of days, why blast it up there all at once? Make ya’ll come back for more, plus I am writing this as I go at this point, plus yoga every night, work every day, play every weekend. The weather is breaking, gardening, dirt biking, camping, cutting grass, etc. It is all happening. In between all of this, I have to continue to write and update the site. It is due right now, since Day 7 went up about 7 days ago, I need to post this TODAY! And I will.

Back to the Walking Man, so he told me he’d been following the climb on the site. He wasn’t the only one who said that to me. Many of my yoga friends did the same, many coworkers who I do not even really know, or have ever talked too followed the journey. Plus I know some of my fellow climbing party members have been reading along. These are the type of energies that motivate me to do this. Otherwise, I would just keep the notes to myself, for my reading enjoyment down the road someday. My point is I am enjoying telling this story, and I enjoy building this website, and I plan to add to each day’s story already told, as ideas, memories and moments come to light, or back to life. Also, I urge anyone that was there with me that might be reading this, please, interject. If I have something wrong, or if you would like to shed your light on my story, your take, your observation, points I may have missed, whatever, please contribute.

I may have actually breezed over the actual moment that I stood by the sign on Uhuru Peak. So let me get back to that now. Uhuru in Swahili means “Freedom.” I can say I truly felt free at that moment. I remember finally realizing, “Hey, I’m standing here on the summit of Kilimanjaro. That’s right, I almost forgot.” What this means is, the focus for the past 7 days had been on the next step, the next obstacle, the next action needed to assure my health, all of these things kept me from actually looking up and “enjoying the ride” as I always say. Don’t get me wrong, I totally enjoyed the ride. Just sitting here now, I wished I would have looked around more, somehow taken it all in more, somehow still been there, standing next to that sign. And now that I am standing there, now what? Now what? Man, what a let down. I feel like I have nothing now, no where to go, nothing left to do, do I need to find an even higher mountain? Everest maybe? I heard the name thrown around quite a bit during that week. I have no doubt I could do it physically, it’s the financing of a trip like that which limits my abilities. I need to work to pay off this trip first before you hear me saying, “It’s in India you know.” Unless Angie has the idea first, please do not mention it to her cause she will try and climb that one too!


Marek, Nathalie, David and myself, standin' on Uhuru Peak!

The view towards Reusch Ash Pit, where we would hike next.

Nathalie takes a photo, travelers line up for their turn in front of the sign.

Stella's Point just below the sun. See the trail towards Stella? That is the way down, via Stella Point.

This is one massive glacier, this picture does not do it justice. This glacier is on the north face of Uhuru Peak.


From left to right, me, Nathalie, Marek, Barry, Frank, Joshua, Richard and Sashin.
Oh, and some other random guy just standing there in our photo.


These are the glaciers below where the porters drew water from the day before. At the bottom of the photo is where we spent the night, Crater Camp.

I had to write Angie's name in the snow on top of the mountain.

I got my photo, my battery lasted long enough, through all of that coldness. The masses were all crowded politely around the sign so I stepped somewhat away from the group, found my dry patch, collected my rocks, stayed on my knees as I thanked God for all for all of the blessings of the people in my life, my family, my health, my dog, my home, my love, my life. I was 19,000 feet closer to God at this point, it seemed like a great place to pray. God has been very, very involved in my life. When I was younger and came through the many experiences where I said, “Man was I lucky I lived through that,” or “That was a close one,” I used to think I was just lucky. Then later in life I realized that God had been with me all along, through every journey, and still is with me, even as I type. This leads me to an entirely personal portion of my life that I do not know if I even want to share here, on this public forum. Maybe I won’t right now, save me the editing time later when I change my mind. For now, I will just tell you that God is great, and God has saved me over and over again in my life. I am entirely grateful to the God that I hold true to in my heart.

As I stood away from the group and watched, I was feeling God’s presence. I remember feeling calm and content. That’s when I made this video.

 

 

What a blast! This was a great trip. I think this is the most fun I have had in a long, long time. We had been up here on the summit at least an hour, maybe longer. I had lost all track of time, that’s when Joshua said, “It’s time to go.” So, back across the plateau to our trail down, which was much more challenging than on the way up. I had to kick my heals into the snow and kind of took the “stairway down.” I wanted to slide but the big, exposed jagged rocks at the bottom told me not to. We descended to our camp, Crater Camp, at the base of Uhuru. We rested while the final porters wrestled with our stuff. As they set out towards the exit route over Stella Point, we headed away from Uhuru, past those big glaciers we were drinking from, and up over the ridge to Reusch Ash Pit.

It was cold, windy, I was tired and NOW I was ready to go down. We had paid for this though, even though at this point I could not even remember that fact, so I had to stay with the group. I made it this far, why quit now? I remember there was ice and rocks. It was easier to stay on the ice than try walking on the rocks. I strayed off of the trail and up the steeper part of the rim, staying on the ice and taking a shorter yet more difficult route to the top. I was cranking so hard that I actually pulled away from our team and made it up there minutes before everyone else. It was well worth the additional energy, the scene was absolutely spectacular! It was really cold, and windy so after everyone made it up there and we took our group shots, it was time to head hopefully somewhere else. I wanted to go down, I remember saying, “I’ve had enough, let’s go!” I heard Barry suggest that we hike around the ash pit rim to Stella’s Point. Luckily Joshua shot that down saying there wouldn’t be enough time. I think we would have needed an extra day for that hike. Though these pictures do not do this scene justice, that ash pit was a long, long ways away. I could not even imagined hiking to the pit, let alone around it. I blew the question off anyway, I was already heading towards Stella Point.


Left to Right is me, Joshua, Marek, David, Barry, Sachin and Nathalie.

This is a picture as the team hiked from Reusch Ash Pit to Stella's Point, for the descent. This picture shows the top of the mountain,
the camp and route we took to the top. It also illustrates where we came up the mountain via the Western Breach.


Stella Point was basically on the ridge that leads up to Uhuru Peak. Standing at Stella’s you can see the sign of Uhuru. Stella Point is also the gateway down the mountain, the Mweka route is the exit route. One must get to Stella Point to go down. When Angie was taken down yesterday, leaving from Crater Camp, she had to be taken through Stella’s Point. Had she been conscious at that point, she would have seen Uhuru Peak and known that she really was just yards away from reaching the top. Therefore I feel that she had made it to the top, even though she did not get a photo next to the sign. Now Bruno on the other hand, he made it to around 16,000 feet, and missed the fun of the Western Breach. I remember thinking, “He’ll be coming back for sure, but Angie won’t need to.” I was right, according to Bruno’s website, he’s going back sometime around the end of the year. Angie says she never repeats her trips so she is NOT going back. I would like to go back however. I am like Marek, I want to do it twice!

As we made the long trek across the crater floor, I just focused on the ground and my next footstep. At this point we had been up and hiking for about 4 hours I would guess. I was hoping our day was almost over, I mean we climbed to Uhuru, climbed to Reusch Ash Pit, about to climb to Stella Point, surely our camp and my tent were set up close by just waiting for me to sprawl into. Wrong! Just be quiet and keep moving.

When we reached Stella Point, we took a breather for a moment. No one was telling me how far it was to camp. Honestly, I didn’t even know what was coming next, and I would say that I was somewhat irritable. “I made the top, now let’s get out of here,” I thought.


David at Stella's Point.

The Mweka Route and the way down. Nothing but clouds and loose scree.

This is the first of several camps we would pass through on the way down the mountain. This is Barafu Camp, in which the trail runs right through.

After quite a bit of hiking we came to nothing else than our dining tent, seen in the center of the horizon of this photo.

Here we are resting and eating lunch on the side of the mountain. Team Kilimanjaro made sure we never went hungry.

This fantastic photo taken by Nathalie. Check out Bruno & Nathalie's site

David takes a photo of Marek on the way down.

 

After our short rest period, it was over the ridge and down a steep, deep scree-paved trail. Scree is basically loose, powdered lava rock, you could almost ski it. This was my method, I figured this would be easy. I’ll just ski down. I did just that for quite a ways, until the deep scree turned into bigger rocks and pebbles, then into bigger rocks, then boulders and finally, mud. Right now, I was crankin’ like a downhill skier, using my poles and traversing from side to side. We covered quite a bit of ground in this early stage of descent. Marek pulled way out ahead, David and I followed. We kept going faster and faster and never seemed to run out of trail, it kept going on and on, down through the clouds. We passed a rare team of climbers actually going up this route, I mentioned to them as we passed that it would only seem like a 1,000 miles. We kept crankin’, down, down, down, faster, faster, faster. Every now and then we would rest, then we would get right back after the descent.

Finally, up ahead I saw a camp, Barafu. Nope, sorry, we’re just passing through. The trail started to harden, there was no more loose scree to faux-ski in, the trail was hard packed, mostly rock with jagged boulders we had to navigate through. That’s fine, keep moving. As we continued down, porters were passing us on the left and right. They were flying down the mountain, as were Marek and David. I lost site of those guys and found myself alone, descending. Somewhere behind me I knew was Frank, Joshua, Nathalie, Barry and Sachin, so I wasn’t worried. I just stayed on the trail and kept moving as fast as I could. Not only was I happy to be going down, but I knew I would soon be reunited with Angie, who was taken down to a lower camp the day before. I was told that I would see her there, later today. I was looking forward to that, my recently enlarged heart missed her.

One thing I learned from watching the porters was where and how they placed their feet on the trail. They went fast, and it seemed effortless. So I mimicked their moves, and began really moving fast. At this pace I caught up to Marek and David.

I was flying down the trail, with confidence, drive and enthusiasm. One fact that I had forgotten about was my sore left knee, which began to bother me on our training hikes a couple of weeks before I left for Africa. I forgot all about this knee problem. I never had one ache or pain going up this mountain but suddenly my left knee reminded me that I wasn’t invincible. It started to hurt. Then it started to hurt more. My pace slowed considerably, soon the team members were closing in on me as in the distance I saw our lunch tent set up waiting for us.
Lunch was really nice, it was served picnic style. Marek and David were already there and laying back on a big rock soaking in the sunlight. I found a rock and laid back. Marek suggested removing my shoes, which I did, that helped. My knee was pounding though. As in the past meals we have had all week, this one began with soup, tomato soup. It was awesome, I have two helpings. Then came the main course, which I cannot recall right now what it was, then fruit for desert. Unfortunately, it was time to go. Not only that, lunch was usually served halfway so I had a sneaking feeling we had a long way to go. If this was halfway, we are in trouble. I mean, “I am in trouble!”

After lunch, we began our descent again. I was told we had 3 ½ hours to go. That translated from broken Swahili English to my mind meant 6 hours. If I learned anything these past 8 days, it was take whatever distance your told and multiply it by two, and take any “last” uphill and add two more, along with two downhills. Three and a half hours from here? That is going to be tough. My left knee was killing me. The only time it didn’t hurt was when I was going fast and didn’t have to bend my knees as I walked. So as long as I was able to crank down the trail it didn’t hurt. This strategy served me well for a while, until the terrain change. It got steeper, and the smooth, hard-packed trial turned to jagged rocks, natural steps and switchbacks. At one point, I lowered my walking poles and used them as canes that I palmed and put all my weight on every time that I had to step down. I would keep my left leg straight, swing it over the rock step, lower down by bending my right leg then repeating on the next step down. I soon became the slow-poke of the group. Everyone had passed me by except for assistant guide Frank, who was charged with bringing up the rear of our group and making sure no one was left behind. Nathalie, being the kind, classy lady she is, hung back with me for a while but understandably so, she had to keep moving at her pace.

By this time, my right knee was now hurting. Both knees were in pain, I had trouble bending both of them. Now I had the “Frankenstein shuffle” going. Added to this was the trail became absolutely treacherous. We were now into the top of the rainforest area, and it did what it does in rainforests, it rains. So the trail was just huge drainage ruts, with big, jagged lava rocks and mud in-between. Not only was it hard to step down on over or in between the rocks but the footholds were absolutely slippery with red, African mud. The trail became worse and worse as we descended.

The trail passed through at least two more very active camps. Each one I had hoped and prayed was our camp, but they weren’t. Finally as we reached a clearing on the ridge Frank pointed out a tent way down the mountain and said, “There is our camp, only 45 minutes away.” Well, again, that means two hours, and in mud, on two bad knees, it meant a lifetime to me. I knew it wasn’t as close as it looked either. Nathalie was long gone, Barry and Sachin, gone, and Marek and David were probably drinking beer in camp already.

I kept pressing on, at my own speed, at my own pace. The guides were really cool, they let us go at our pace. Never criticized us, or told us to hurry, they just went with the flow of things. One time I tried going off the trail and through the tall brush. It was smoother, and somewhat open, easier to walk on with my bad knees. Frank was on the trail walking parallel to me, maybe only 10 feet away from me. He hears me scream. “What happened?” he says. Well, I was hiking along pretty good, found a nice passable path through the tall scrub, looking down for my best foot placement when my face went directly through the center of a huge spider web, and African spider web! It wrapped around my head like a net. I hit the ground in a panic. I then moved myself back onto the jagged trail and did not try that again. I never saw the spider, which made me nervous in its own right. Needless to say I do not recommend straying off of the trail. Trust me, I learned the hard way, and Frank allowed me too.

We kept plugging along, that last little bit seemed really far. When we got close, I began to get excited. I thought I’m going to quite possibly see Angie. I had not gotten any updates on her, her condition, where she was, anything other than Joshua said she made it to Millennium Camp last night. We passed that camp hours ago. She had already left that camp for the lower altitude so supposedly she would be in this camp and we would be reunited. That gave me a little extra spring in my step, I was looking forward to seeing her, holding her in my arms. That would be nice.

As we neared the camp, we would get little blasts of smooth, flat trail. I was able to pick up my speed in these areas but was quickly slapped back to reality with the jagged, rutty trail that I could see went on for a while. That was probably the most humiliating part, when I would reach a rough spot, then look down the trail and saw that it went on as far as my eyes would allow me. That took the wind right out of my sail several times.

Finally, we rounded a bend and I heard activity. I heard Swahili conversations, the clicking of tent poles being assembled, and basically just “people.” This had to be it, and it was. As soon as we crossed the threshold of the gate to camp, Frank shuffled me into the ranger’s station. First thing we had to do was sign in. They were quite picky about that at each ranger-staffed camp. So I signed the book. It required my name, address, passport number, guide service name, number of people in our party, among a few other things I cannot recall right now. There was a lot of activity going on around me, it was kind of a blur. We came off of a desolate, rugged trail into a mass of mayhem and activity. These camps, the one’s on the descent, we thriving with activity. They were alive. There was something in the air, a buzz! People were excited. I felt that energy right away. It even took my mind off of my aching knees and wondering if and where I would find Angie. So I signed in, made some small talk with the rangers and headed out of the office. Looking out through the door, I could see porters setting up tents, people streaming back and forth, and hear lots of conversations, loud talking and laughing. This place was hot! The excitement level of this camp was really cranked. I was happy to be done with that trail, Thank God!

As I walked out of the ranger station doorway, onto the wooden porch, Angie jumped out from her hiding spot, right behind the door. She had a big smile, her arms spread wide as she threw them around my neck. I grabbed her, wrapping both my arms around her and pressed her against the Ranger’s station wall and started kissing her. We stayed in that position for quite a while; it seemed longer than it probably really was, but no where close to being long enough. We held each other so tight. I was so happy to see her, to know she was safe, and to know she had recovered. That last time I saw her she was in-between consciousness and unconsciousness, and being carried for the most part. AMS kills people, and it does it rather quickly, and since I was not getting any actual updates on her condition or whereabouts, I did have the feeling they were keeping something from me to protect me. But they weren’t, she was fine, fully recovered and waiting for me. Thanks to Nathalie, who had arrived several minutes before me, she warned Angie I was coming which allowed her to hide and surprise me at the Ranger’s station. That was so nice.

Angie under my arm, propping me up as I walked, we talked, we laughed, we hugged and kissed, we were happy. We were home, together. I always tell her that being with her is like “coming home.” I really knew what this meant now for sure. As we walked she said, “Look, real bathrooms.” I was like, “Wow” and headed over to see them. They were bathrooms, the African kind, a hole in the floor with two footholds to stand and squat in. I’ll pass but I did find a big water tank with running water and a wash tub. I took the opportunity to wash up a bit. That felt so good.

Angie led me down the trail to our campsite. Our tent was already set up. Marek and David were sitting in chairs laughing it up, drinking Kilimanjaro beer that they bought on the black market, and welcoming me when the saw me. It was so fun. Marek pulled up a chair for me and I sat down, Angie sat on my lap. I felt like I just won a race, or came back from war, or something. I felt like a hero. I had friends that were happy to see me, I had the girl, I had my camp, I was home baby!

It was nice just to sit down and relax. We then moved into our tent to remove all my clothes and gear. We laid and napped for a bit before being summoned for dinner. We had a wonderful dinner that night, all of us together minus Bruno of course. We had a post dinner meeting with Joshua where we went over tomorrow’s itinerary, and also we asked questions about how the tipping procedure works. It turned out that tomorrow would be a short couple hour hike down to Mweka base camp, we would sign in, get our certificates, then ride a bus back to Arusha after having lunch in Moshi.

After dinner, we returned to our tent and slept. I slept so well, as I had in the past several nights ever since taking the Diamox. This night though, I really slept well. I was extremely tired. That descent nearly killed me! Truly the hardest part of the hike was coming down, even harder physically than the Western Breach. But I made it, Angie and I were reunited, it was warm and our bellies were full. Good night, and Thank God!

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