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The climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro
 
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Day Five - On To The Mountain

   

Shira Camp Two Up To Lava Tower

 

2/23/10: As we set out from Shira Camp Two, with my renewed vigor, we basically headed “Up” the mountain. This day, like all of the previous days began with me considering how far we may need to hike today.

It also was a day that I was happy not to know the actual answer. I mean there was a ridge that was pointed too, or maybe a series of ridges. You know how that goes, when someone points with their finger and arm, down their own sight line towards a ridge that’s “right there, don’t you see it? Do you see it? That one!” And because I do not want to look like a total ignoramus I say, “Oooohhhh yea, that one. Rigggghhhhttttttt” Yea, I see it, you mean basically whatever I’m looking at, in that general direction, right over there, surely I see it. I mean, looking at Kilimanjaro is like looking into space really. It’s huge, it is still far away, and, well there are a million ridges. So where I thought we were hiking, and we were actually hiking were, well, worlds apart.

As I looked out at the trail ahead, there were many heads bobbing along it. Shira Two was a very busy campground, and it was filled with people. In fact, there was a German group in the next mess tent drinking it up, hooting and hollering all through dinner. We even offered our brand of a group holler which only inspired them further. We were like soccer hooligans rooting for our teams, back and forth. We would actually keep the holler as part of our repertoire and the few times we toasted the next couple of days, we revisited the group chant that went: OooooooooohhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhHHHHHHHH! All in unison, all becoming louder, ending in laughter with a side of remembrance of our German counterparts at Shira Camp Two.

Looking back you can see Shira Camp Two back down the ridge. In the distance, Mount Meru peaks his head through the clouds.


Guide Frank was leading the way today. Heading straight up the trail behind him.


A Closer look at the mountain.

As we finally reached one of the high ridges that we strove for, I was able to see the trail ahead and that not only did we have a considerable amount of distance to go, we also had many other hikers on the same trail. This meant many other porters, and that meant we’d better get our crew there fast to secure us some prime camping spots. At one point, two trails merged, our trail and a main trial reserved for less skilled hikers. I say less skilled because they weren’t going up the western breach, therefore reaching Lava Tower, they would just pass through. We were camping at Lava Tower and we would climb it as well as part of our additional acclimatization process. Still I could not see the Tower, all I saw was trail, down through a valley, and up the other side, over top of the ridge then tailoring off into the distance, and the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. This was another one of those times I was sorry I looked up to see where we were. I was learning to keep my head down pretty good at this point, but it was easy to forget and I found myself looking for some sort of answer to the question, “Where are we, are we close yet?”

I was happy to get my official shot of this plant, which opens in the daylight and closes up at night to protect itself from the cold. It was in the process of opening when we toured by. It was interesting to see this plant in person.

Once we reached the highest ridge, we took a break. We were about halfway to our destination. We would have to hike downhill, through a valley and then up the higher other side, over the ridge to Lava Tower. This would be our next campsite.

When we arrived, there were many other hiking parties, and porters strewn out all across the higher side of the tower. As I walked through all the people and tents, I was directed by our guides to an area slightly away from all the mayhem. Actually a seemingly private campsite, reserved only for Team Kilimanjaro, it seemed. A campsite basically required some flat area with the rocks cleared away for each tent, but enough rocks on the perimeter to tie the tent ropes to. Our tent was waiting for us upon our arrival. We threw our gear inside, lightened our packs, actually I pulled my extra camel back smaller pack out and used that for the afternoon hike. We set out to climb to the top of Lava Tower.

Even though we were well above the tree line, life still manages to flourish. I loved the color of the lichen and moss on the rocks. Well worth a photo.
It was nice to reach the Lava Tower Camp. Here I am sharing in the moment with my friends Richard, Felix and Peter.

Lava Tower Camp, Day Five.

We were in tent two, seen here. The lavatory stands off behind our tent, and you see the porter's tent, the kitchen tent and our mess tent.

We quickly set out for our Lava Tower ascent. This was a fun, side-hike and it gained us some additional altitude adjustment. The view on top was spectacular. We could see the summit as we were much closer to the mountain. Mount Meru was poking it’s head through the clouds making for a wonderful addition to this spectacular panoramic view, and all of the trails on all sides of Lava Tower were clearly detailed for us, like lines on a map we had seen on the internet but now were experiencing in person. The whole climbing party took time to enjoy ourselves a bit up here, each taking our turn getting our picture on the highest rock point of Lava Tower, with Kilimanjaro as our backdrop. It was interesting how nervous our guides got each time one of us got out there on the point. It was a lonnnnnngggggg way down. I looked down, then was sorry I did!

This is what the mountain looks like from the top of Lava Tower. The next day we would take the trail that leads up the side of that distant ridge, which may appear to be close but is far, far away, then camp at the base of the Western Breach, Arrow Glacier camp.
The group takes a break at the top of Lava Tower.
Felix lets out a "Yooowwwwwllllllllllllllll" on top of the Lava Tower. Mt. Meru keeps a watchful eye on the tough mountain guide. During climbs like these you may have noticed rocks stacked throughout the trails. This is how the guides mark the trails for the porters and other guided parties. Wondering which way to go? Look for the stacked rocks along the way.
These pictures don't really do this scene justice. We were standing on the top of Lava Tower, it was a shear drop on all sides. It was nerve-racking just to be standing on top of the rock where you see us standing. In the next shot after the video, you will see where we were standing.
Those previous pictures were all taken on top of this tower here. The shots of us out on that point was that point you see right up top there.

Courtesy of Bruno and Nathalie, enjoy this shot of Lava Camp from the top of Lava Tower.

For more shots from Bruno & Nathalie, check out their site..

After hiking back down, we settled in our tents for a bit before being summoned for dinner. Another wonderful hot meal prepared by Solomon and dutifully served by Richard and Peter. I loved how they always gave us much more food than we thought we could eat. Then when we finished that, they always succeeded in giving us more. They knew what they were doing, keeping us fed to keep us acclimating properly. At this point we were eating all vegetables, no meats. Meats are hard to digest at higher altitudes. The menu however, was different each day, it was well planned out.

Nathalie, Sachin and Marek enjoy the show! On the table you see the bowl of sugar. That was some good sugar, I don't normally use sugar but the big, brownish granuals called me and by this day, enjoyed scooping it in my Kilimanjaro tea, which you can see the somewhat distressed box of right behind the sugar. For all of you reading this, I did bring a box of the Kilimanjaro tea back with me, if you shoot me an email requesting a tea bag, I'll throw one in an envelope to you while supplies last.

Funny thing, the night before I joked that I wanted Crème Brulee’ for desert. This night, at Lava Tower, Solomon presented us with… Crème Brulee minus the scorched top layer. Apparently they didn’t have a propane torch with them (how dare Team Kilimanjaro) to burn the top but it was every bit a wonderful egg custard and maybe the best Crème Brulee I have ever had. That is what inspired me to click off this picture. Seen from left to right is our proud father-image, Joshua, Richard, Solomon and Peter. What a great team of guys!

Following dinner and our exit from our eating quarters, we were blessed with a simply beautiful sunset. Angie noticed a dolphin jumping out of the water, can you see it? Lava Tower falls into the night amidst a backdrop of an active sea of clouds. Now that’s a blue sky!

 

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