Join Gary, Chief Project Manager at Nature Discovery, as he attempts to summit Kilimanjaro with a small group of guests. Spirits are high as the group will be trekking to base camp today!
It was relatively warm last night, and we all slept well. We are in high spirits as we know base camp is our destination today. The sky is lovely and clear with very little wind; however, the air is thinner and it’s more dry than lower down. The landscape is sparse with many rocks which are a result of when Kilimanjaro erupted many years ago spewing rocks miles away in all directions.
We practised the rest step again getting ready for our summit climb, and we joked and told stories as we climbed the 800m in altitude towards Kibo hut, our basecamp. Mawenzi Tarn is on our left and is quite a dramatic looking peak. It was a very technical climb for serious climbers in the past but is no longer climbed for safety reasons. We can see the route to Mawenzi Tarn huts on our left and the route to Outward Bound or School Hut camp on our right. This was used by school groups in the past hence the name.
As we approached the Kibo hut we saw cyclists in the distance cycling uphill from the Morombo huts on the Marangu route. This route is the original route taken by Hans Meyer when he summited Kili in 1889 and now has huts all along the route so tents are not needed. It is also the most accessible route on a bicycle, although on summit day the bikes have to be carried up by porters, before the cyclists cycle back down again.
Our team have set up our camp behind a rocky outcrop, so we have a little privacy. We arrive at lunchtime, and we are all feeling strong, with no altitude issues, well hydrated and hungry. This is the only day when the guides briefing happens after lunch, so we have adequate time to pack and prepare our gear and ourselves for the daunting task of summiting. We also have the afternoon off to rest and catch up on sleep that we won’t be getting later.
The tents are in the sun and sheltered from the wind, so they are nice and warm. While some slept, others read books and we all made time to check our bags were packed for the summit. We packed away all unnecessary items and dressed in our thermal layers and clothing we would be wearing for the summit, our heavy down jackets and gloves are easily accessible, 2 pairs of socks, balaclavas and scarves are also ready. We pack rain gear in our backpacks, our snacks for energy, and any meds, sunblock, and sunglasses we would need for later. We will be given warm water for our bladder packs and water bottles as temperatures are below freezing point and water bottles will freeze up, even the water in the pipes of our bladder packs. The only way to prevent this is to store water bottles upside down as water freezes from the top down, and we need to blow water back into our bladder packs after drinking.
We eat dinner at 5.30pm, or try, as our nerves and excitement are causing mixed emotions, and although the grilled chicken and potato chips are delicious, we don’t eat much. Polite double checks that we have everything packed and what layers we will be wearing. Chocolate bars and snacks for the trail are dished out, and we are reminded that water bottles should be ready for replenishing at our 11pm breakfast time. We turn in and try to sleep.