Day 4 of the climb
Barranco Camp (3,950 m/ 12,960) to Barranco Wall (4,260 m/ 13,976 ft) to Karanga Valley Camp (4,000 m/ 13,123 ft); 12 km/ 7.5 mi
All the work today came right at the beginning. We crossed a stream at a little dip in the valley just outside of Barranco Camp, and then started working our way up the Barranco Wall. The wall is a 600 ft+ cliff face and the trail zig zags its way up where it can, and you have to scramble up with both hands in a few spots. The climb is made more interesting because everyone leaves camp at once. So climbers and porters, with all the attendant gear on their heads, jostle for the same space on the narrow trail. It causes a bit of a traffic jam.
Once the wall is breached, there’s a little respite on a level plateau, before a final scramble to the high point of the day, around 4,260m. This spot is called Breakfast by the porters – because by the time you’ve reached the top, you’ve burned off your breakfast and are ready for a snack. Since the view is amazing, most people stop for just that reason. So we spent some time munching Power Bars and jerky while contemplating Kibo‘s glaciers looming overhead… So close, yet so far.
After the Barranco Wall, things are a piece of cake… or the Swahili equivalent, Hakuna Matada (no problem). The trail descend into a valley, then climbs up and down over a ridges and more valleys. On the left, cliffs of lava contain numerous caves. The vegetation is fairly desolate, but it is punctuated by the odd lobelia or senecio amidst the sedge grass. On the lee side of some of the ridges, there are even dwarf cypress trees.
It’s a relatively short day, with an arrival in Karanga camp by mid-afternoon. This even gives a chance to do some laundry in a basin of warm water! Karanga is the midway point between Barranco and Barufu. Some people go directly to Barufu to cut a day off the trip. However, the time in Karanga helps with acclimatization and reduces the chance of altitude sickness – and thus increases the chances of success. Plus, the views are phenomenal. As the moon rises over the tents, the sunset to the west silhouettes Mount Meru, the 2nd highest mountain in Tanzania, about 100 km south of Kilimanjaro, peeking through the cloud cover. Awesome!
The view of Kibo over the morning tea or Milo isn’t half bad either. For those who don’t know, Milo is a malt based drink that you dissolve in hot milk (mazeewa moto) or hot water (maji moto). I guess you could say it’s the African version of Ovaltine.
As far as the rest of the breakfast was concerned, Alex, the cook from Tusker, didn’t let us go hungry. A typical day would start with fresh fruit – bananas, papaya, oranges – toast with peanut butter, fluorescent orange “mixed fruit” jelly, and/ or honey. Then there would be hot porridge, eggs (scrambled, fried or spanish) and on some days, sausage and bacon. The last few days of the trip, we got the best French toast ever – I guess the bread was getting a bit stale. Some days, it seemed we ate more than we could burn off. However, we all managed to lose at least 5 to 10 lbs over the course of the trip.
The easy day at Karanga allowed us some much-needed rest before the summit assault. Today, the real work begins. As we climb ever higher, breathing is increasingly laboured. Some of the climbers are getting headaches and upset tummies; appetites start to be affected and some have not been sleeping well. At this point, we were 12,000 feet (3,640 metres) higher than 5 days ago. We’ve been averaging about 13 km per day in 6 or 7 hours of hiking.
To be continued…