DAY 4 HIGHLIGHTS
- Remember that red mountain with the snow crown last night (yesterday’s post)? I come out of the tent at 5:30am and as the light in the sky brightens, my mouth drops open at the sight of a Kilimanjaro, completely blanketed in snow and more cloud plumes flowing off of it. “Damn,” I yell to our team, still asleep in their tents, “Looks like we’re gonna be making an Everest attempt, not a nice hike up to Kili.” A few of them crawl out and look at the snowed in beast of a mountain before clouds consume it.
- Forgot to mention, late in the evening, a porter walked into camp with my missing bag on his head, having walked 20km and ascended to 13,000 feet in one day to get my gear to me. Hallelujah! My poles, my rain gear…it’s all there. I sleep well, despite pounding rain.
- Destination today is Moir Hut, which is an eastern traversal and ascent to 13,750 feet, higher than most all of the mountains we’ve climbed in California except Mt Whitney. The mist and clouds are clinging to the cliffs above us, and the views down to the Shira Plateau and Shira Cathedral are spectacular.
- The ascent out of Shira Hut starts on the same fairly steep, meandering route through volcanic stone we used for yesterday’s quick acclimatization hike. It’s about 4 hrs or so, 5 miles, and constantly shrouded in mist.
- At length, we arrive at camp, and it’s pea soup – we can’t even see our camp until we stumble past the bright blue Internet Cafe. Just like clockwork, as soon as we get the gear off and into the mess tent, the rain starts and hammers away while we eat lunch. We groan when JT comes in and says we’re doing an acclimatization hike at 3pm. When we ask him about the rain…he says rain or shine, we go. Just like magic, right at 2:55, the rain stops. Rhys stays down again, choosing to stay warm and confident his acclimatization is going well, but the rest of us gear up, JT leads out this time, marching up the steep switchbacks below the overcast skies. The geology up here is craggy and spectacular, with layers and fault lines clearly visible.
- This time we climb to around 14,200 feet to a junction below Lava Tower, only a couple hundred feet lower than the highest mountains any of us have climbed. The air is incredibly crisp, clean, and cool up here, and the winds blow hard. It’s a very stark looking landscape up here, not quite lunar, but boulders strewn carelessly all over by some giant hand. There’s also a little sparrowlike bird called the alpine chat bouncing all over the place, trying to munch our snacks. Couldn’t really nail them down for a pic, fast little buggers. The idea behind acclimatization is to reach the altitude, stay there for 15-30 minutes, then head back down, which after munching our chocolate bars, we do.
The second hike of the day took us 3 hrs; we return to Moir Hut in the mist and settle in for the long night; after dinner and into our tents, rain and sleet start up again, but by this time, we’re so used to it, everyone crashes hard. Cort is now our 3rd party member on Diamox, while Alex and Paul have recovered and are going strong as ever. Caryl is dealing with sinus issues and and a headache that seems pressure related, depending on when she is standing, hiking, or sitting, but she’s going to gut it out for now.
How did you book this epic journey?
Through Peak Planet, the best reviewed agency we found. Researching the Kili guiding is an exercise is due diligence – but something to consider is the treatment of porters and guides helping you up the mountain. The cheaper operators have a reputation for porters and guides with tattered clothing, substandard shoes, and not getting paid for the many days away from their families. From all testimonials and references, Peak Planet is the opposite of that, working with the African Walking Company to ensure good treatment while keeping the prices reasonable. I have zero stake in Peak Planet, but the blog should speak for itself – the guides and porters were excellent, friendly, helpful, courteous, etc. all you could ask for on such a comprehensive undertaking.What camera did you use?
The Fuji XT-1 mirrorless APS-C with an 18-135mm lens. All of it heavily weather resistant, unstopped by rain, freezing cold, sleet, or altitude. I did bring 4 extra batteries, kept warm in a wool sock…which proved to be good for the whole 9 day mountain journey.