DAY 5 HIGHLIGHTS
- Our night at Third Cave Camp was pristine, with nary a patter of precipitation or wind. There were rock strata about a 50 yards from the camp, and I popped out of the tent at 5ish, switched on my headlamp and meandered through the shrub to climb the formations, tripod and camera in hand, then snapped away as the sun rose over our near perfect view of the Southeastern side of Kilimanjaro, as the camp slowly woke up over the next couple hours.
- Third Cave amounted to base camp – our last full night of sleep before we summited the mountain, and the beginning of a LONG period of hiking. In the morning after breakfast, we would ascend from 13,000 feet to Outward Bound School Hut 15,500 feet, have lunch, nap, have dinner, then at 11pm, make the summit attempt. We marched out of camp at 8:27am and into the Kibo saddle that separated multipoint Mawenzi Peak on our left, and Kili Kibo Crater (the summit) on our right. The land quickly transitioned into the surface of the moon, strewn with rocks and virtually no flora to be seen.
- After about 1200 feet ascent, we were a little shocked to see the remains of a cape buffalo, eyes wide open staring at the sky. JT explained that around 2012, the buffalo had come up to the high elevation (around 14,200 feet) to lick the sodium ash and gotten its horns stuck in the crag; the folks at nearby Kibo Hut had heard it, but there were no attempts to free it, as the cape buffalo is universally noted as one of the meanest animals in Africa, not afraid to charge vehicles, toss big cats…and people around with its horns. It died after a few days…the corpse had no horns and had obviously been pulled out of where it had died and propped up on the rock. Kinda surreal.
- At some point, we crossed 14,500 feet, higher than Mt Whitney, the highest point on the continental US, and officially marking the highest any of us had ever climbed. Everyone was doing great, including Caryl, now fully recovered from her headaches, albeit still fighting her sinuses.
- We were now climbing loose scree, a sign of what we’d be climbing on our ascent. Again, pole pole pace to the rescue prevented the steps from sapping our energy the way loose gravel can, and at length we spotted School Hut camp above, nestled in the rocks…our base camp for the summit attempt. We came into camp around 11:30am, signed in, had lunch and listened to JT’s briefing. “Get your naps in between lunch and dinner, and after dinner – we’ll be starting the summit climb at 11pm” Though it alternated between sun superheating our tents and drifting snow and mist, we hit the hay and did our best. All the days on the mountain were finally coming to fruition!
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.