Friday, 9 July 2010

Kilimanjaro Trek, Shira Route - Day 6 (Karanga Valley to Barafu Hut)

Karanga Valley : 4000 m
Barafu Hut : 4600 m
Ascent : 600 m
Descent : 0 m

We got the "Washie washie" call at around 7 am and most people got up feeling and looking pretty fresh after having had a pretty good nights sleep at a lower altitude than we were at the previous night.

Kilimanjaro from campView of Kilimanjaro from the camp

It was a cracker of a morning with just a few wispy clouds in the sky and it looked like it was going to be a beaut of a day, this was the lead up to our summit attempt now as tonight was to be spent at the foot of Kilimajaro.

We limbered out of Karanga Valley Camp in high spirits as we trucked off for Barafu Camp. Today's walk was only due to be around 3 hours but again at altitude (which we were now getting used to) everything was pretty laboured so as you can imagine the actual distance walked wasn't too far although the gain in altitude was 600m.

Before long the bright conditions and warming sun that we left at Karanga Valley Camp was replaced with overcast conditions and drizzle. Waterproofs were donned for the last stretch which. I was starting to feel quite used to the thin air and hadn't really felt overstretched physically up to this point, whilst it was certainly laboured it wasn't exhausting. With this in mind I decided to stretch out a bit to feel a bit of the burn. This turned out to be a big mistake in the end. As we arrived into Barafu Camp the drizzle that we'd experienced turned to snow which had settled throughout the camp. With this being the last camp before the summit this place was huge and was full of tents of all different shapes and sizes - there were hundreds of people here, or due to arrive here.

Barafu CampsiteBarafu Campsite

Our guides seemed pretty cheesed off when we got there as the porters hadn't arrived soon enough and as a result we were not camping where they'd hoped we would be. This camp was pretty horrendous. There were no toilets here so our makeshift loo consisted of a toilet tent with a bucket that some unfortunate guy had to empty when it was almost brimming which was far from pleasant with the state of everyone's insides. Calling this a campsite is probably a touch on the generous side it would be far more accurate to refer to it as a boulder field where the tents were basically erected on areas where boulders had been moved to one side although the ground was far from flat and the boulders could be easily felt through the mattresses. Pegs were absolutely useless too so the guy lines were wrapped around rocks and these were used to hold the tent in place. All told it was pretty ugly. We were advised to familiarise ourselves with the campsite during the daylight hours in order that we didn't walk off any unmarked ledges in darkness.

Camp before the snowBarafu Camp before the snow

Barafu Camp after the snowNot long later

The porters asked us to drink what was necessary to keep us hydrated but not to be wasteful as the water at this camp had been carried in from Karanga Valley Camp three hours (at our pace, probably about a third of that at the porters pace) down the mountain.

We were advised to rest for the rest of the day before we had dinner at around 5:30pm. So we retired to the tent and climbed into sleeping bags as the temperature now was freezing cold with the snow still falling outside. It was now that I started to see what all the altitude sickness fuss was all about. Well it hit me like a locomotive. It felt like my stomach was on spin cycle and that i wasn't sure if I wanted to hurl or put my bicycle clips on. No matter where I laid I couldnt get comfortable yet the slightest movement made me want to heave. I laid still and read, there was no point trying to sleep. I put this wholly to me pushing myself too hard on the final leg into camp and I was filled with sympathy for the other guys that had been taking diamox like sweets for the last few days.

I didn't sleep that afternoon and finally we were called for dinner. Fortunately once I was up I actually felt a lot better and ate well. Our final supper before the last push done and we went to the tent to put on the under layers we were to attempt the summit in and arrange all our kit so that we could just get up at midnight and head straight off with no messing about. It's staggering how long it takes to do anything with slow movement, stopping catching your breath every other moment and with a blank mind you struggle to remember what you did a split second ago.

All set for the off we went to sleep and didn't really sleep but rested well. It's funny I found that night that whilst I didn't actually sleep I felt pretty refreshed and revived and ready to go - the excitement and sense of trepidation were no doubt contributing factors to this.


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