Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Kilimanjaro Trek, Shira Route - Day 2 (Simba One Camp to Shira Hut Camp)

Simba One Camp: 3550 m
Shira Hut Camp: 3850 m
Ascent: 400 m
Descent: 100 m

We were woken at around 6:30 (praise the lord we were in bed at 9) with a cup of tea and a bowl of warm water each to have a wash before we kicked off, I cannot start to tell you how welcome these two quite simple luxuries became as the days went on.

I had a pretty good night's sleep to kick off with which I was grateful for as altitude and sleep don't mix too well supposedly. Being pretty used to camping and the fact that I was on a thermarest (albeit 4 inches thick) my sleep wasn't inhibited and I woke up, dare I say, as fresh as a daisy (marginally wilted - ok I'll give you that). It turns out however that some of the other guys hadn't had the same joy and had tossed and turned for most of the night either through being too cold or due to the onset of altitude sickness, the symptoms being migraines and upset stomachs. Touch wood (my head) though at this point me and Michelle were doing fine.

On getting out of our tent we had an amazing view of the summit of Kilimanjaro as clear as day towering into a clear blue sky. As pleasant as the weather was though the temperatures were still pretty bloody cold, demonstrated by Otto's socks which had frozen solid in the bowl of water he had left them to soak in overnight.

We packed our stuff before breakfast in order that the porters could get the tents down and packed away whilst we were eating, in order that they could get on their way - fair play they were probably carrying an extra 25 kilos more than us.

Breakfast started with porridge, followed by fruit, culminating in bacon and eggs. Just like being at home, although I'm not that partial to porridge but food is fuel at the end of the day. It was weird at this point as I started to lose my appetite, not that I felt sick or full I just kind of lost my appetite. Being aware of this though I saw the necessity to ensure I ate until I felt full which I duly did at every opportunity.

Paul sadly didn't stay with us for long during breakfast, he had his bowl of porridge which he fought down. The bowl of porridge promptly fought it's way back up. He was the first to be sick, not a great time to be doing this when we still had almost 2500 metres to climb.

Looking back to Simba Camp on the Shira plateau
Looking back at Simba Camp on our way over the Shira Plateau

We left camp at about 8:30 and meandered across the flat expanse of the Shira Plateau in the direction of Shira Cathedral for a few hours. Far over to the left we caught a glimpse of the Shira Hut camp which was to be our camp for the second night. Bizarrely however this wasn't the direction we were heading in and when the path forked right taking us on a further detour we realised we weren't going to be there for some time. The idea when walking at altitude is to walk high sleep low to try to acclimatise you body then descending to make it easier for your body to get some rest. For that reason we were headed for Shira Cathedral which was the middle peak of a ridge overlooking the Shira Plateau. This day was to be the longest but far better to yomp the distance whilst we were at a lower altitude.

Shira Plateau
Looking back over the Shira Plateau

We meandered over the Shira Plateau for some time, this in itself was once a volcano many years before Kilimanjaro had formed, the plateau is as a result of the volcano collapsing (forming a caldera). Whilst this was pretty much flat there were a few gullies and boulders to content with

The Shira Plateau
The Shira Plateau - we camped on a site at the top left hand side of the photo

Once over the plateau which represented Scottish heathland we started heading up to the ridge where there were huge tufts of grass and trees that appeared as if they were the result of a nuclear outbreak. Clouds swirled overhead at this point so we donned waterproof kit in anticipation of what we thought would be a deluge but as quick as the clouds appeared they disappeared not shedding a drop. Nearing the ridge, to be expected, the flat of the plateau was replaced with the incline to the ridge top, which got steeper and steeper until it turned into a scramble. Some of the guys were really struggling at this point, even for the best of us it was still tough going and breathing was laboured, taking a drink required deep breaths to try to fill your lungs with enough oxygen to allow you body to continue that said though I tried to keep my fluid intake up throughout as dehydration is a quick route to altitude sickness. This does have the downside that you end up going to the loo far too regularly which can be an inconvenience but better that than feeling rubbish.

Shira Hut CampPicture taken from Shira Cathedral - Shira Hut Camp is the small white dot in the centre of the picture

On top of the ridge the view was awesome, to the right hand side was the full expanse of the Shira Plateau taking in the site of the camp we'd left around 4 hours earlier and in the far far distance where we'd come onto the plateau the previous day. To the left were certain pinnacles and valleys. It's a bit harrowing for those that have any sign of vertigo, the ridge was probably about 15 metres wide with the drop to the left being around 200 metres and that to the right being about 50.

Heading to Shira Hut Camp
Heading to camp

We all took a load of photos before we headed back off the ridge and started the walk into camp. At this point I was feeling fine, my legs were feeling ok, I wasn't feeling tired and I was so far managing to keep the altitude sickness at bay fair play everything was slowed down to accommodate the reducing levels of oxygen but physically I was feeling better than I expected I would.

The landscape started to turn quite moon-like (presumably that's why they call it the alpine desert) as we crossed the landscape. We headed into camp and were again greeted by the team with a hot cup of tea and popcorn.

We chucked our stuff in the tent and dinner wasn't long to follow. At this point you could see that the trek was starting to take it's toll on everyone with fatigue starting to set in. People in the group were now starting to experience headaches at the very least, some were having serious stomach problems as a result of the altitude, thankfully I was getting away very lightly at this point, this reinforced my thoughts that I had to continue to eat and drink sensibly in order to keep the sickness at bay.

Shira Hut Camp with Shira Cathedral
Shira Hut Camp with Shira Hut Cathedral in the background

We'd seemingly covered a fair whack of distance today as Kilimanjaro now didn't seem too far away and it appeared as though we truly stood in its shadow. As dark fell we emptied our bladders to save us the seemingly huge inconvenience of being up in the night then we got our heads down for some much needed shuteye.


Dan and Meena said...

Wonderful! On our bucket list. You must get a digital site or some such creature so we can ohh and awww over all your pictures!

The Weekend Dude said...

Dan, it is an awesome trip well worth doing. A great sense of achievement for sure!

I'm heading away for a few days but will definately look into a site to host my pics on my return - in fairness it's way overdue and I do need a gentle push in the right direction to sort it. Thanks for your comments though, they are appreciated.

kilimanjaro treks said...

I just wanted to comment your blog and say that I really enjoyed reading your blog post here.Climbing Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime experience. It is a journey that requires investment in preparation time, and money, and should be carefully evaluated.

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