• Flickr Recent Photos

    Black and white icebergPenguins jumpingIMG_6226.jpgIMG_6221.jpgIMG_6213.jpgIMG_6208.jpgIceberg emerging from the mistIMG_6149.jpgIMG_6141.jpgIMG_1193.jpg
More photos »

The Dusts of Kilimanjaro Part II

Posted by Jason del Sur in Kilimanjaro 2010
October 29th, 2010

Read Part I

Part II of III

Unlike Dante’s ascent up Mount Purgatory, this didn’t get easier as we climbed closer to the peak. As we climbed higher and higher, the terra firma beneath our feet became less and less solid. Hemingway and others always remarked on the snows of Kilimanjaro, but they had obviously never climbed it, otherwise they would have known there was more dust than snow on the slopes. As we reached closer to Gillman’s point 5685 meters above sea level (18,651ft), our feet began to sink into the dirt. Each step forward was like walking on sand, sliding you half a step back down. It was near this point that I last checked my thermometer. 10ºF it read still nearly 1,000 ft below the summit (still a couple miles horizontally from our goal).

I had been carrying a down coat in my bag thinking I would need it, but my many layers of Polartec, Smartwool, fleece, and Gortex (product placement: REI and 3M, where’s my money?) were thankfully keeping me adequately warm. I can’t say the same for my chemical hand warmers, which apparently don’t work well in low oxygen. But my coat did come in handy for my less warm-blooded companion, so I am happy I didn’t carry it for nothing.

Kilimanjaro Summit Night (Night 5)

We reached Gillman’s Point around 5:30 or 6am. I had no watch the entire trip, so unlike (or like, depending on your interpretation) Dean Moriarty, I did not know time. Regardless of our human chronology, it was the hour Diana’s brother mounted his chariot for his diurnal expedition across the sky. While it was a spectacular sunrise, our enjoyment was tempered by the arduous trail still ahead of us.

Kilimanjaro Summit Night (Night 5) Kilimanjaro Summit Night (Night 5)

Kilimanjaro Summit Night (Night 5)

Shortly thereafter we finally found the Snows of Kilimanjaro. While it might have been easier walking than the shale and dust of lower elevations, trekking through snow is no easy task. The snow on the path was tightly packed and worn from years of explorers like us and the temperature rarely rising above freezing. Up ahead of us we could see a crowd of people gathered around a sign most people have only seen in pictures. “Congratulations / You are now at / Uhuru Peak Tanzania 5,895 M. AMSL / Africa’s Highest Point / World’s Highest Freestanding Mountain.” The five of us, with the help our our guides had made it to the summit.

Our group at Uhuru Peak

Here at the glory of the summit, Willem revealed his cupcake, frosting, candle, and all. However, much to our disappointment, there was too little oxygen to light the candle. We would have to wait until we reached lower elevation to properly celebrate his 45th birthday.

Willem celebrates at Uhuru peak with his birthday cake

To be concluded…

The Dusts of Kilimanjaro

Posted by Jason del Sur in Kilimanjaro 2010
October 26th, 2010

Part I of III

“I just want to take off these pants and take a nap,” I was thinking. Oh, it’s 10am. Yes, 10am is in media res of the longest day of my life (well, technically two days, but since there was never more than an hour of sleep, for the sake of the story I’m counting it as one).

The camp to which we returned, even more so now than the previous day, greeted our exhaustion with the face of a refugee camp. The shale beneath our feet clattered together like broken glass. The fog weighed on our bodies much the same way the delirium of the past 12 hours clouded our souls. The only deus ex machina I craved was the appearance of my sleeping bag and breakfast.

Kilimanjaro Day 5

The previous day had begun much like the prior four days. At six we were awakened for morning tea in our tents followed by breakfast. We packed up our gear and began ascending the mountain once again. After about four hours of hiking we reached Barafu camp, which, as I mentioned earlier, resembled a refugee camp. We took our lunch and relaxed for a while.

Fortunately for us, today’s and the previous day’s treks were broken up, unlike the trek of our friends Brian and Alex, who were taking the six day Machame route. (The seven day trip gives you slightly more reprieve on these two days.) We had met them the first day, and they had continued to appear from time to time to provide us our comic relief. This particular Rosencrantz and Guildensternian (or if you are more geekily inclined, C3-P0 and R2-D2ian) duo hailed from Ireland.

Kilimanjaro Day 3

As many an Irishman is wont to do, they enjoy their whiskey. They had brought with them a small bottle of whiskey with which they planned to toast their success. Our paths once again crossed as they were coming down from the summit. They informed us that, although they had both successfully reached Uhuru Peak, their fatigue had prevented them from imbibing at the top.

We hoped our plans for the top would be more successful. Willem, our favourite South African, was 44 at the beginning of the trip. He had planned it so summit day would fall on his 45th birthday. To celebrate he was carrying a cupcake in a small tupperware tin to enjoy at the peak.

After a light dinner, we all retired tour our tents for a short nap. Around 11pm our guides roused us from our slumber. By midnight we had donned our gear, and we were on the trail again.

Kilimanaro Night 2

We ascended in the dark with nothing but our headlamps to guide us. Anything further away than a few feat became obscured in the darkness. When we looked up the mountain, other than the slight movement of the lights, it was difficult to tell in the firmament above where the headlamps of the hikers ahead of us stopped and where the stars began.

To be continued…

  • Where I’ve Been

  • Subscribe to My Feeds

    Subscribe to my RSS feed Jason's Twitter

  • Friends’ Adventures