Monday, November 28, 2005

The Breach

Strange, it is 5:30 and we were supposed be up by now... where was our 5 a.m. wake up call? I make a dash for the toilet tent, it is frosty out. It takes courage to set my bottom on the very cold wooden seat. Oh man, but the view, thank goodness for the view! As soon as one zipper sounds off, everyone starts moving around. There is a level of excitement that is almost tangible. I am no longer the least bit nervous or worried, I am looking forward to the challenge, confident and excited. (Foolish?) We discover that one the junior guides who was supposed to wake us up (and shall remain nameless) was too warm and cozy in his sleeping bag and did not want to get up. I think he probably got a bit of a talking to by Simon. Anyway, we are delayed by about an hour and get a later start than Simon had been planning on. But I did not really want to trek in the dark anyway.

After breakfast and packing up, we had to get fitted with ropes around our waists and we also had to wear ill-fitting helmets over top of our many layers. This day is the only really dangerous part of the trek. We are going to be traversing a very steep and rocky slope and scrambling up rock faces, oh fun!

Very steep and slippery trail

We finally get going on the steep trail, it is covered in snow and is slippery and we are in the half light of pre- dawn. I find it hard to keep from sliding a bit with each step, but try not to slick up the trail for those following. My feet are icy cold, I can't seem to get them warm, with each slow step I wiggle my toes before I set my foot down again.

After about a half an hour of this they start to warm up. Perhaps it is also due to the fact the sun is up and shining down upon us. At first it gets even more slippery, but as we slowly trek up the switchback the snow disappears and all we have to deal with is a rocky, steep trail.

Breaks are few and far between, Simon has warned us that it is dangerous to stop on parts of the trail, but much to the chagrin of many of us, we end up stopping in our tracks fairly often. This was very difficult because of the steep angle, one felt that at any moment they were about to topple and bounce down the side of the mountain. Rock slides were a real danger here and we were witness to a mini rock slide and it made it clear that if you fell, there was no stopping the downward tumble for a long, long ways.

Break time, don't fall off
Finally we come to a relatively flat area, that is obviously a regular lunch stop as can be seen from various trash laying around. We have a packed lunch today, no hot soup and Buiat bringing us water for tea on this day. At last my appetite is waning and I force myself to eat a hard boiled egg, some biscuits and a few pieces of chocolate. Then a quick duck down a bit and behind some large rocks for a pee break, obviously used for that purpose quite often too, phew! Pack up and onward we go.

At this point Simon decides to rope a few of us together, we are about to head into a bit more challenging rock climbing. I end up being roped up behind two other trekkers and they are roped to Simon at the front. The rope between myself and the person in front of me is too short, I am climbing blind, I can not see where to put my hands or feet. I get very frustrated and instead of feeling safe I am actually in more danger. Finally, when a large rock is dislodged in front of me and lands on my foot, I reach the end of my rope (no pun intended). I shouted up to Simon to unhook me, he shook his head no, but I think he saw how determined I was to be free of the rope and before I knew it Urio had run up and unfettered me. Ah, that was so much better, I hated being roped and pulled up behind someone and not being able to see. Free! From that point on I began to enjoy the climb again, it was exhilarating, challenging but not frightening. I like heights and had no problem clambering up the overhanging rocks.

It took over nine hours to get to the crater's edge, but we finally all made it, arriving beside an impressively large, bluish glacier. We were just over 18, 000 feet.
The Glacier at Crater Camp
I threw off the helmet and pack and slowly wandered to the edge, taking in the view and looking at how far we had come. We all took photos and then slowly made our way towards our camp, which was nestled between the side of Kilimanjaro and the glacier. I looked up toward the last trail up that we had to face tomorrow... it did not look so bad.

The group at the top of the Breach, we made it this far!
The group at the edge of the crater at the top of the western reach

Tomorrow we summit!


Jackal said...

Congratulations !

Great pics!

JB said...

Another terrific write-up! I love all the details you give us and how you describe the good and the bad.

You're almost there and I can't wait to hear how the last leg of your journey goes.

librarychik said...

Thanks Jackal, however the pic's do not really do it justice.

Thanks JB, I am glad you are enjoying the trek too :-) I hope you make it there yourself someday!

librarychik said...

Thanks Jackal, however the pic's do not really do it justice.

Thanks JB, I am glad you are enjoying the trek too :-) I hope you make it there yourself someday!