Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Day 6 on the mountain

I could not quite make it, through the night that is. A.W. and I had got into the habit of staying up as late as we could (about 9 p.m.) in order to stave off running to the toilet tent in sub zero temperatures at 3 a.m. She found it a bit more challenging because of the diamox, which is basically a diuretic. At this point in the trip I had only taken one pill. Anyway, it was 5:30 a.m. and I just could not wait for the sun peek over the looming side of Kilimanjaro. I discovered, as I made my way to the t.t., that it was not really that cold. Yes, I could still see my breath, but I felt surrounded by a soft warmth, the air carried a hint of the sun, the stars were not as brilliant and the moon was fading, but the darkness was not thick and I put away my petzl. It was very still and quiet.

I walked out on the rock shelf that served as a windbreak for our tents, Shira Plateau was about to be lit by the sun, although the mountain behind me was still blanketed in darkness. As the sky grew lighter, I tried to pick out our trail for the day, it zig-zagged up the side of the canyon to the west and then disappeared. We were heading today for Lava Tower camp. It is supposed to be a short day and the plan is for us to climb Lava Tower rock in the afternoon, which apparently has a fabulous view.

The day is sunny as we depart Moir camp, but the wind is cool and I start out with jacket on and hat and mitts handy. The trail is mostly uphill, very rocky and as usual the pace is slow. I am used to it though and I am beginning to feel the altitude and appreciate the pace.

On the trail from Moir to Lava Tower Camp:

Rocky terrain from Moir camp to Lava Tower
We get to Lava Tower camp early in the afternoon, but the fog and mist arrive with us.
Lava Tower Camp in the mist

The camp is surrounded by rocky formations. Behind our tents is a free standing rock wall that has a 'doorway' that leads to an uneven and rocky path to the other side where our toilet tents are set up.

Lava Tower Camp
There will be no scramble up the sheer, rocky face of Lava Tower for us, a disappointment that is keen as I have never belayed down a rock face before and I was looking forward to the challenge of climbing the rock face in preparation for the "Western Breach". Which we were going to have to face in just two more days.

Looking back towards Shira Plateau:
Looking back at Shira, darkness and light

The ominous Western Breach:
Looking up toward the Western Breach

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