Kili Day 6, 28 Jan 2011
I slept well, for about two hours, then put on all my gear and fought through the wind to link up with the group in the dinner tent. I was wearing medium weight polypro tights under pants and covered with my snow bibs for my lower body. On my upper body I wore a polypro top, pullover, and a puff jacket and carried my shell in my pack. I filled my camelbak with three liters of Camelbak Elixer drink and carried two snickers bars for energy (can't stand Powerbars of Clifbars anymore- I have reached my lifetime limit). I also carried spare batteries for my headlamp, which came in handy for "Trailbait" when hers died three hours into the climb.
It was dark, cold, and windy when we stepped off at 11:45pm. Normally its 20*F at the camp but the 30mph wind gusts froze my camelbak solid by 2:30am. We started "Pole Pole," just one foot in front of the other, in the frigid dark. The headlamps only illuminated the way for six to ten feet so we just watched the back or the feet of the person in front of you. We only took three breaks of five minutes each on the way to the top- everyone was too cold to be stationary for too long.
Around 2:20am a blood red horseshoe of a crescent moon rose above the horizon below us. The stars around us didn't give enough light to see our surroundings. Down in the distance below us we could see the lights of many small towns. We just kept moving, six inches forward per step as the incline increased over steep scree and sand covered slopes. I don't remember too much as I tried to go to my "happy place" as the hours of climbing went by.
As we got closer to the top under the thin light of the moon I could make out the edge of the horizon before us and the glaciers around us. Around 5am we made it to the rim of the crater and turned left. I was at the end of the group, breathing like I was running the last bit of a marathon, with my heart beating four times for every breath. When I slowed my breathing the headache at the base of my skull would set in, so I was Lamaze breathing like I was having a baby.
|Back row: Poles, Milo (me), Pooter, Jake, Viagra, Brian, G4, Billy Goat. Front row: Chombo, Trailbait|
At 5:50am we made it to the rickty wooden sign that said we were at the highest point in Africa- Uhuru Peak at 5896m (19,343 ft). As we gathered in front of the sign for victory picture the first sliver of red light pierced the cloud-covered horizon below us. Headaches began to assault us as we stood at the top so I split with a small group to get down "Haraka Haraka" (quickly quickly).
As we descended the morning light illuminated the dirty white & blue glacier fields we had passed in the night. The views were awesome, but I couldn't stop to take any pictures- my head was killing me and it was too damn cold. It took us six hours to get to the top, but we descended the 5,000 ft in an hour. The best part of the descent was the 1000 vertical feet of a scree field that I jumped down. Besides that the conclusion of the group was that it was good that we ascended in the dark of the night because the steepness of the slope was ridiculous.
We were the first group to make it to the top and we blew by the groups that had sped by us on the lower elevations earlier in the week. Our "Pole Pole" guides had got us into a rhythm that carried us to the top, with 100% success- all nine of us made it to the summit. Back at camp I quickly shucked my gear and thawed my camelbak for a quick drink before taking a nap. After lunch we had another 5,000 vertical feet to descend to get to the camp for the night.