Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 6 - Tanzania - Second day on the mountain

 Day two on the mountain and I'm awake at 5:45am, 15 minutes before my wake up call from the front desk. Last night before turning in Zach let us know he wanted us up at 6am so we could be packed and out of the tents by 6:45. This would give the porters time to pack the tents while we ate breakfast. The plan is to be on the trail no later then 8am every morning. We really never have any long hikes on the trip except for summit night/day so there's no need to get on the trail super early. Zach agreed to yell out at 6am every morning to wake us but the wake up call is not needed today. I guess I got enough sleep considering we turned in just after dark around 7pm last night.
Today for breakfast we have millett porridge, a local staple that is actually quite tasty. Adding a little honey or brown sugar to it makes it even better. That's followed by scrambled eggs, toast, hot dog wieners and your choice of hot cocoa, coffee or tea to wash it all down. I'm really impressed with the quality and taste of the food. Most people know I'm a bit of a picky eater but I never ran across anything on this trip that I didn't at least try once and most of it multiple times.
As we leave camp the main peak of Kilimanjaro known as Kibo is barely visible because of the slight valley we are in. Mawenzi Peak on the other hand is dead ahead and our destination two days from now. Mawenzi Peak is considerably shorter than Kibo at only 16,890' but because we are headed straight towards it and it's much closer then Kibo it looks very impressive.

Mawenzi Peak

 Although Mawenzi Peak is shorter then Kibo, it is considerably more dangerous and for the most part climbing is not allowed except by very special, hard to get permits. It's the third highest peak in Africa behind Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya but considered to be the most dangerous to climb because it is very steep and spiky and the lava rock is very crumbly making ascents very dangerous.

 Finally we clear the valley early in the morning and get a great view of the early morning light hitting Kilimanjaro.

We are all anxious to get our pictures with the peak in the background so we line up one at a time and snap away. Depth of field makes these shots not so impressive.




Yeah, I know, go ahead and make fun of the head gear but it kept the equatorial sun off me and I came home with very little sunburn.

Out on the trail I grab another shot of Kibo that I really like. This one might get printed!

 I promised to show a clip of our hiking pace and when I downloaded this video and looked at it it seemed as though the gang is moving much faster then I remember.  Click on the image below to start the video. Once it's finished you can use the back button to return here.

 Another shot along the path, Killian always eager to pose and point skyward as one of the porters cruises by us carrying a huge load.

 Before we know it we are at our camp for the second evening. It's just after noon so we settle into our tents to rest for a few minutes before lunch is prepared for us. Looking around the camp I grab a shot of the ever present White Naped Ravens or Corvus albicollis for you ornitholigist out there. These birds are everywhere, even high camp at 15,400'.

 They are scavengers and not afraid to enter tents looking for a bit to eat. We were told to make sure the tent vestibule and inner zippers are always zipped up to keep these and other critters out.

 Another strange site to see in camp are these large transistor radios. It seems as though the porters, even though they are carrying huge loads, can't live without their music. Many times while on the trail the sound of the radio coming up behind us was the only notice we got that a porter was about to fly by us.

It's almost time for lunch as Zach and Killian stand around enjoying the view.

Zach fiddles around with the mess tent just before we head in for lunch.

 I had to share a few shots of the inside of the mess tent so you really get a better idea of how we are treated on the trip. By buddies joke about the tiny three-legged camp stool I take backpacking with me but get a load at what these porters are carrying up the mountain for us. A full picnic table and four lawn chairs, old school lawn chairs. No lightweight, titanium in here. Just good old aluminum and plastic.

A few of the typical items layed out on the table for us every day included everything from brown sugar to hot sauce though Zach was disappointed that we ran through all the hot sauce, both bottles, by day four.


 After lunch it was time for our acclimatization hike so Freddie, our assistant guide takes us up another 900'-1,000'
Freddie is such a cool cat, nothing ever phases this guy. He's slow and steady on the hikes and very quite. Although he speaks English, he rarely says much.

 I mentioned in yesterday's post that Pole, Pole was the mantra for the hike. Well, it's the end of day two and I'm just starting to get used to the pace. It really is hard to understand how slow we are moving each day. Think walking slowly and chances are you are going too fast. But supposedly this slow pace and drinking more water then I ever thought possible is the key to getting to the summit so we continue on at this glacial pace interrupted every 45 minutes or so by me needing to stop and pee!
 Our guide, Zach,  keeps preaching to us the "Pole, Pole" and "Drink more water" mantra throughout the days of the journey. This guy's pretty amazing himself. It's not just the porters carrying a heavy load. Zach's pack weighs in at 60lbs and he'll carry that all the way to high camp at 15,400' before lightening it up a bit for summit day. This is his 9th trip to the summit this season, his first on the mountain. It's his first time on this route and he's really enjoying it. He tells us how lucky we are to have the mountain to ourselves and such great weather so far. The other routes are much more popular and sometimes even crowded but we've only seen a handful of other climbers on our route.

 As the end of the day nears I can honestly say for the first time that I'm no longer anxious or nervous about the climb. I can now say I'm EXCITED!

 One last pic this evening of Kibo as the clouds begin to roll in then it will be dark soon and time to turn in.

Details for today's portion of the trip:
Distance Hiked: 3.6 miles
Start Elevation:  8,665'
End Elevation: 11,434'
Total Elevation gain: 2,769'

Tomorrow we head for Camp Kikelewa at 12,037' - 3.7 miles