Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 7 - Tanzania - Third day on the mountain

It's day three on the mountain and once again we are all up by 6am and getting ready for another day. Everything is packed and out of our tents by 6:45 to give the porters an opportunity to get the tents packed up while we have breakfast. Today we are heading for Camp Kikelewa at 12,037' and 3.7 miles closer to Mawenzi Peak.

Sunrise at Second Cave campsite.

We left camp right on schedule around 8am and are headed out under beautiful weather conditions. We really couldn't ask for better weather with clear skies and comfortable temps. Nobody had a thermometer with them but if I had to guess I would say the temp was right around 70 degrees.
Unfortunately this would work against me today yet I didn't realize it at first.

 David & Colleen out ahead of me on the trail.

 A couple of the twelve or so amazing porters passing us on the trail. It really would have been impossible to do this without their assistance. Just look at the load this porter closest to the camera is carrying. He's got a backpack on with shoulder straps only, no hip belt to transfer the load to his hips and legs. He's carrying a bottle in his left hand and he's balancing a huge sack of supplies on his head and maybe using his right hand to balance it. Chances are there's something in his right hand too and he just simply balances the sack on his head by magic!

Killian makes way for several porters to pass. We always give these hard working guys the right of way on the trail. Mawenzi Peak looms in the background. We'll be up there tomorrow afternoon.

More porters passing. This one is wearing a backpack. He also has a large sack that turns out to be my porter bag (Remember it's 31 lbs alone.), a naugahyde sleeping pad (A new inside joke among a few friends.), our mess tent table and a large plastic bucket for water. And he walks past us like we are standing still. Of course we are going Pole, Pole so that's not hard to imagine anyway.

Zach, our "mountain man" guide scrambles up this rock to get a better view of Kibo and also just because he loves scrambling up these rocks.

The view from up there really is amazing!

Until now we have been unable to see our approach up the mountain but we are now getting far enough south along the path to glimpse the path up the mountain. We are still too far away to see the actual path but he points out to us the farthest point to the south that we can see is roughly our ascent line. Looking at the photo of Zach and the mountain above just trace up the far left visible side and that's pretty much our path. Really?!
 As I mentioned above, the perfect weather would work against me today.
I applied sunscreen just before leaving camp but never reapplied during the morning ascent. One other thing I failed to do while on the trail this morning was drink much water. My body just didn't seem to be telling me I needed any and I failed to drink enough. I was also a little overdressed for the day because I had had a bit of a chill when we first started out in the morning. Now it was mid day and I had failed to shed a layer. As a result I was getting sunburned, dehydrated and overheated all at the same time. By the time we strolled into camp around 12:30pm I was feeling like crapola.
Zach at first thinks I'm starting to show signs of AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness. I'm just shy of being nauseous at this point and really need to lay down for a rest. He checks my heartrate and SPO and sees some slightly troubling numbers. My heartreate is at 105, a bit high for me but not crazy high. This number would be crazy high for David who is still sitting around 60bpm but for me it's only slightly elevated. But my SPO number is only 90. David & Colleen are both still at 94-95.
Zach recommends I start taking Diamox with dinner today and I reluctantly do so. Diamox is a drug originally prescribed for glaucoma patients but it's been found to be effective against AMS in high altitude climbers as well. Follow the link in the drug name above if you are interested in how the drug works. After a while he notices how red I am and then discovers how little water I drank along the trail today (Only about 12-15 oz.). He is not too happy to learn this and I get a good scolding for not drinking enough and tells me to pound away at a couple liters right away. I'm also reminded of constantly re-applying the sunscreen at this altitude and latitude. Above 10,000' and only 3 degrees below the equator makes for some deadly sun damage. Zach really knows what he's talking about because within a short time frame I'm starting to feel like a new man again and I'm ready to head out for our afternoon acclimatization hike.
 As we are resting in our tents we get a rare early afternoon thunderstorm roll through camp but we are all comfy in our tents so it really doesn't bother us too much. Of course I just drank two liters of water and now I gotta pee. No problem, I pull out the pee bottle and start the process. Just as I'm mid stream so to speak there is a lighting bolt/thunder boom that rattles the camp. I just about dropped the bottle and made quite the mess in the tent! Fortunately the storm only last about 30 minutes and it's time for our afternoon acclimatization hike.

Out on the hike I grab this shot of Mawenzi Peak. As you can see we are getting much closer.

Looking at this same pic below I've placed a red arrow that marks the ridge line we are going to hike over tomorrow. That's the location of the Mawenzi Tarn campsite, our location for night number four.
If you look at this photo full screen at it's highest resolution you can actually just barely make out the path that leads over the ridge.

One last shot of Kibo before turning in for the day. Looks like the thunderstorm that past over us earlier this afternoon has dropped some fresh snow on the peak. I'm thinking to myself, great, more snow. As it turns out and I learn on summit day, more snow is a good thing. I'll explain about that when we get to day 5.

 Because it's getting a bit chilly this evening I turn into my tent earlier then normal to update my journal and get ready for tomorrow's big climb. Tomorrow should be the first tough day of the trip so far. We are going up roughly 2,000' and in a very short distance so it will be steeper then we've been hiking these last three days. As I lay in my tent writing this I for the first time realize I'm a bit lonely on this journey. I can hear Colleeen and her dad talking to each other over in their tent but I sit here alone with my thoughts. At this point I'm glad I decided to bring along a couple photos from home and I pull them out while I write this entry. This is also when I decide that I've got to bring Penny and the "kids" along for the summit trip as well.

That's all for tonight.

Details for today's portion of the trip:
Distance Hiked: 3.7 miles
Start Elevation: 11,434'
End Elevation:  12.037'
Total Elevation gain: 603'

Tomorrow we head for the Mawenzi Tarn campsite at 14,137' - 2.3 miles