Sunday, August 18, 2013

August Adventures - Kilimanjaro, The Climb (Day Three)

The urge to go to the bathroom presents itself before dawn - forcefully. 

I lay there pondering my options.  Can I hold it till the sun comes out? If not, there is quite a bit of maneuvering and preparing before exiting the tent.  The answer is no –

must. go. now.

Find the headlamp to be able to see, crawl out of the sleeping bag while remaining within the same boundary lines of the width of the bag.  Feel for my top layer pants.  Put them on much like how my mother use to put a girdle on back in the 60’s - on her back, lying on the bed and defying gravity with every pull and stretch upwards.  Next, harness the down coat which is damp from the moist air.  Go from sitting up to being on all fours. Then find the inner layer zipper of the tent, tug and struggle a bit with it because the fabric is stretched so tightly, then resume sitting position, put my double layered stocking feet out the opening and navigate boots and laces.


After the long awaited bathroom journey is complete, I look up and realize that the tent gymnastics were all worth it.

There in the untainted night sky was the most majestic pattern of stars I’d ever been privileged to see.  I could not recall ever witnessing the constellations without some land light interference. It was beyond bright, the edges of each star clear and defined and every pattern and trail seemingly within arms length – the Pleiades, Milky Way, Orion’s Belt,  all positioned in the brilliance of the southern hemisphere.

I turned off my forehead lamp, sat on a piece of lava rock and let the heavens entertain me.

It was only a half hour before sunrise. Rather than go through the extensive undressing and redressing, I waited for morning light, smiling at the social media post I’d remember seeing on occasion that read , “I found a really old picture of you,” and the illustration shows a shining star.
 Writer Paulo Coelho, a favorite of mine, reminded us, “We are travelers on a cosmic journey - stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”

Soon with morning light, a fresh cup of ginger tea along with a breakfast of spongy pancakes, boiled eggs, and bananas, we each prepared for our third day of climbing.

Today’s destination to Barranco camp follows the acclimatization principle of “climb high, sleep low”, and we will aim to go above the  14,500 feet point and retreat down to around 13,066 to rest at Barranco.  The trek, above the clouds, reveals the beginnings of scenic vistas and indigenous vegetation.  Lava rock is everywhere and you realize that at one time, thousands of years ago, this was an active volcano.

I was captivated by a tree like plant called Senecios.  From a distance it looks like the cross between a palm tree and an aloe plant.  They populate the crevices throughout this region and Harold said it was one of the national symbols of Kilimanjaro – resilient in withstanding frozen temperatures with leaves that remain green all year round.

I’m feeling rather good today.  Perhaps I was given an infusion from star gazing.  I’m walking in front with second in command John and my eyes fixate on his boots, his stride and I do my best to mimic each step.  We stop frequently as the air becomes thinner and are instructed to keep hydrating.  I was gifted with a camelback water container before the trip and I am loving the convenience of drinking through the hose that rests along my side.

Jon (Yahn) is becoming increasingly ill – dizzy, headaches and his steps are precarious, wobbling back and forth.  Jon had refused to take Diamox, the highly recommended medication that helps with advanced altitude adjustments. With only 8 of the normally 14.7 pounds per square inch of pressure from the surrounding air, our bodies are doing everything they can to adjust. In extreme cases, altitude sickness can have water build up in the brain and lungs, a life-threatening situation.

From the morning’s beginnings until reaching Lava Tower, a massive formation created from a long ago frozen lava flow, we had eaten little, save the snacks and bars we were encouraged to carry.  Lunch was awaiting us here, behind the Tower, in a tent the porters had erected.  Boulders are used to hold the four corners down as the wind is quite strong.  The four of us stumble inside, sitting at the makeshift table.

There is some relief knowing our remaining hours will be traveling downward towards camp and sleep.

Jon continues struggling.  The sight of food is nauseating for him and he excuses himself.

We are hurried to finish.  I realize later just how mathematical it all is.  Reach a certain elevation, stay for a calculated time, then descend to maximize the bodies ability to adjust.

Several hours more and we arrive at Barranco camp.  The same routine of settling in begins.  I look up and see a massive wall of rock off in the distance.  My guess is that it is the Barranco Wall, the arduous part of the trail where balance and precision are key.  I’m fairly sure it is the first thing we attempt tomorrow, thus the nickname - the Breakfast Wall.  It is the portion of the climb that Mark has dreaded the most because of his fear of heights. 

I don’t think I’ll ask Harold or John for clarification. 

Dinner is served before twilight – some kind of stew, plus bread and mango slices.  None of us are particularly hungry but they keep saying – eat, eat.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I read total Post. It’s really nice. Thank you for sharing

    Climb Kilimanjaro


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