Day Six: 3rd February 2013
3900 – 4950m
Time to get serious…
So today is pre-summit day. We have a long climb to get where we are going, but that’s fine we are going to do it at Team Kobe pace. Today, despite leaving amongst the first people we are quickly displaced by nearly everyone and end up at the back of the pack – so far back that the doctor on tail end Charlie duty, Matt Knox today, gets the privilege of not only listening to our smut and carry on, but of reaching his destination in record breaking slow time as we shuffle ever upwards.
In fact we are moving so slowly we force the doctors to abandon their routine of having one doctor in the middle of the pack and two doctors at the rear providing sweep. Taking one look at our rude good health they quickly decide that two doctors will not be needed here and the other one hurries forward to be at the rear of the actual pack of climbers, instead of being with the reverse breakaway group we have become. Reading this I realise it all sounds very exclusive, but we noisily encourage others to join and see the team kobe light and at dinner time we are (never last) spread out and around socialising with all the other interesting people on the trail who happen to walk faster than the slow shuffle of an elderly person with two broken hips.
At one point a porter walks past who is part of the kitchen team, he is carrying a massive wooden spoon with which they mix the soups and stews. Of course given our history of coming into camp last we feel we rightly deserve to carry the wooden spoon and claim our title as Wings of Kilimanjaro ‘wooden spooners’ . The porter fends us off and protects his burden and races forward away from our group, and we can’t be bothered trying to stop him.
I haven’t mentioned food yet and those of you who know me, even partially, will be wondering how I am coping with food on the trek. To start with I brought a lot of my own food as snacks – I brought a variety, however the stand out winners were my Darryl Lea licorice, Uncle Toby’s instant oats (brown sugar/cinnamon/golden syrup flavour combo), and Salt and vinegar delites. The licorice proved to be a huge win as it provided a strong taste, was meaty to chew on and had a good restorative combination of sugar and salt. The oats meant I could get something easily in my system at anytime provided I had hot water, always available at meals, and meant I didn’t have to eat the other options if weariness or illness meant I couldn’t stomach them. The Salt and vinegar delites retrospectively would have been the best of all snacks, again restorative salts, strong taste and decently crunchy however in my concern over weight limits I only packed in one box and pretty much nailed the lot on day one.
Meal times were much anticipated. As most of us were good health we didn’t suffer from any lack of appetite, much to the caterers despair. Plus we had the doctors breathing down our backs telling us to eat, eat and eat some more. The morning brought watery porridge, cold toast and an odd assortment of cold eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers and some other random things I couldn’t identify. Thankfully hot water and milo were always on hand and with my specially packed thermos I was able to enjoy sharing a nice hot chocolate at points along our walk.
Lunch seemed to be forgotten about most days, though we were sometimes handed a little lunch of muffin, biscuit, juice and sometimes peanut butter sandwich on stale bread. There was one delicious (according to me) lunch that seemed to have the group divided in opinion – I think it was day four or five and they served us a lovely broth which included plantains (similar to banana). Some were horrified and some loved it – my guess is the horrified people are of that evil breed that don’t like pineapple on their pizza.
Dinner was a three course affair every night (except once we reached the summit). It always began with an unidentified soup which was always hot and yummy, moved onto the main and then some sort of fruit for desert. The mains could be eclectic – one meal comprised of a spagetthi Bolognese, which got me excited, until I realised they had used fish in their Bolognese. One dinner some style of hot chips was served up, and for all their mushiness were really quite tasty.
Basically it was all quite palatable and kept the scurvy and altitude illness at bay while we walked up the hill. We didn’t know how good we had it until summit day, when everything got turned upside down…..
Our walk plan had been very different to that of many people who climb the mountain, we took longer, camped in some different areas and were going to approach the summit during the day rather than night. Tonight we were to camp at a place called ‘Kosovo’, which was slightly higher up than the normal pre-summit camp of Barafu. We started to encounter our first return summiters on this walk – people who had gotten up around midnight and made the trek from Barafu camp to the summit and were then trekking straight back down to Barafu that day. They looked…well, like hell really.
We all nodded sagely, and quietly, cockily said to ourselves, ‘went up to fast’, or ‘not quite fit enough’ but I know we were all inwardly shaking at what tomorrow held for us and how our own bodies would hold up to the challenge.
As it was the climb on this day was pretty tough, through a moonscape of rocks at a steep incline for over 6 hours, it was physically pretty tough. It was stunning and exhilarating walking alongside and then finally looking over Mowensi Peak, Kili’s second peak. This valley between the two peaks is the area in which we are to fly through after jumping from Stellar Point. The pilots were all keenly observing the weather between the peaks and some concerns were being voiced over the irregularity of wind patterns (I think that’s what they were concerned about anyway…).
When we got to camp Kosovo there was barely energy left to get to dinner, let alone give myself a baby wipe bath. However I knew that over the next couple of days I would barely have the energy to breath and wouldn’t be up to changing my outfit between the extreme cold and lethargy, so a bath it was. I put on layer and layer of thermals knowing that my skin wouldn’t see the light of day for some time.
By now I was sleeping in two pairs of thermal leggings and my ski pants, two thermal tops, two mid layer tops, two neck warmers – one to stay around my neck and the other to be pulled up around my ears and back of my head, my beanie and don’t forget the thin undersocks, plus the thick over socks, plus the down booties borrowed from the wonderful Karla. With all this on I barely fit inside my ridiculously inadequate and small sized sleeping bag. However it is necessary if I want to last through the cold nights and get some good rest.
Tonight the camp is rocked by massive winds, before we get to bed two of the toilet tents blow over and are only just stopped from being the first of the party to fly off the mountain. Thankfully no-one is inside at the time, though the comedic value would have been high. I notice the toilet tents because I was on my way to the toilet at the time, so I find myself inside hovering over the port-a-potty and holding onto the sides of the tent for dear life. It’s exhausting!
I don’t spend a lot of time asleep tonight, I’m too busy listening to that howling wind crash into mountain around us, looking at my watch and thinking of the poor summiters who are even now in this weather making their climb towards the summit and feeling intermittently feeling nervous about the climb and shivering inside my tent. If I knew what was coming I probably would have slept even less!