Climbing Kilimanjaro: Day 4 – Lava Tower

Mon. 8th July 2013

Start altitude: 3,840m
Max. altitude: 4,600m
Camp altitude: 3,900m

Steve is still looking confident!It’s obvious from my notes for today that it was a hard day’s walking. I’ve barely managed two sides of my little A6 notebook in sparse bullet points. No energy (mental or physical) for adjectives lots of verbs and just sticking to the facts. We have a long day’s walking ahead of us and it is uphill all morning.

The Lava Tower - not very dramatic but very high up!We’re heading for the Lava Tower – a lava plug from an old eruption. At 4,600m it is as high as we are going to get before we head out from Base Camp on summit day, so we are climbing, climbing right from the off. Initially, it is just up the path we took yesterday afternoon but instead of stopping we just keep on going. The terrain is now rocky, dusty and very dry there are very few plants to be seen. It’s not just the plants that are struggling either – we are still all in good spirits but walking is hard work and we are all breathing hard. There is a real chill in the wind and it is too cold for just shorts and t-shirt now. By the time we make it to the Lava Tower we are all feeling the altitude – an ache at the back of my head, a little bit woozy and concentrating is just hard.

Chillin' with the guides!This is where we have our lunch. Just a packed lunch today but, once again, a flask of soup appears and there is a mug of steaming soup for each of us. Some people are starting to get tired of soup but I don’t understand how that could ever happen. I’m surprised to see that there are some tents pitched on the rocky ground near the tower. Apparently other routes to the summit (Shira?) stay overnight here (and have an acclimatisation walk even higher up the mountain).

The initial descent from Lava Tower is quite steepNeedless to say, we’re all very happy that we’re heading down again for camp tonight. The summit is nearly 1,300m higher than we’ve just been. What is that going to be like? We try not to think about that too much as we head down to Baranco camp for the night. The terrain helps with that as the initial part of the descent has some steep steps with twists and turns and so whatever part of my brain is working has to concentrate on that (and ignore the growing protests from my knees).

Strange plants!Once again there is another set of views to take our breath away (well, whatever is left after the effect of the altitude). Ahead of us is Baranco Wall and tomorrow’s challenge (and it looks like a substantial challenge). Beside us is a stream running down into the valley with patches of snow and ice lurking in the shadow and all around us are some unique stubby Lobelia and giant Celesia(??) plants, both indigenous to this valley – and both really striking and alien.

Looking at Baranco WallBy the time we get to Baranco camp we are really feeling the strain. My legs and body are tired and I think that I have caught the sun on my face and hands (at least arms and legs were covered up). The good news though is that the symptoms of altitude sickness have died down. The bad news is that there seems to be a 300m tall vertical wall right in front of us for tomorrow!

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