Climbing Kilimanjaro: Day 5 – Baranco Wall

Tue. 9th July 2013

Start altitude: 3,900m
Max. altitude: 4,200m
Camp altitude: 4,000m

Climbing Baranco Wall!I must be getting the hang of this camping malarkey. It’s not the greatest night’s sleep ever – waking every couple of hours with one side all stiff and sore from the thin mattress and hard ground, roll over and get another hour or so lying on the other side – but it is enough to keep me going and I’m still feeling fresh and ready to go in the morning. Strangely, I remember more dreams than I’m used to – these tend to be full of non-sequiturs (as dreams usually are) but at least I didn’t have Steve’s dream that we were now heading down the mountain, without having reached the top!

The porters make it look easyIt’s my perfect breakfast this morning – fresh fruit, porridge and then French toast and bacon. No wonder I’m feeling really well today – strong, rested and no particular altitude effects. Just as well as Baranco Wall hasn’t gone away overnight. It seems to tower over us and as we look closely, we can see the path we’ll be taking looking like a scratch on the rock. From below, it looks narrow and steep and we’re all feeling a little intimidated by it. Makeke and the guides constantly say positive things and assure us that we can do it. After all, if Chris Moyles can do it…

Life above the clouds!In practice, it is one of the most enjoyable sections of the whole trek – neither as narrow (mostly) nor as steep (usually) as it seemed from below. There are places where we have to scramble up and over rocks though and in the case of the ‘Kissing Rock’ we have to shuffle round a narrow ledge whilst (firmly) embracing a large boulder and determinedly not looking at the vertiginous drop below. Whilst Tony is trying to master his nerves and not look down, Steve gets bored and scrambles, like a mountain goat, straight up the side of the boulder and round the top. How did he do that?

Falling?All the while, the views keep getting better and better as we get higher up and further around the wall. We can see wispy clouds creeping in along the valley below and we’ve still got Mount Meru in the distance peeking up above its cotton wool blanket. ‘Only’ a couple of hours later, we’re at the top of the wall and the view is like looking out over the edge of the world. The cliff ends and all that can be seen are the clouds below. Cue more silly photos.

Fantastic views from high up on the WallThere's that mountain again!From the top, we still have another couple of hours walk to get to Karanga, tonight’s camp site. Three times we head down into a valley and up the ridge on the other side. We’re walking around the side of Kibo peak now – it is always looming over us. The downhill sections prove to be as much of a challenge as the up, it’s just a different set of leg muscles that get tired. Still, we make it to camp in time for lunch and it is a good feeling to know that our walking is done for the day. Even better, it is chips again for lunch and so everyone is in high spirits.

Like the surface of the moonWe can now see the ridge that we will be following on our climb to the summit. I don’t want to underestimate it but my confidence is growing that I can do this. And I’m not alone in feeling like this but there is a shared optimism around the group. Surely we can all do this. After all, summit day is now just 2 days away. In 48hours we’ll either have done it or not.

Camping in the shadow of Kibo peakAfter a little downtime, there is a final acclimatisation walk to do. We head up the trail we’ll be following tomorrow so that we are 150m or so above the altitude of the camp – just to ensure that our camp is lower than the highest point of today’s walk. We now really could be on the surface of Mars. There is no plant life and all around are boulders and rocks. As we head back, the clouds start coming down the mountain and gradually creep down to the camp. It looks like it’s going to be cold tonight and so I break out my super warm (hired) padded jacket. Toasty!

Our camp above the cloudsIts not just during the day that the views are spectacular here. When the sun sets the stars come out and with the thin air and being above the clouds the the number of stars is again astounding. Through all the stars the Milky Way winds its way across the sky. I’ve had views like this in two or three places on our trip (e.g. Lake Titicaca, Namibia) but I don’t think you can get tired of this view. For Steve, this is the first time that he’s had the chance to see this spectacle. It is just amazing.


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