Climbing Kilimanjaro: Day 6 – Base Camp

Wed. 10th July 2013

Start altitude: 4,000m
Max. altitude: 4,600m
Camp altitude: 4,600m

Getting closer now!As we wake up today, the clouds beneath us have cleared to reveal the valley below – a long, long way below. It’s a reminder of how high we’ve climbed but turning round and looking up we can see how much further we have still to go. I know how Frodo felt about Mount Doom now as Kilimanjaro’s Kibo Peak towers above us.

Today is all about preparation for summit day tomorrow. It is only a short walk today, perhaps as little as 3 hours as we climb 600m up to Barafu Camp which is our base for the summit attempt (yes, after all this time, tomorrow is summit day). Once we get to Barafu, the routine will be very straightforward – lunch, sleep, dinner, sleep. Its only after that that things get a bit harder.

Heading higher againOnce we leave camp and climb over the first ridge, we can see the ridge we’ll be following tomorrow all of the way up to the summit. When I first caught sight of the mountain back in Amboseli, I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew. I’m now feeling quite a bit more confident. It’s partly that I’m feeling well – my legs are still strong; energy levels are high (thanks to diet of soup and porridge!); and the altitude effects are not too bad. Makeke and the guides have also played a big part – the mantra of pole pole really works and the way they have organised and encouraged us. Always smiling and always working to build confidence.

We're all still smiling!And then there is the group. What a great group of people from very diverse backgrounds with a 33 year gap between oldest (me) and youngest (Steve) and from very different walks of life. Yet, we have bonded so well. There are no cliques or outsiders. There is no gumby or big ego. Just a bunch of folk who have come together and formed really strong bonds and who all support each other. If any of the Kilimanjaro Conquerors read this – thank you, so much. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Looks better than it smells!The camp at 4,600m is as high as we have been. The last time we were this high was back at Lava Tower and then I felt pretty rough. The acclimatisation must be working as I feel significantly better today. There is, however, a sting in the tail for today’s walk. Once we climb up on to the last ridge we find that we are still below the level of the camp and there are a few more hundred metres of (slow) uphill walk to get to it. Once we get there, there is the usual warm welcome from the porters and lunch is ready and waiting for us.

Base camp! Very rocky!I don’t know what I expected to find at base camp but it is probably something like this. It’s just rocks with the tents pitched on any available flat ground. Its barren hillside with a view all the way down and over in the distance we can see Mwanzi peak (the third of Kili’s summits). Mwanzi looks much more jagged than Kibo peak where we are heading and apparently climbing there is prohibited (too dangerous). It may be desolate up here, but the views continue to be stunning. And we’re supposed to be getting some rest this afternoon. There is even a little bit of 2.5G phone signal here so I’m able to update Janet and get a ‘good luck’ text back.

We came from over there!I’m never very good at siestas and no matter how much I tell myself that I’ll be grateful for all the sleep that I can get come tomorrow morning, I don’t do much more than lie in the tent and read my book and perhaps doze a little. It’s a relief when we’re called together for an early dinner and then our final briefing. Normally, it is just Makeke who does the briefings but tonight all the guides are there to say their piece, give some advice and to build our confidence. After all the build-up; all the will I, won’t I; all the ‘July is a long way away’; all of the days spent walking; our moment of truth is just one more sleep away – and only half a night at that.

Sunset at base campA final check of kit and clothes (and food) for tomorrow. There are fresh batteries in the head torch and my camera is fully charged (thanks to portable power brick), so I must be all ready. We’re in bed by 6:30. Gotta get some sleep; gotta get some sleep… don’t think about tomorrow.

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