Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb - Climbing to Crater Camp - 18,500 ft

Trip Day 8 - Climb Day 6


Thankfully wake up call was at 5AM today. I "woke up" and felt OK for not having slept or ate the previous night. The guides had told us not to pack up our sleeping bags and pads but rather to let the porters do it for us so we didn't get tired. I thought this was utterly ridiculous and if I couldn't pack up my own sleeping bag I didn't belong climbing any higher. I was packed and ready to go when Raymond came by offering hot tea. Breakfast was amusing. Everyone huddled together in the dark and the cold in the mess tent attempting to eat something. For myself, eating dry granola with no saliva was a very interesting challenge indeed. I think I managed to eat a half a dozen spoonfuls along with an extremely dry piece of toast. I scarfed down some more ibuprofen along with my gingko and off we went into the cold morning. The word from Joanna's tent was that her condition had not improved and that Ben had decided that she would not be climbing any higher. One of the assistant guides, Humphrey, and a few porters were assigned to her and they were to traverse around the mountain and meet us at Mweka camp the next day.

The temperature was probably in the 20's but it felt much colder than that on my extremities. It didn't take long after we started for my toes and fingers to be completely numb. This was another surprise as I do lots of winter hiking and have never had my fingers/toes go numb so quickly and not warm right back up. Not more than a couple of hundred yards from camp, Norm pulled over to the side of the trail and proceeded to throw up what little breakfast he had eaten that morning. We stopped for a while Ben attended to him. Norm felt better after letting loose and we continued on. I never felt nauseous myself but I was slightly short of breath while climbing and felt like I was operating on reserve instead of primary energy sources. I fell in line at the rear of the middle group of climbers, put my head down, and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. That was how the morning went for me, one foot in front of the other. Very little conversation, not much looking at scenery (I took one picture on the entire climb. Most of the pictures on this page are Ed's), one foot in front of the other. I did notice though that our group's personal spy, Frank the water guy, was keeping a close eye on me. He stuck behind me like glue, of course that could have been because I was at the rear of the group too. The best part of the climb was the enthusiasm from the guides and the porters. They were singing and cheering us on the whole way up the face of the mountain. This was good for me to break up the monotony of one foot in front of the other. Somewhere between 2 and 3 hours into the climb the sun finally started to warm us up and I could feel my toes and fingers again. After a seemingly endless morning we arrived at lunch at 18,000 ft. I had previously attempted to eat a clif bar for some energy and managed to only gag down half the bar. Lunch was equally unappealing. Most everyone else seemed to be able to eat something but I managed only 2 pieces of watermelon and the other half of my clif bar. Mostly I just wanted to lie down and go to sleep, but since that wasn't possible I tried to get comfortable and get some strength back. Several people tried to talk to me and I think I must have grunted something in reply. I distinctly remember Ed telling me I looked whipped as he bounded happily around. At this point the only was to go was up, so it really didn't matter how I felt. I did a quick check and decided that despite feeling tired, I still felt reasonably good overall with only a very light headache. I knew I was at least as good as most of the others judging by how they looked. One person had been crying when they got to lunch, so I figured I must still be doing OK.

It didn't take me long after lunch to get back into the routine I had been following all morning. Concentrate on one foot in front of the other and lean on my poles and rest whenever the people in front of me stopped. Thankfully we only had 500 more feet to go although it sure felt like a lot more than that. Somewhere with a couple of hundred feet left, KP stopped and walked back to me. He looked at me and said "Give me your pack". Apparently I kept falling too far behind. I was extremely disappointed that I had come all this way only to be relieved of my load near the very end. However I was tired and in no mood to argue with him, so I took off my pack and handed it over. It was amazing what taking off my pack did for my energy level. I was still tired but had no difficulty keeping up anymore and was not short of breath anymore either. About 15 minutes later we crested the crater rim and were done with the climbing portion. We still had a mile or so to go to camp, but our personal porters had met us at the rim to take our packs and carry them the rest of the way for us. Having already been relieved of my pack I didn't mind. I was very glad to make camp and wanted nothing more than to lie down in my tent and go to sleep. Unfortunately Noel said I had to get up and walk around and couldn't take a nap for 30 minutes. This turned out to be a good thing as I had to make an emergency run to the privy for another round with my GI tract. I at least had a splendid view of the glacier. While I was on the privy Noel was concerned that I had snuck off to sleep somewhere but Ed told him I was on the privy and that seemed to satisfy him. Finally Noel said we could sleep and I think most of us dove inside our tents. I slept off and on all afternoon, getting up and walking around in between naps. I think we played a game of cards somewhere in there too but I don't recall exactly. Somewhere in the middle of the afternoon they served us lunch. Lunch was a chicken ramen soup that I relatively devoured! My appetite was still non-existent but I was able to eat almost a whole bowl of the soup. These guys showed that they really know their stuff when they pulled out the ramen noodle soup.

Dinner time rolled around and the altitude was starting to take its toll on everyone. For my part, the naps in the afternoon and the bowl of soup had reinvigorated me. Outside of a slight headache, no appetite and a general feeling of "uck" I felt pretty good. Adrianna appeared to be the worst off. She apparently was having severe headaches, vomiting and didn't make it to dinner at all. Everyone else was suffering varying degrees of headaches and nausea, and it seemed like no one was able to eat a great deal at dinner that night. Even Ed, who had been doing the best of everyone, was not looking so chipper anymore and ate very little. I evaluated myself and decided I was probably in the middle to lower end of the pack as far as AMS symptoms at this point and felt pretty good about the night ahead. My biggest fear going into the trip was that I was going to wake up in the middle of the night (at Crater Camp) with severe AMS symptoms and would have to wake up a guide and go down the mountain in the dark. After dinner they served us the strongest ginger tea I had ever had in my life. The ginger is suppose to work as an anti-nausea agent however the tea was so frickin' strong that the tea was making me nauseous. I stuck with eating some ginger snap cookies and that worked out well. The discussion then turned to how everyone was doing, there was lots of headaches and loss of appetite to go around. Adrianna was still not doing very well and a decision was made to give her some Dexamethazone and evaluate her as to the need to abort or go for the summit. I'm not sure who was taking what drugs that night but I'm sure the drugs were flowing freely. I stuck with my regimen of 4 ibuprofen and gingko and went to bed. No cards hardly tonight.

This was the earliest we had gone to bed and I knew it was going to be a long cold night. I was mentally prepared though and since I had relatively minor AMS symptoms I was confident in making it through the night. We started the night playing some two player card games and some word games to pass the time. Eventually we tired of that and I put a fleece on over my long underwear and settled in for the night. The night was everything I figured it would be except that my biggest fear didn't come true. I felt fine most of the night except for the part where I didn't sleep. I got lots of reading done and I studied Ed for periodic breathing. He didn't really seem to do a classic periodic breathing although he would stop for a few seconds which was always followed by a really loud snorting sound as he started up again. I found this to be very funny. My nose was clogged and that wasn't helping things either. The nose thing was causing me to have to drink a lot of water, which in turn was frozen so I had to work hard each time to get the bottle open and then chip the ice out of the mouth to take a drink. All the water drinking was then causing me to pee a lot and I peed a full 2 liters that night (actually a good sign for acclimatization). Of course after each water bottle or pee bottle episode I was breathing hard. It all added up to virtually no sleep.

Here we go. This sure is steep It's a wall of porters
Seems like we're almost there, NOT I vaguely remember taking this picture of Mt. Meru. Although those brain cells may have died
No wonder I'm so tired Lunch time at 18,000 ft
If I just put one foot in front of the other I'll get there Lunch time from on high
Noel leads the way for the "fast" group Oh thank god its the crater rim
The glacier is still pretty big Privy with a view
Mark alive at Crater Camp - 18,500 ft Glaciers in the crater
Glaciers in the crater The route from Crater Camp to the summit

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