Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb - Summit Day and Descend to Mweka Camp - 19,340 ft

Trip Day 9 - Climb Day 7


Summit Day! It was finally here and I was more than ready to get up and get it done. I had stayed warm in my sleeping bag all night long but it was pretty darn cold outside the tent. We didn't have a thermometer but my estimate was either in the high single digits or in the low teens. I had stashed some extra water in my bladder the previous night which thankfully wasn't frozen so I was good to go on water in the morning. Breakfast was sparsely eaten by anyone. On the bright side everyone had made it through the night and was planning on going for the summit. It was cold when we set out but the sun came up much quicker and we were warmed much earlier today than we were the previous day. Today's climb was only 840 ft from camp and while it was still slow going, I felt better than I had yesterday maybe due to adrenaline or better acclimatization or both. I was in the front group today and was anxious to get to the top. After about an hour we reached the top of the slope and then had a short walk up a long gentle slope to reach the summit. As we approached the summit sign I was overcome with a strong sense of accomplishment. It took a few minutes for our whole group to get there but we had done it. We were on the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro at 19,340 ft and we all hugged and congratulated each other. We had an absolutely beautiful morning with bright sun and very light winds. I can't imagine that you could ask for a better summit morning than we were treated to. Finally it was our turn at the sign and we all lined up for individual pictures and group shots. We spent about 30 minutes enjoying the summit and then the guides said we had to get moving.

We had to drop 9,000 ft from the summit down to where our camp would be for the night. This started with a gentle descent on wide trail down to Stella Point. We passed a number of people coming up that looked like death warmed over. I only hope that I looked better than they did when I was coming up. At Stella Point we saw where the porters had circumnavigated the summit and come through that morning. We also saw our descent route, a giant scree slope. Scree can be a lot of fun to go down and I did my best to keep up with KP at the front of the pack. My thighs were burning with the effort from literally running down the mountain but I was high from summiting and felt full of new found energy. Judy was shushing down the slope like she was skiing. For some reason the guides didn't like this much and sent her to the rear for a non-shushing descent. I was absolutely floored by the speed at which the porters were descending the scree. If I was impressed by how fast they went uphill, I was even more impressed by how fast they went downhill. Oh yea, that reminds me of some other words we had learned, "Trende Ju" which means "Climb Up" and "Trende Chini" which means "Climb Down". I had also learned "Haraka" which means "Go Faster" which I had used early in the climb to no avail. After a couple of hours the scree slope ended and we arrived at Barafu Hut where our lunched awaited us. I sat down and wondered how my appetite would be now that we were back down to 15,000 ft. I took a look at the food and the cheese looked very appealing. I ate one piece, and then another and another. After about 10 pieces of cheese and a couple of cookies I was pleased with the amount of food I had been able to eat, only problem was I felt faintly nauseous about 15 minutes later. I suspect that my stomach was complaining about too much food after not having eaten for 2 days. The rest of our descent was gradual through various climate zones and generally uneventful. I found myself at the front of the line eager to get down to a lower elevation that hopefully brought sleep and an appetite.

Mweka Camp at 10,000 ft was extraordinarily crowded. This was because every group that had climbed any number of routes on the mountain (other than the Coca-Cola) comes down through Mweka Camp. Our porters had staked out a claim on a reasonably good campsite right on the side of the trail. Unfortunately our tent was almost literally on the trail and we were subjected to a fair amount of dust. We met Joanna down here who was feeling much better and she congratulated everyone as they came in. The hut at Mweka Camp was selling beer and Coke. My stomach was not ready for beer and by the time I decided I wanted a Coke the hut was sold out. I bought my porter Penda a Safari Lager and he seemed very excited about the beer to wash out the trail dust. There were so many people at this camp that our group posted sentry's to make sure that nobody snuck into our camp and stole any of our gear. Even so somebody stole a pair of Scott's pants. I ate a little bit at dinner but still not as much as I would have liked. Most others seemed to be getting their appetite back as well. We had a number of discussions on tipping as our information from Mountain Madness was confusing and conflicting. We finally came up with a plan that I think was appropriate. We played a lot of cards that night and stayed up pretty late. As I went to bed I remembered that I had packed Breath Right Nasal Strips along to help me sleep if my nose got clogged up. Crap! Why couldn't I have remembered that any of the 3 previous nights? Next time I'm going to have to leave myself a note so when I'm oxygen deprived I know to put on the nasal strips for bed. Once I hit the sleeping bag I slept like an absolute stone. I think I woke up one time to pee and that was it for a good 8 hours.

Looking back on Crater Camp Mark at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro - 19,340 ft - at 7:30 AM on 8/15/04
Ed and Mark on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro - 19,340 ft - at 7:30 AM on 8/15/04 The group celebrates our achievement. Top Row: Leo, Dave, Susan, Noel, Scott, Glenn, Ben; Middle Row: Frank, Mara, Norm, Judy; Bottom Row: 1st Time Porter, Lyle, Adriana, Ed, Mark, KP, John
The proof is in the pudding Our guides - John, Ben, Noel and Aaron (KP) celebrate the summit
Glacier on the way down with Mt. Meru in the back ground This is the bailout route from Crater Camp
More glacier on the way down Scree slope on the Mweka route down
Looking out across the other side of the mountain Mark looking back at the route down
Looking down at Barafu Hut Mark looking back at Kilimanjaro from Barafu Hut at 15,000 ft
Same shot without me in it Looking back from further down the mountain
Looking back from even further down the mountain  

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