Posts Tagged With: Barranco Wall

Kilimanjaro-Day 5

I took a picture of my dreads. I bear a striking resemblance to someone, don’t I?

A shocking scientific discovery was made on the morning of day 5. Citizens of Earth, it only takes 5 days for my hair to dread. I’m not even joking. I woke up to the biggest, Bob Gnarliest dreadlocks in the back of my head. I guess that’s what happens when you subject your hair to five days of sweat, Kili dust, and never wash it. It didn’t help that I have naturally wavy hair and allowed it to whip in the wind before smashing a cap down over it. It took me 30 minutes to pick, pull, and eventually rake the dreads out of my hair. When it was over with, I had enough hair in my brush to make a bird a lovely, red nest. I hope the ravens of Kilimanjaro are happy in their new home. I’m sure the bald patch will grow in nicely over the next couple of years. *sigh*

Dreadlocks aside, I think the morning of Day 5 was one of the best. I slept well, stayed warm all night thanks to hand warmers, and woke up feeling rested and energized. Since I brought up the hair situation, let’s discuss hygiene on the mountain. There is none. Well, I mean to say there’s very little. The fact is, you’re so tired and so cold that it’s hard to get jazzed up about stripping down and washing one’s naked bod down with lukewarm water only to put half dirty clothes back on. Oh sure, I tried my earnest on Days 1-4 but by Day 5, I quit caring. All the porters reeked of body odor so I figured that so long as I didn’t smell, I was still ahead of the game. Also the dirt on Kilimanjaro is fine and it seems to get all over EVERYTHING. Like a parasite at the top of it’s game, it permeates every pore and settles into places you didn’t know dust could settle. Using baby wipes and the hot water “for wash” that Babu Sistusi brought every day, I did the best I could to stay clean but really by the time we reached Barranco, I was just trying to stay disease free. I tell you all of this, dear reader (both of you), that on this particular fine morning in Barranco Camp, it was COLD and all I could bring myself to wash were my face and hands as well as brush my teeth. In my journal I noted that “I’ve been wearing the same clothes for three days but thanks to altitude, little smells. Thank God I brought enough underwear for every day. I tell myself that as long as I wear clean underwear everyday, I’m clean!” So you see, as Adrienne said, “Standards continue to slip”.  On the weather predictions of Fido Dido, who said it would be warm at Karanga Camp, our next camp, the three of us decided that we’d give ourselves a thorough mountain bath there. The hike from Barranco to Karanga is a short day so I felt certain I’d have all the time and energy needed to really scrub myself clean. * This is what your English teacher calls foreshadowing*

In my journal I said, “I’ve prayed a lot on this journey and I feel closer to God.” Throughout the climb, my ego tries to pop up and crow about the accomplishment of even making it as far as I have but like a game of “Whack-a-Mole”, I smash it down and remind myself that on this mountain, as it is in life, the credit for glorious accomplishments goes to God, not me. Heck, I can’t even give myself a bath on this mountain – I’m certainly not in the position to take credit for much, right? Ha! I then went on to say, “This mountain is so enormous and can destroy a person in an instant yet God is the creator of Kilimanjaro which means he is far greater than all that. I am humbled to be loved by a God that powerful.”

The first half of Day 5 turned out to be my favorite day on the mountain! Our main task for the day was to climb the mighty Barranco Wall. Trust me when I say that photos of the wall do it no justice. The thing is HUGE and intimidating looking. It’s insane that someone ever looked at it and thought, “Yeah, I think that looks like a good way to get up the mountain!”. Chichi and Fido Dido told us that we would need to put our poles away for that portion of the climb. Fido Dido also said that today would be the day that allows us to actually claim we “CLIMBED” Kilimanjaro because we would be scrambling over rocks and pulling ourselves over them. Yah! I love rocks! We were also told we had to cross three streams before getting to the wall. Those certainly had to be the glacial streams I heard running in camp. Sitting in camp listening to all of this, I felt nervous but excited!

Before breakfast I once again had difficulty with packing my gear. My mind felt muddled and I just couldn’t figure out what needed to be packed first. It didn’t matter, which seems obvious now, but at 13,000 feet I just couldn’t get my brain to lock in on a decision. Once I finally got it all settled I walked around camp taking photos and watched the porters walking up from the stream with buckets of water on their head. Beast!

Up Against the Wall, Baby!

Up Against the Wall, Baby!

When it was time to leave camp and tackle the wall, I felt excited! In our usual line order (Chichi, Me, Arlette, Adrienne, and Fido Dido) we headed down the hill towards the streams and the base of the wall. Streams of porters passed by us. It’s always a happy moment when our own porters pass us and you can hear them coming because of the constant exclamatory greeting of “Captain Boola”. I’m not sure if I mentioned this in other posts but that phrase was some sort of inside joke between Chichi and the porters. Chichi called everyone Captain Boola and in return, everyone called him Captain Boola. We asked what it meant but when we did, they only giggled, smiled, shook their head and refused to answer. It only took a few days for the three dada’s to hop in on the fun and we often said it to the delight of the porters and guides. The other strange thing the porters and Chichi said was an odd little sing-songy noise that sounded something like “LalalaLElu”. You’d have to hear it but I often heard Magambo, the chef, and Chichi singing/calling out to each other using it. I digress….where was I? Ahh yes, our porters! I always loved it when our porters passed us. They’d smile and greet us. Babu always said, while carrying some massive bag on his head, “Pole-pole…no hurry Kilimanjaro” as he passed us. I love that man! I really do! I miss him so much!

Porters climbing the Barranco Wall


“Dada Wa Tatu” aka The Three Sisters climbing the Barranco Wall.

As we prepared to climb the wall, Chichi took my poles and carried them for me. Thank you, Captain Boola! 😉  As we scrambled and climbed, I quickly fell out of breath and struggled to drink water AND breath at the same time. Occasionally, we had to push ourselves against the wall to allow porters to pass. It amazes me that they can balance 35 pounds on their head AND climb up a steep rock wall! At one particularly tight point, which I dubbed Muffin Top Pass, we had to turn sideways, suck in our guts, and squeeze through the rocks. Not too long after that we passed the infamous “kissing rock” or “hugging rock” (depends on who you ask). It’s a spot along the wall that requires you to hug the wall tightly as you dangle over the edge to reach the other side (that description makes it sound scarier than it is). As I passed, I gave the rock a kiss. Hopefully no one with herpes did the same just before me. Eeeew!


The Queen of Kilimanjaro

Along the way we passed several Americans, two of whom were from Florida. They seemed happy and appeared to be having a good time! We also passed other groups and their guides. Fido Dido was having a good time with his joke that I was his wife and Adrienne and Arlette were either his sisters-in-law or eventually his other wives/girlfriends. This made the other guides laugh and near the top I heard the word “shemedi” (or shemeji?…not sure which is the right spelling) and looked over at a guide who laughed. That word means sister-in-law and the other porters would call us that since Fido Dido called me wife. As I passed the guide laughing, he called me the Queen of Kilimanjaro. I loved it! I laughed and at that point, feeling pretty good, I sort of did feel like the Queen of Kili! *more foreshadowing, kids* When we reached the top, we stopped at a beautiful spot that gave us a gorgeous view of Kibo and we enjoyed some snacks and refilled on water. We shared some snacks with our guides, chatted awhile, took in the gorgeous view and discussed the distance to our next camp, Karanga. It was around this time that I noticed a slight headache. I attribute it to three things: not drinking any tea (caffeine) that morning, not drinking enough water (I ran out half way up the wall) and from breathing so hard coming up the wall. At altitude, breathing can easily dehydrate a person. The air is extremely dry up there. However, when we breathe, we are expelling warm, moist air. When this happens, the moisture is not being replaced by the cold, dry air being breathed in. So at altitude, when you do something that results in heavy breathing, like climbing a wall, you become dehydrated even faster. I would pay the price for all of that hard breathing. *oh look, it’s that F word again…foreshadowing*

It never came so I had to settle for Advil 😦

The hike from our resting spot to Karanga camp is just a memory of suck. I hated it. The guides told us that it was a short day; however, they purposely (or so I suspect) failed to inform us that it was short but brutal. We descended and climbed several small valleys and that part wasn’t that bad. In fact, at one point, we looked across the horizon and saw Karanga Camp pitched on a rocky hillside and thought, “Oh great! We’re almost there.” That’s true…we were. But what we failed to notice was that a HUGE ABYSS separated us from the camp. We started a seemingly never ending journey down switchbacks covered in loose soil that caused us to slip and slide half the way down. Everytime I thought we were at the bottom, we continued to descend. It really made my knees hurt. We finally reached the bottom of the canyon and saw the stream the porters used for water. It turns out that this stream is the last place to gather water so porters must load up onwater – not only carry it up the canyon to Karanga camp, but also take it several more hours up the trail to Barafu camp. I can’t even imagine doing that. God bless their souls. Seriously. Anyway, when we reached the stream we stopped for a few minutes to rest and drink water. My head was really hurting and I suspected no one else felt tip top because no one was talking. I was too busy praying for God to send a dove with a morphine syringe to help with my headache. I don’t know what the others were thinking about.

When we finally made the last push up to the camp, I just wanted to go to gobble down some Advil and go to sleep (since the dove with narcotics was a no-show).  But oh no! We had to go sign in at the ranger’s hut first. After signing in, I looked around for our tents but didn’t see them. I was then informed that our tents were at the very TOP of the camp. Ugh! We passed some South Africans along the way and I think I honestly contemplated begging them to let me just crash in their tent in exchange for 250mg Diamox or hand warmers (okay, not really…but kind of! lol). After what felt like the final summit push to reach Uhuru, we finally made it to our tents. I asked Babu which tent was mine and he said, “Shemedi” and pointed. Ha! I crawled into my tent and searched desperately for my first aid kit. I needed Advil. I felt much the way Renton felt in Trainspotting after scoring smack. If you’ve seen the film, remember that scene when the room kind of spins as he happily takes the heroin? That was me in my tent! Oh…and as for bathing? Forget it. I didn’t care if I got gangrene and died like Harry in Snows of Kilimanjaro by Hemingway. I was too exhausted and in too much pain to consider it. As it turned out, I was NOT the Queen of Kilimanjaro. Not even close. Instead I was the Queen of Suckville, population: me.

Renton says, “Choose Life”

I passed out for a while to allow time for the drugs to penetrate my gray matter but awoke to the sound of Tanzania winning the World Cup. Okay, well I know there’s no World Cup this year but that’s how jubilant the camp was. The place had gone absolutely mad! Porters singing, people dancing, birds squawking. What the Jiminy Cricket?!  Maybe the morphine dove showed up while I was sleeping. I dunno….but the place was nuts! Unfortunately, I wasn’t feelin’ it. Though my head was easing up, my stomach felt horrible. I didn’t have nausea but I had some sort of odd stomach acid over production situation. Time to break out the Pepcid.

Karanga ranks up there with Moir/Mars Camp in total suck value. I fully attribute my disdain for Karanga to my headache but even when it went away, I disliked the place. First of all, it was really rocky and we were camped on an incline. This meant that I slid every time I tried to walk anywhere: the mess tent, the toilet tent, etc. Also, it was VERY windy!  Fido Dido said that it stays windy in the camp and that one time all the tents blew away. Yikes! Here is what I wrote in my journal, “So it seems I associate my wellbeing with the camps. I hated Moir because I had a headache and now I hate Karanga because I am sick. Loved Barranco! I’m feeling nervous about tomorrow. I desperately want to summit but wonder if I can even make it to Barafu Camp? Fido Dido said I didn’t drink enough water so I am going to drown myself before my headache comes back.” 

“Update- Water is God’s medicine because I powered down a litre and feel a lot better. Tomorrow I plan to drink at least three liters before we get to Barafu. “

During tea time we normally ate popcorn but in Karanga camp I walked in and saw some sort of nut. I asked Babu what it was and he said, “peanut”. Later we found out Karanga means “peanut” in Swahili. Really? This God-forsaken, rocky wasteland of a camp is called “Peanut Camp”? How did such a lonely, difficult place get such a cute, cuddly name? The three of us joked that the next pet we get we will call Karanga! Speaking of Karanga Camp, Arlette changed the name to False Hope Camp since so many climbers pass through Karanga and continue on to Barafu. That would make for an incredibly long day, particularly when you have to begin your summit the same night you arrive in Barafu. We talked about how horrific it would be to see Karanga in the distance, believing you’re almost at camp, only to be told you still have hours to go before you actually arrive at the other camp. False Hope Camp!

The view from my tent was amazing!

The view from my tent was amazing!

Last entry into my journal before sleeping:  The weather here is cold and foggy. The wind is picking up. I hope I don’t wake up in Oz! My tent zipper keeps breaking and after 30 minutes of flipping out in the dark for fear of dying of hypothermia, I finally went and asked for help! Junior fixed it! You won’t believe it but he took two rocks, beat the zipper, and like magic it worked. He called them “African tools”. I died laughing. I’m tipping that guy extra. He is awesome! Love him too. Hoping for a restful night. Tomorrow night, if all goes well, we Summit. Very nervous. I don’t want to fail.” 

Our porters hanging out by the rock

Our porters hanging out by the rock

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Kilimanjaro – Day 4

Day four started off with me being filled with terror about what was to come. Luckily I had a restful night and stayed warm thanks to adding a liner to my bag. Temperature in my tent was 38.6 when I woke up. When I crawled from my tent and walked to the toilet tent, I became breathless. It was a 10 foot walk and it freaked me out a little to be so out of breath after spending 12 hours at this altitude. Having suffered with a headache the day before at 13,000 feet, I felt pretty certain my head would explode at Lava Tower where the elevation is 15,000 feet. I had read so much about how other climbers suffered terribly at Lava Tower and I worried that a bad day at Lava Tower would spell the end of my climb.

Cerebral Edema? Hakuna Matata! 😉

Fido Dido had said that those who don’t do well at Lava Tower don’t end up doing well on the summit but not to worry! Ha! I love how chipper and care free Tanzanians are. Everything is hakuna matata. I love that and it can be quite motivating but when you’re wondering if cerebral edema is in your future, you really just want some straight talk, yo!

My journal says, “Sistusi will bring tea soon but I don’t want it. I’ve lost my appetite for all this stuff. Bring me a Dr. Pepper!” Sounds about right!  When he brought the tea he told me he was a little cold last night. I decided then and there that I would give him my bag liner as a token of my gratitude for all that he was doing for  us. He was absolutely the sweetest man in the world and my favorite member of the crew!

Trying to summon the energy to pack was difficult that morning. All morning I had thoughts of, “What have I gotten myself into?” Another journal entry says, “I am enjoying the experience of Kilimanjaro but the constant fear of failure is stressful. I desperately want to make the summit but I don’t want to kill myself doing it. I pray God allows me to summit but that he removes vanity and ego from me.”  I wrote that because I found myself praying to God constantly, asking Him to allow me to summit. But then I wondered if it was wrong to ask God for something like that. Was it just vanity and ego? It was on this day when I shifted my prayers from “please let me get to the top” to “let me accept whatever happens”.

I also noted in my journal that I was starting to tire of being sweaty and dirty. As Adrienne said, “standards are starting to slip”. Ha! True that! I had so much dirt under my nails and despite my best efforts to scrub it all out, it was a futile battle.


My duffel and the toilet tent at Moir Camp. It took 7,589 calories just to pack that bag. Ugh. Nothing at altitude is easy!

Other than taking my 250mg dose of Diamox, I don’t remember much about breakfast or the time immediately after. But I do remember walking out of the Martian/Lunar landscape of Moir camp and being glad to go. Such a bizarre place, truly. As we hiked out and over the ridge, I remember developing a strategy of drinking as much water as possible. I knew that staying hydrated was the key to fighting altitude sickness so my plan was to drink at least three or four liters before we got to Lava Tower. In our briefing we were told we would have lunch at Lava Tower before heading to Barranco Camp. So based on my calculations, by the time we arrived in camp, I should have consumed at least 5 liters of water.


Our awesome guide, Emanuel aka Fido Dido. I love this photo!

The day was overcast and we hiked slowly across the ridges towards Lava Tower. With each step, the summit of Kili loomed closer and closer and the glaciers more visible. Still, given that we were now on day 4 and thousands of feet below the top, it seemed impossible to make it to the summit in the time we had left. So much of the day leading up to Lava Tower is blur in my mind. I think it was because I spent so much of the morning in deep meditation and prayer as we hiked – I was THAT fearful of failure.

Thanks to the massive amounts of water I was drinking, bathroom breaks were numerous on this day.I tried to sip everytime I felt the inkling of a headache coming on.  Everytime we stopped for a snack or pee break, the ravens appeared, taunting us with their “never summit” cries! As I mentioned in a previous post, bathroom breaks aren’t light hearted (or fainthearted) matters. Finding a biohazard free spot to do your business is next to impossible, which is shocking given the enormity of the mountain. I want to believe it’s because everyone has the same idea about what would make a good outdoor bathroom. Still, it can’t be ignored that humans are really mucking the place up. It’s filthy and disgusting and shame on every climber who left behind toilet paper and baby wipes instead of packing them out. I digress….During one potty break, surprise, surprise, guess who rolled up? The Dads and Daughters. According to Arlette and Adrienne they made numerous inquiries about Dave and wanted to know where I was. They told them I was peeing behind a rock. Most people would appreciate that peeing behind a rock requires a level of privacy but not these guys…I had just pulled my “britches” up, as we like to say in the South, when I saw them and heard one say “Oh, there she is!”. Duh! Where did you think I was? They just told you I was behind a rock. Peeing. *rolling my eyes*  They asked me about Dave and annoyed, I just explained he did what was best for him. I know they were probably just trying to be friendly but they seemed to delight in Dave’s return and that bothered me. After a short exchange, they moved on, leaving us to drink water and eat some snacks.

The Olga’s – Just kidding!

Until now, the Dads and Daughters were the only real group we had met and with whom we’d had much contact. That changed on the way to Lava Tower. As we walked a group of young women passed us and in a thick, slightly hostile Russian accent asked, “Where you from?” to which we replied, “We’re American!”. They nodded and smiled and I asked, “Are you Russian?”. They nodded and said yes. Not sure if it was Arlette or Adrienne, but one of them dubbed the women “The Olgas”! Hahaha – I still giggle about that one!

Drop toilets on Kili: You’ve been warned

When we reached Lava Tower I felt ecstatic! No headache, felt good…and I was at 15,000 feet! I couldn’t believe it! There were several mess tents erected at the base of Lava Tower so it was confusing at first to find the one that belonged to us. We finally found ours and saw our porters and our wonderful waiter, Babu (Sistusi). After a bathroom break, a few photos, and hand washing it was time to eat! I was excited to see grilled cheese sandwiches! It was a wonderful, cheerful lunch and we really enjoyed it. Afterwards, the three of us hunted a spot to potty but due to the crowds, it was impossible to find a rock that offered privacy. At this point in the game, I no longer really cared if anyone saw my white butt; however, I felt it unfair to subject unsuspecting climbers to that sight. Then again, they may have just thought it was another glacier! Fido Dido and Chichi said there were drop toilets near a camp that was on the other side of the trail. If you read Day 3 post, you know the horrors that awaited us in those things. I’m not sure of the physics involved in such a thing, but someone managed to get poop on the walls. As for the floor, well lets just say it looked like a Whitman’s Sampler of poop. All sorts of sizes, shapes, colors….even some with nuts! (Yeah, I went there!Ha!). Eeek! I used half a bottle of hand sani after that (mis)adventure.

Much to my chagrin, he was NOT one of the Brits we met. *sigh*

Walking back to the mess tent, I saw a pack of white dudes with hellacious sunburns looking at us. Maybe they were waiting to see if we had contracted Ebola from the toilets? I stopped and asked them where they were from and they said the UK. I should have known – only British people can turn such a vivid shade of scarlet! We told them we were Americans and then I asked if they were staying in the camp across the way. They said yes so I asked if it was because they were planning to hike to Arrow Glacier. To my surprise they stated they were climbing the Western Breach! For those unfamiliar, the Western Breach is a treacherous but from all accounts, amazing, route to the summit. For awhile it was closed after some climbers were killed in a massive rock slide. It’s open now but not many people go that way. If I ever go again, I’d definitely consider it as it’s the most direct route to the summit but offers some of the most interesting views. So back to the Limeys…I told them how impressed I was that they were going the Western Breach and one particularly red fellow jokingly said, “Yeah…hardcore!” to which his friend replied, “There’s a fine line between hardcore and incredibly stupid.” I laughed and said, “Well, I didn’t want to say it but since you did…”. I think we exchanged a few more words and we all wished one another luck before setting off. Despite only talking to them for a few minutes, I liked them. They seemed adventurous (obviously) and had a good sense of humor. Also they were British. 😉

Tanzania 178

Three Dadas at Lava Tower – Elevation 15,000 Feet!

After filling up on water, we threw our packs on and headed towards camp. We would be sleeping in Barranco Camp which is in the Barranco Valley, one of the most beautiful sections of Kilimanjaro. My mood was great after surviving 15,000ft! As we entered the valley, we saw our first Senacio trees. Words can’t describe them so just check out the photo! They were so strange and added to the other-world feeling I already had about Kilimanjaro.

Senacio Trees in the Barranco Valley

Senacio Trees in the Barranco Valley

We pushed on and finally arrived at the ranger’s hut. As usual, poor Adrienne made a beeline for the toilet instead of signing in. Because we always hiked in the same order, she was always the last to sign in and when ya gotta pee, the signing in process can feel like FOREVER. It sort of became a camp tradition that Arlette signed both in while Adrienne ran to the bathroom. While signing in Arlette and I checked out the log to see who was in camp and where they were from. We saw Americans, French, Brits, and Canadians. We also noticed that many people had unusual occupations. We saw whale breeders, concert pianists, crab farmers, etc. Arlette joked that she was going to sign in and state that she was a flea trainer.

After signing in we went to our tents and rested for a bit. While I was in my tent, I heard some British people pass by our tents. Arlette and I later died laughing over the one girl who quite loudly and in a very thick British accent said to her guide, “Babu, is that the toilet?” You had to be there, trust me…but it was hilarious! In good fun, we mocked this phrase for the rest of the trip. I also heard another girl with a similar accent say, “Is that garlic I smell?”. Again, I know this means nothing to anyone but Adrienne, Arlette, and me…but I have to document it because it was a priceless moment!

Barranco Camp- above the clouds!

Barranco Camp- above the clouds!

Barranco Camp is gorgeous! This, without any debate, was my favorite camp on Kili. Photos don’t do it justice but it’s just breathtaking (literally and figuratively) to stand above the clouds but still be so far from the top of the mountain. In camp you can hear several glacial stream flowing and of course, looming large above us is the famous Barranco Wall which we would have to climb the next morning.

The night was very cold. I stuck hand warmers into my socks to keep my feet warm but work up some time later feeling as if my feet were on fire! Later that night,  I came out of my tent and looked up to see the snows of Kilimanjaro literally glowing in the dark! It was stunning! Even higher up the stars, including the Milky Way, were shining even brighter than any night I’ve seen before or after. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful but exhausting day. So many of the fears I had washed away. More than ever, I felt confident that I just might make the summit!

Some photos from the day:

Tanzania 171

Trail to Lava Tower

Trail to Lava Tower

Celebrating at Lava Tower

Celebrating at Lava Tower

Our guys! Couldn't have done a thing without them

Our guys! Couldn’t have done a thing without them

Lava Tower

Lava Tower

Senacio forest

Senacio forest

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