Kilimanjaro Day 7 – Going Down

  • Journey: From Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp
  • Hours Walked: 7
  • Starting Elevation: 5,895 m
  • Final Elevation for the Day: 3,100 m

It took us 3 hours to get back to base camp at Barafu from the summit.  We left the peak at 7 am – yes, we spent a grand total of 20 minutes up there.  Don’t be shocked – it’s no different from spending a year planning a 6-hour wedding.  It’s too cold to stay up there for long, and the air is too thin.

I learned that morning that going down a mountain can be just as torturous as going up a mountain.  Although we did it in such a short time, it was supremely tiring work.  The terrain was dry and it was still very windy; it was all a blur of dust and small rocks and snot running out of my nose.  I wiped it on my scarf or my glove and kept going.  We were still at high altitude (above 5,000 m) so oxygen was scarce.  Plus, although we had expended so much energy, we hadn’t eaten a proper meal in over 12 hours.  I was running low on fuel and will power.  I prayed just as hard going down that mountain as I did going up.

After an hour or so, I was so exhausted that Elly had to loop his arm through mine and usher me along to keep me moving at a pace slightly faster than polepole.  Eventually, we stopped trying to take steps and simply worked with the loose, dry dirt and rocks and slid and slipped down the steeper slopes.  I had the distant thought that I was happy I hadn’t been able to see what was around us as we ascended during the night.

Another hour passed and Aron and Robson appeared.  My tears of relief at seeing them came immediately.  I doubled over again and started sobbing.  Their appearance must mean that camp wasn’t too far away and I could rest soon.  They produced juice boxes and I slurped mine up in record time, thankful for the sugar.

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Me, my juice box, Aron (left) and Robson (right).  I felt just how I looked – a hot mess.

After resting on a rock for about 10 minutes while the guys chatted in Swahili (I didn’t even care what they were walking about, I was so exhausted), it was time to go again.  We were moving at a decent pace but camp was further away than I had thought when Aron and Robson appeared and I soon started to slow down again.  When Aron realised this, he looped his arm through mine and started helping me down slopes and over boulders.  That brought the tears again but silent, leaking ones this time.  That much gratitude had to leak out somewhere; it just couldn’t be kept contained.

After another hour of walking, we rounded a corner and my tent was just suddenly there.  We had arrived back at camp and all of my team were waiting to congratulate me.  Every single one of them shook my hand, hugged me and said, “Congratulations, Dada!”  I doubled up again, more wailing sobs.  I was concerned that I had embarrassed them with my dramatic tears but Elly later told me that they knew I cried from happiness and that made them happy.

Someone (no idea who, I was still bawling) gently ushered me to the entrance of my tent, where I crawled in as far as my little remaining energy would take me, and collapsed onto my sleeping mat.  My legs were hanging out of the tent so Focus gently removed my boots for me.  I just managed to lift my head and mumble, “Thank you so much, Focus,” before mustering up the energy to struggle out of 4 of my top layers (rain jacket, heavy parka, light down jacket and fleece).  I just managed to hear Elly tell me that they would let me sleep for an hour and a half then bring me some food and it would be time to go again because we needed to get to a much lower elevation that day.  I replied that they should just give me 1 hour and I’d be good to go and I was out like a light after mumbling 1 more quick thanks to God.

An hour later, Focus woke me up, had me eat some pasta that James had prepared and it was time to go again.  We were off to Mweka camp at 3,100 m.  That was 4 hours walk away.

We started off just before midday.  We were still in the desert zone so dry dust was the order of the day.  This time, going down the slopes, I felt my toes hurting.  These slopes weren’t steep enough to slip and slide our way down so I had to step.  By now, I was in the habit of telling Elly how I was feeling (fingers tingling, no headache, nose bleeding, etc.) so I mentioned my toes and he tightened up my shoe laces for me to stop my feet from sliding forward in my boots.  It helped immeasurably but by then my toes were already hurting and that would continue for a few days.

About 2 hours into our walk, we finally escaped the arid desert zone and got back into the moorland zone then the blessed cool and damp of the forest zone.  We had a 10 minute rest stop at Millenium camp, at elevation 3,820 m.  Our rest consisted of deep breaths, sips of water and sharing a Twix that I had managed to forage out of my backpack.  Chocolate never tasted so good.

After another 2 hours and a little rain, we finally made it to Mweka camp.  By this time, I was so exhausted that I didn’t even bother to wail at the sight of my tent; my eyes leaked though.

That evening, James made me up a special vegetable stew with green bananas that was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.  After a bush wash up, a quick use of the toilet and prayers of gratitude for the epically, transcendentally difficult day that I had just survived, I was fast asleep by 5 p.m.

3 thoughts on “Kilimanjaro Day 7 – Going Down

  1. Aye Sah this can only be a labor of love.. This is a lot…Follow your dreams of course the mountains and hills are calling

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