In my previous diary column I wrote about You Are The Ref and The Steve Prescott Foundation’s journey to the expedition starting point at Machame Camp. As you read, that itself was a testing one, but little did we know what was coming our way.
In my second column I recall the next four days from leaving the gate to eventually arriving at the Barafu Camp, our last stop before making our way to the peak.
Saturday 14th October
That morning we were up at 6am, we swiftly washed, packed and fed ourselves, ready for the next leg of our journey. I mentioned previously that we had chefs, and I think I speak for everyone involved of how appreciative we were of the omelettes, toast, fruits and porridge they provided to us.
A nine kilometre journey over six hours ensued with us leaving the camp at Machame Camp (2980m), and making our way to Shira Camp which was 3840m high up. The walk took us up and down across moorland with increasingly sparse trees and bushes.
We reached Shira around 4pm and the rest of the day gave us a chance to rest our weary bodies before trying to get a good night’s sleep. But regrettably I was feeling very ill as we settled into our new surroundings. I felt lousy , skipped two meals, was violently sick and made numerous trips to the toilet to try and alleviate myself. By the end of the day I was still worse for wear and I went to bed praying that I would wake up in a much better condition.
Sunday 15th October
Thankfully I did, I felt great in fact. I can’t explain fully why but nevertheless I was ecstatic that I had recovered as well as I had. I told myself, perhaps for encouragement, that I had adapted to the increasingly affecting altitude quite well.
From Shira Camp we set off on the next leg of our expedition and over the subsequent seven hours, fifteen kilometres and semi-desert terrain, we made two stops. Firstly, we headed to the Lava Tower, which took us to 4630m, followed by a trip back down to the Barranco Camp at 3950m. The route is designed to take up us in altitude and then back to help us with our acclimatisation.
Monday 16th October
Our next stop was Karanga camp (4090m) which took us four hours and seven kilometres. The day started with the climb of the Barranco Wall which took us almost two hours. It was an exhausting period, you literally are climbing mountains here and it’s extremely precarious. If you looked down it was about three or four feet you could fall, moreover it would have been a horrible landing.
Climbing rocks is something we could all do safely back home, but here you are on your own. It’s important to look for safe places to put your feet and hands, steer clear of any loose rubble that may come your way and avoid rocks and stones falling down; these can really add to the pressure you are under to get over.
Walking poles are a saviour too, a must have in any climbers arsenal. I write that with an ironic smile on my face but honestly they are. I used to see walkers with them when I was out and about back home, and I’d think what do they need them for? But I appreciate them because they are a god’s send.
The trail continues with many up and down sections across small streams and rivulets and we finally crossed the Karanga River to the Karanga campsite, where we had earned another half day of much needed rest.
Tuesday 17th October
By the end of Tuesday we had very quickly learnt that the previous days were actually relatively easy compared to what was ahead. Obviously at the time we weren’t to know that; hiking Barranco Wall the previous day at the time felt like the hardest part. But by day four of the trek, I must admit, that was when it really started to hit home how difficult this challenge was.
That morning we left the Karanga Camp, and went on to Barafu Camp at 4550 metres, which would be our next rest stop.
The higher we went, the more headaches and migraines started to creep in and we had no choice but to take paracetamol constantly to help lighten the niggles. As you progress up the mountain the altitude kicks in and I was starting to suffer. At that level it was imperative to drink water all the time, even if it meant having to stop to urinate every half an hour. So every so often you would suck on your water bladder to take in fluid, but it came at a costly price. The energy it takes you to do that would leave you out of breath for fifteen to twenty minutes. I kid you not.
You could find yourself doing ever so well and keeping up with the pace, but then one swig of water could completely throw you off the rhythm. We took three or four litres up with us every day which was an added strain on our already heavy baggage.
The walk to Barafu took us about four hours over the six kilometres, and despite actually walking less metres than the preceding days, it was here where we all sought after a break the most.
The hike was indeed starting to take its toll, but the motivation was there, and what better incentive? Because the rest of the day involved more sleep and an early evening lunch, before the start of our next stage. At midnight we’d be embarking for our next stop, Uhuru Peak, the summit.