Scott, Rhett and Brad — congrats. And thanks for remembering the team!!
Most of our campsites on nights 2-5 were exposed on pretty rocky terrain. Because of the pitch, we usually found ourselves struggling each night to avoid sliding out of our tents. Every one had chronic insomnia due to the altitude so 4-5 hours of sleep was a good night. The Diamox you have to take twice a day for altitude sickness is a diuretic which makes you pee all of the time. Keeping a bottle in your tent for this purpose is critical so you don’t have to keep going out into the cold.
A lot of the time you feel like you are on the moon!
The Summit – On day 5 you hike to base camp at 15,100. We pulled in around 12 noon, had some lunch, and rested in our tents until dinner. No one feels really great at this altitude and it is this day that you begin to question whether you can make it to the top. At dinner we received our last briefing. I don’t have pictures of base camp because taking them was the last thing on my mind. However, base camp consists of a pile of shale rocks. It is very exposed. Our guide said that in September 1999 they had 80 plus MPH winds that blew everyone’s tents away.
After dinner we made our final preparations and gear check and then tried to get some sleep. For most of the evening it thunder stormed and snowed on us. At midnight they woke us up and fed us some porridge and toast which you have no appetite for, but which you force yourself to eat. By this time the sky was crystal clear, the temp dropped to the mid 20’s, and we had a half moon putting out some good light.
At 1 am we began the last push to the summit. We were among the last groups to leave base camp. As we looked up the mountain we could see an endless stream of headlamps which ultimately blended in with the stars above. The average grade on 4 mile trail to the summit is between 20-25% (very similar to the top portion of Flat Iron. Because you are so high and the effort is so massive, you move at a very slow and deliberate pace. Every movement is calculated to avoid accelerating your heart rate. Even at such a slow pace we calculated our average heart rate over the 6 hours of hiking was in excess of 110. Everytime I looked above me I saw the trail of lights that never seemed to end. Most of us stopped looking above and focused on the heels of the guy in front of us. While the pace seemed painfully slow, we passed many groups along the way and we were never passed. The higher we went, the more human carnage littered the side of the trail as people gasped for air or just gave up.
Finally, at around 6:15 am we crested the top at Stella Point just in time for the sunrise. From Stella Point it is another 30 minute walk to Uhuru peak – the highest spot on the African Continent.
The view at the top was breathtaking
Our group in front of the sign at the summit
Tri Mesa team members and Ironmen Scott Johnson (Active), Rhett Evans (Alum), and Brad Porter (Alum) hold up the Tri Mesa Banner at 19,350 feet at the top of Kilimanjaro
This is a good picture of one of the glaciers at the top of Kili
Day 6 was an unbelievably hard day. After we summited, and hung at the top for about 45 minutes, we started our descent down to base camp. By this time the sun was beating down on the mountain and the trail which was hard and frozen on the way up, was now thick scree. However, going down was 10 times easier than going up. At base camp I was wiped out and suffering some late affects of altitude sickness and dehydration, but our guides were eager to get us down and off the mountain before the afternoon storms rolled in. With only an hour’s rest we mounted up and began a 6,000 foot decent down to our last camp of the trip at around 9,000 feet. By 7 pm we were all wiped out and with no more Diamox in my system I slept 9 hours without having to pee!
On day 7 we descended for about 3 hours through a rain forest. I discovered that my camera took video in addition to still shots when I was on the summit, so most of what I did on the way down was video. The video files are too large to email. However, here are a couple of my last stills:
The temp and humidity really started to rise as we descended from 9000 feet to 5000 feet through the rain forest. By this point we are some sorry looking and smelling dudes. I believe I lost 10 pounds at this point.
Rhett and Brad and two others in our group left for a 3 day safari Sunday morning. I decided to attend church in Arusha at the local branch. This is me with the Branch president.