Tanzania, Africa – 1986 (climbing Kilimanjaro)
This post will talk about our assent to the top of mount Kilimanjaro. This was one of my most challenging adventures of my life. Not because the climb was difficult, but because I suffered from altitude sickness. It hit me around 15,000 feet and did not go away until I got below that altitude again. Audrey did fantastic and did not seem to be affected like I was. When you climb Kilimanjaro you must get a park permit which is good for only 5 days which does not give you any time to acclimatize. You also have only one day to reach the top, so if the weather is bad you are out of luck. We fortunately lucked out. Attached to this post is the written diary Audrey created on our trip.
July 29, 1986 – Kibo Hotel, (warm and clear here, but the mountain is cloudy)
6:20pm – Very stressful day for several reasons. Patrick picked us up after breakfast and we headed for the Kibo Hotel. About ½ hour in, we got a flat tire – managed to get it fixed with little problem. Next we stopped in Moshi – home of Chagga tribe (Shoa’s tribe) to try to get a replacement spare tire. Patrick went off to do that, so we walked around. F&D were in a ‘fine mood’ focused on the need to buy flashlights. We went off our own way to head to the bank. After returning to meet up with Patrick, we needed to discuss finances. All was okay by Mike & I, but it got messy especially with D. She really can have an attitude. On the rest of the journey to the Kibo Hotel we were scolded for not explaining to them… but if we tried to explain we were resoundedly shhhshed. The tension level right now is off the chart – I feel badly for Patrick too. He tries very hard to be straight forward and gets hit with a brick wall. Anyway, Frank has rented his stuff and lets us know quite clearly and frequently that he is displeased with it. Well, enough complaining for one day. Tomorrow will have enough challenge on its own.
We had a briefing at 5pm to discuss events. We will be teaming up with a single girl from the States for the climb. We will meet her in the morning. Tomorrow we meet at 8am and leave at 9. Mr. Lupembe will get us to the gate and then we are off! We have box lunches so we can take our time getting to Marangu huts. The next day we will head to Horombo, then hopefully to Kibo the following day. From there we leave at 2am for the summit (if it is possible). To reach Gilman’s point it’s about 4 to 5 hours. Beyond that the summit at Uhuru is another 2 hours or so.
Michael is getting a sore throat – I hope that it does not get any worse. He doesn’t sound very good. Well, now off to dinner then early to bed. Tomorrow we will be on our way!
July 30, 1986 – Mandara Hut (6am – Michael’s pulse 60, Audrey 78 – both normal; 4:30pm @9000 ft. – Mike 80, Audrey 100)
Well we’ve made it this far. There are 5 of us climbers – Cheryl is from Manitoba (not American J) and she is a relief worker. She was evacuated from the war in Uganda – she was right in the centre of it.
The walk up was wet – the morning we woke up to a rain shower, and didn’t see the end of it till about 12:30. After our lunch there was a BRIEF period of sunshine. I’ve started to take my preventative inhaler just in case. The temperature is quite cool – not cold yet, but wait for tonight.
The climb today was not bad apart from the rain. Lots of nice flowers – including the Kilimanjaro flower – a beautiful red lily like flower. Most of today was quite steep, but not unbearable. The mud was the only real drawback. We saw lots of people descending – French, Americans and Italian among them. The climb between Gilman’s and Uhuru is very windy – 60km / hr winds so it is tough. Hopefully they will die down before we get there.
As I write this, the other 4 have gone to the local crater with our junior guide. He picks me a flower every time I point one out – so I’ve had to stop pointing!
We passed a stretcher on the way up. Fully equipped with a wheel and shock absorbers – quite fancy, but I hope we don’t need it. Just reading the back of the door. It talks about altitude sickness and that you should drink 4 to 6 litres of water per day. I find that hard to imagine doing here. The huts are quite small, but ample. And there are lots of them. Each half is for 4 people – although we are sleeping 5 of us. F&D are sharing a bed.
We have had tea and biscuits already – proper service and all. There is a group of 8 Japanese, one of 2 Italians and another of 3 Germans – we met them at the falls yesterday with our guide (the local photocopy repair guy).
Well off to do some organizing now. Tomorrow we proceed to Horombo which is above the clouds – where you begin to feel the altitude. It should be clearer but colder. The trek should be 4 to 5 hours, but then today was supposed to take 3 and we took 3 ½ to 4 – so we shall see.
July 31, 1986 between Mandara & Horombo (rested pulse Michael 88, Audrey 104)
We have just climbed up a healthy hill and are having a short rest and chatting with an English fellow. We are more than half way up now – it’s 12:47, and we left at 8:05am. We are feeling not too bad, but the sun is hot and the air is cool.
Horombo! We just finished tea and cookies – and they sure hit the spot. It is now 4:05pm; we arrived about 2:45pm. There are some clouds above us, but mostly below. Walk here was dusty – especially early on. Again lots of small interesting flowers enroute.
Suspect it is another side effect of the altitude, but Mike & I are both quite ‘bound up’ – hoping things let loose soon. The sun is strong here. Mike has sun burn on his arms and neck. The sun hits you mostly on one side, so it’s not even a balanced tan.
This is quite a busy hut – you stop here on both the route up and down – so there is more accommodation than at Mandara. Starting to feel the altitude here, but only a mild headache apart from the faster pulse.
We spoke with a group of Brit’s who are on their way down. They did not do so well – sounded like only 5 or 6 people summited on their day.
The landscape here is similar to tundra. The air is cool but the sun is hot. Last night the temperate was down to about 12C – but tonight should be much colder with the altitude.
There are some birds here, a couple of butterflies and several other insects but no trees as we have passed the tree line at 10,000 ft. We are now at 12, 340 ft. So we have come 6340 and have exactly 7,000 to Uhuru. Mike is not too optimistic, nor is Frank. I’m still not sure, but I know my pulse really gets going when I exert myself so I’m not expecting too much. We’ll know in 2 days time.
Tomorrow is supposed to be hard psychologically. Once you get into the saddle, it’s almost flat to Kibo Hut. But it’s a long way away and you can see it most of the day.
I am now wearing a t-shirt, turtle-neck, long sleeve t-shirt and sweat shirt, leotards and 2 pair of sweat pants – very styling J.
August 1, 1986 – Horombo Hut (pulse 7am – Michael 76, Audrey 84)
It was colder last night but still warm enough. Both of us have sore hip joints and backs. We are just repacking now and looking to give almost everything over to the porters. One Italian guy was already sick after dinner last night…fun fun fun!
August 1, 1986 Kibo Hut (pulse on arrival Mike 98, Audrey 124, resting Mike 84, Audrey 98)
We made it here! It was a long day – we left at 8:30 am and arrived here at 3:30….and our guide said it was a 3 hour day. It was a beautiful walk up to this point. We have gone from jungle to tundra in 2 days. There are mostly just lava rocks now with very little vegetation. Mike is unsure about trying tomorrow. I’ll try I think, but can’t say if I’ll make it or not. All in our group are in pretty good shape, so let’s hope the weather is good and it will make all the difference.
Tea has arrived in our room tonight. Tonight we’re on our own so no noisy snoring, or constant water drinking wake ups by the Japanese. After tea I will put on my “proper” gear for tomorrow. It’s really cooling off up here now. Mike is very tired. He took a Tylenol and hope he feels better by morning.
I just went and took a couple of shots with Mike’s camera – I hope they turn out – the pressure is now on me to get a good photo. Mike’s headache is pretty bad – he’s doubting he’ll try. I really wanted him to go with me as I don’t especially want to go alone with F&D; but Cheryl should be good company at any rate. The view of Mawenzi (the other peak of Kilimanjaro) is very nice from here. We can’t see our points since we are so close – and the clouds are in right now too. We should be eating soon – it’s 5pm now and we start in 8 hours – and then we should be up top 7 hours after that. Still 3000 ft to go – that’s an awful lot and it’s very steep. Coming back down will be very fast though.
Think I’ll use the solar blanket tonight. D asked to borrow it, but she is really no worse off than me so I don’t feel guilty saying no. The water outside is frozen, so it’s at least 0C out there, and that’s without the wind chill. My back hurts the most – tomorrow will only carrying water and the camera. We leave everything else here except for a few Kleenex J – my nose is running constantly from the cold. Hopefully the air here is not as dry as it was last night – it was drying out my nose and throat despite breathing through my turtleneck. We must get a good night’s sleep tonight – we need the energy for tomorrow.
The mountain has cleared! We can now see where we are headed – this is the first time we’ve been able to see our specific destination for the next day. Dinner arrives soon and then sleep.
Aug 2, 1986, 3:50am “the cave” ½ way up
We left about 1:15am. So far we are all here – not sure yet if we’ll all get to the top though. Today we are counting steps. I’m now at
100+200+300+400+500+600+700+150 = 2,950 steps!
The remainder of the climb is the hard part. It was 3am at our last stop – so stopping regularly now. There is snow in the cave here. All the other groups have passed us, but I’m sure they were not all at Kibo last night. Very tired… each step is a drain and still 3 hours to go – then it’s all downhill from there.
TOP OF AFRICA – we made it!! All 5 of us are here – I know that the 4 of us have no desire to continue to Uhuru, but I imagine Cheryl would go if she had company. Spectacular view –especially at sunrise. We actually just missed it. Mike was sick when we were just about at the top. He still feels quite queasy – but then again we all do. There are 5 Brits here also. The rest either went on to Uhuru or didn’t try to summit. There is also a Japanese although we are not sure where we came from. It sure feels good now that you’re here its easy to forget the pain of the morning in the dark once the sun comes out!
3:30pm – back at Horombo. We arrived here about 2:15pm – it only took 3 hours to come back down – not bad compared to 7 hours up. Daniella keeps going on about how she was the only one who wanted to continue on to Uhuru and that no one else could make it. I think Cheryl and I would both have outlasted her, but she can play her game, no point in arguing with her.
We have just had tea and eggs and potatoes and will have dinner in about 1 ½ to 2 hours. I’m hungry …. But not that much!
Walking down after Kibo was very relaxing and enjoyable. Mike and I side by side, hand in hand just talking. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and 2 peaks on either side, all the really hard work completed. As we got closer, we broke into a friendly race and the end result was that I got lost in the scrub well, but managed to find Mike again! Right now I think we can safely say that we would all be pleased with just going to the beach for a week, but first we have another safari in the plans. I guess it will be nice to see animals again.
This has been the longest marathon I’ve ever done – and today is one of the longest on record. Last night we had only 5 hours sleep (if that) – and apart from an extra 2 hour nap we’ve now been up for 16 hours (at 3:30pm). That may not sound like much, but at least of 10 hours of that were really hard work.
It’s interesting the people you see going up – some look like they were made to climb and others look like they may not make it to Kibo. The German couple who really struggled to make it every day, actually made it up – hard to believe. Several of today’s climbers made it on to Uhuru – all but us and the German couple I think… not sure about the English group. I was very impressed with the 63 year old British fellow who made it to ½ way between the cave and the top – too bad he wasn’t with our group or he would have had a better chance as we were slower paced. He said he had trouble sleeping too though, so who knows. We signed the book at the top, and Daniella signed the flag for us. Lekule had the flag raised for us – too bad we had already started our descent. The next group with a flag take the one on the flagpole down and take it back to Kibo Hotel and it stays in the restaurant there. There are lots of interesting people here – our guide was good and unfortunately both of our assistant guides got sick and had headaches. I was surprised by that – I thought the locals were acclimatized and would not suffer.
August 3, 1986 – Kibo Hotel
Back to civilization. Today’s journey down was enjoyable – good weather and sunny most of the way. Mike took several pictures and was more talkative than he had been on the whole trip. Talked with Cheryl about cameras, stereos, music and more. All of us have had sun on our faces. My right side is definitely red – my arm from the forearm down only however!
We’ve decided we will pass on the trip to Mikumi and instead see about having our driver take us up and down the coast. We don’t really have enough time to do the safari, and quite honestly none of us really feels like it. We could do with some R&R.
The dividing up of the supplies was awkward, and I think unfair. But I guess the head guide always gets first pick. Unfortunately we could not give him what we really wanted. I gave the porter who got altitude sickness the leftover pills we had and told him how to use them – hopefully he follows the directions properly…
We had some appetizers with drinks before dinner. They were very good, but not sure of the name. At dinner Mike & I splurged for the celebration wine – a rather “sweet” and pungent disappointment – every mouthful was a cringe! We left ½ the bottle – I guess we should have stuck to the red and not ventured into the white.
August 4, 1986 – New Africa Hotel, Dar Es Salam (cool at Kibo, raining and humid in Dar.)
First things first – Mike has reminded me to write about his basketball career here at Kibo before the climb. On our way to touring the falls, he completely impressed the local school girls with 5 shots at the hoop (all missed!). there was no backboard, no net and the hoop was much smaller were among the excuses… it was lots of fun actually.
As for today Mike got lots of really nice pictures at Kibo Hotel just before it clouded over and poured rain. Everyone is suffering from sore muscles – coming down was more work than we thought!
Our flight to Dar was uneventful – we got a chocolate bar at the Kilomanjaro airport and a cute little girl sat next to us on the flight. We tried to teach her how to relieve the pressure on your ears, but I don’t’ think I got through to her. We have settled into the New Africa Hotel and sent some more postcards off. We walked around the shops but they were just closing as we got started. Wouldn’t mind returning here to do some shopping… They had Makonde carvings similar to ours, but smaller for 400TS – we paid more than that. We may do a bit of gift shopping – lots of easy present ideas for birthdays etc. Have now had 2 seafood meals – prawns at lunch were excellent and the lobster appetizer at dinner was quite large, but was a disappointment unfortunately. We met our new driver today. He was a bit upset that we won’t be driving to Mikumi – I think he likes to show off his stuff. We got the tour of the industrial area – quite interesting with the diversity of the shops. Most tire stores etc. are all retreads, and other shops did refurbishing of items it seems.
At dinner the selection included imported wines – a surprise as we thought it wasn’t allowed. The locals here seem a lot more westernized. There are lots of Indians running the shops and the diet seems better, at least for some. Time for Mike to put some beef back on his bones too!
Good day today – tomorrow off to Bahari Beach – can’t wait!