On the 24th September 2011 started for me, the dream of a life time and my climb on Kilimanjaro. I arrived in Africa to climb Kilimanjaro with a group of 12 people and 1 amazing mountaineer called Ian Taylor. The climb was one filled with a roller coaster of emotions, excitement, nervousness, exhaustion, sadness, happiness and this was just on 1 day.
Ian has a group of guides which he deals with on a very regular basis which means there is a great understanding and respect between them. This is visible and also helps you see how Ian and the guides work so hard to make everything as easy and comfortable for us the climbers as possible. I think I am the only person to spend nearly 9 days on a mountain and gain 2 lbs. (all muscle of course) that is how good the meals were, don’t get me wrong it was no 5 star hotel but you had your essentials. A good breakfast and dinner with lunch on some days, and of course whatever snacks you bring yourself.
On arrival to Africa our first night was spent in a hotel this was to be the last shower and running water for the next 8 days, it took a little getting used to but that’s what we signed up for. Each day brought different scenery and each night brought a different camp site.
Breakfast each morning was at 7am and climbing starts at 8am”¦Breakfast would consist of porridge/eggs/toast. Dinner: Rice/pasta/Meat/. A bucket is placed on a table near the mess tent (eating tent) morning & Evening, this bucket provides us with the much needed water to wake and refresh us in the morning, and wash up for dinner. We entertained each other every night, with stories, song’s, it’s amazing what games come to mind when trying to pass the time. Charades, Guess who, cards and endless cups of hot water.. (My skin was also amazing on my return)”¦ Each night before retiring we would get our 1 litre bottle filled with hot water, this keeps us warm at night and also keeps us hydrated in the day, and we also carry 2 litres in our rucksacks
Our route is going to be the Lemosho Route: 7 days up and 2 down: The words we will hear regularly are Jambo = hello / Pole Pole = slowly slowly: We will not leave our tent any night without our head lights.. If we do it’s a tricky stroll by moon light..
Day 1: the ” jeep ride from hell” . We thought the Irish roads were bad. But it has to be experienced. Our first camp site : Mti Mkumbwe. Sleeping in the rain forest and only ants to bother us, not bad, but my word those African soldier ants can bite”¦ but what a lovely experience to be able to listen to the Colobus monkeys at bed time, It sounded as if they were circling the camp site but it was a welcome sound compared to traffic & sirens. I had a slight headache but all is good..
Day 2: Our camp tonight will be Shira Camp One: . We are still trekking the rain forest the sound of monkeys and birds fill the air. The trees and vegetation are amazing. I have to keep pinching myself. WoW “¦. Another day with a headache it has been with me all day. But I know I am just acclimatising I think the penny finally drops as to how high this mountain really is. It had the most amazing view of Kilimanjaro It was at this camp I began questioning had I trained enough, can I do it. I am now scared, nervous but also excited. I can do this. I want to do this. I will do this.
Day 3: Camp tonight – Shira Camp Two. Today we are trekking over Shira Plateau flat baron ground with low sized shrubs, and Senecio (Palm like trees). We arrive at camp and find some people have reception on there “iphones”so we get a brief conversation with home. It’s good to talk and let them all know we are doing ok. We even get an extra bucket of water to wash our hair. Some of us avail of this luxury of course.
Day 4: Camp tonight – Baranka Camp: We trek to the Lava tower where we have lunch. Our climb today is causing some problems (AMS) is at its worst. I have a bad headache & feeling nauseous. As usual Ian and my fellow climbers are there to make sure all is well, and offer a comforting word. AMS is getting to us all today. The weather changes after lunch and the rain sets in, as we go through the Baranka valley. We arrived at camp wet and tired but we soon get on with the important things, dinner and a night of games and story’s.
Day 5. Camp Tonight: – Karanga Valley Camp: We wake to a beautiful icy morning and a stunning view of the Baranka Wall which has to be climbed. To be fair this was one of my favourite parts of the climb. Having to incorporate the use of our hands to find grips and pull us along on parts. No AMS feeling great today, must have been the frankfurters for breakfast.. This campsite was like sleeping on the edge of the world. Not only were we sleeping on a slope and waking up in a heap at the bottom of the tent, but the least little movement made you breathless. The air is very thin so I feel like I’ve just had a few drinks and everything is real amusing.. Could stay here a few nights!!
Day 6: Barafu Huts Camp site: The day of the night of summit. We arrive at camp early about 12 noon, we hit the mess tent for food and chat but not the chat we had expected. It’s time for Ian to set us straight about what’s ahead tonight, OMG is it too late to turn back.. !! He hits it home to us that the next time we climb is going to be one of the toughest things we will do. We will be pulling our resources from inside and using to the max. He was not wrong. We hit out tents around 3 to get some sleep. We will be up at 10pm for food and we will be climbing at 12pm.
Day 7 Still: 10pm God its cold, we slept in base layers so less to put on when we woke up. There’s a lot of layers to be worn tonight. After food, and another consultation with Ian about how we will all manage it we leave the camp in an orderly line. Our way is lit up with our head torches what a site ahead of us. It is like a pilgrimage advancing to the stars. It’s a beautiful site. For the first couple of hours there is chat a few songs and laughs, but that dissipates in the hours ahead. We can stop on different occasions to catch a breath but the higher we go the less time in the breaks. It is hard, I found everything in them last few hours hard. Because you are cold, your energy levels are decreasing with less oxygen the higher you go. It is literally dragging one foot after another, but as we were promised by Ian a sunrise to be remembered. We are on top of the earth it seems and below us a floor of cloud. It’s beautiful and gives us a little needed lift. At last Stella point and I think I am here we have made it.. then O no we have another 45mins walk yet. Do I cry now O yes”¦but with the dawn comes the brightness and the realisation of what we are doing, and the sites we are seeing. Walking alongside the Rebmann glacier, we are nearly there we are nearly at the end and Uhuru Peak will soon be under my ass”¦ ( literally )..We arrive but is there energy to jump around not in the slightest. We take our photos as quick as we can. I realise I’m not feeling the best when the ever watchful eye of Ian has focused on me and decides I need to get off the mountain and fast. I had a very quick run with Ian and Chef Jeff escorting me off. We reach Barafu Huts camp site where a little oxygen is needed but I,m up and about in no time. Thanks to Ian’s quick thinking and two strong men with very aching arms the next day. We all are feeling the effects with some fainting and vomiting but that’s Kili. We regroup eat and due to the sickness, Ian decided to keep moving to the Mweka camp site.
Day 7: Mweka camp: About 3.5 hrs later we reach camp, tired and wet It’s been raining along the way. We are now up and walking for 20hrs. No mean feat, but that doesn’t stop us from our usual mess tent activities. We also enjoy our first bottle of coke in 7 days which tastes like a little bit of heaven. We get to witness bad thunder and lightning which was a lovely if not scary site, especially since my tent was under a tree. This is our last camp site, as happy as we are to get back to beds and showers, I am feeling a little melancholy, great bonds have been built in the last 7 days, friendships were made and are still being built on.
Day 8: The wet after the storm: Yes it must have rained all night, tents, bags and cloths are all wet. After all we have been through a little bit more hardship is needed. We have a long downhill trek today, but spirits are high and the thoughts of showers and alcohol keep us motivated. We reach the hotel later in the evening I would imagine with a very peculiar aura emanating from us all. The gratification was not just from 13 tired, wet, and alcohol deprived campers but a whole hotel full of staff
To recap: There just wasn’t highs and lows in meters but emotionally as well, It’s not that the climbs each day were extremely hard but some days it just felt so long and you just can’t wait to get to camp. The hardest day is the summit. It’s a hard gruelling, mind exploding experience. Ian made such light work of everything with such great attention to detail, and professionalism at all times, but also a man you could chat and have a laugh with.
To put your trust in someone that you might not know that well, in a situation and environment like that and not be at all worried or concerned has got to say something about Ian and the business he is running.
I described my climb on Kilimanjaro on my return as one of the best gifts I could have ever given myself and also pride that I managed to raise money for a local charity.
Would I do something like this again.. If Ian was my guide ABSOLUTELY Sign me up for the next adventure Ian..
Olive Walsh, Kilimanjaro 2011