02 June 2011
Day 3 Climbing Kilimanjaro: Up and up
Wake-up call is again at 6:30am, which is a bit more difficult when you’ve been darting back and forth to the toilet all night. Even if your stomach is not upset, the altitude sickness medication - called diamox - leaves you needing to pee at least twice in the night. If there is any silver lining in this situation, it is that your walk to the toilet tents offers sweeping cross-sky views of what can only be described as the clearest, star-filled sky I have ever seen.
Following another gluttonous breakfast and rapid morning “pack, clean, dress, and go” routine, we set off on a mainly uphill four-hour trek that brings us from 3,400 metres to 4,320 metres at the base of Mount Mawenzi, where we will have an additional day to acclimatise. Today’s walk - while shorter - is a near constant uphill. While the sun is still shining brilliantly, the air is markedly cooler as we continue upward. By now there is very little plant life. Replaced by dramatic rock formations, the landscape becomes almost mysterious, bordering on otherworldly.
We reach camp by lunchtime. The final stretch of trail is actually an ascent into the “mini-Kili’s” crater. Now above the clouds, our tents appear to be literally floating in the sky. Somehow each stopping point manages to be more beautiful and more mesmerising than the last. After another enormous lunch, we all enjoy a mid-afternoon nap in the confines of our tent. Thanks to the direct sunlight and small space, my tents acts as a greenhouse and I am - for the first time in three days - genuinely toasty, cozy, and warm. It is completely brilliant.
Post-nap we regroup for our first of two acclimitisation walks. These walks help to ensure summit success by trekking a short distance upward to 4,700 metres then descending back down to 4,320 metres to eat and sleep. While not physically exhausting, these walks offer yet another gorgeous perspective on where we are and what we are doing.
Our evening includes - yet again - an otherwordly-size dinner, lots of fluids, a deep conversation about our fears and motivations, and yet more laughing that prompts other campers to ask us to quiet down. After all, it is 8pm! We leave the mess tent to find that we have been snowed on during dinner! The light dusting has done something wonderful, offering a layer of insulation that has a warming effect on the air temperature. I drift off into what will be the best night of sleep I have had since we began. I only had to pee once!