Day 4: We were supposed to have cell coverage at Shira Two, today’s camp, but only Tanzanian phones have reception so far. Other electronics doing well–my solar charger performed like a champ this AM, and the diabetic equipment seems ok to 13,000 feet. Today did make me feel like a real mountaineer. The hike was straight forward–short and just 1500 feet elevation gain, but a storm moved in and pinned us in the mess tent. We could see all of Kili this frigid AM–just the most gorgeous piece of rock. Am told we might still have a chance with our American phones, after the storm clouds break, so I might blog more later. Tomorrow to Lava Hut, where we will stay for 36 hours.
Day 5: We arrived at Lava Rock, 15,000 ft, a couple of hours ago. The hike today was very slow and steady, seemingly leaving what looked like the East side of Oregon and entering the true lava fields. Intermittently we would find tiny pieces of jet black, shiny obsidian. The party in general is doing well. We have in general split into a fast and slow group (really more of a slow and more slow group), and everyone is still with us. I have mild AMS manifesting as headache alone (excellent appettite, no nausea), but I am one of the last holdouts not on diamox. I developed pretty bad neuropathy with my test doses, on day 3, so I am hoping to start it two days before summit day. We remain here for almost two full days, acclimating and taking day hikes (such as to the top of Lava Rock), if the weather improves (all hail and rain so far). This is the first time I have had some concerns for my insulin freezing, so I will need to keep a close eye on it or keep it close to my body, or in a sleeping bag with a hand warmer. Long Uno and hearts tournaments (as well as sleeping) seem to be the chief entertainment, plus, of course, stuffing ourselves with the incredible meals prepared by our porters.
Day 6: Our second day at Lava Rock camp. We did hike up to our next goal–Arrow Glacier Camp–16,000 feet (climb high, sleep low). Sleeping last night was definitely interesting–when I was asleep, I was sound asleep, but I would periodically wake up gasping for breath. Very similar to what I experienced in the high altitude sleep tent, above 17,000 feet. The climb today was gorgeous–right up against the top of Kili, with beautiful views of the crater lip and Lava Rock itself. We got back in time for lunch, just as a huge hail storm hit. I need to give a shout out to Paul Coker, from the Mountaineering for Active Diabetics site. He’d warned me of the possibility of insulin bottles exploding at altitude. I just spent the last 15 minutes venting my bottles and pens, and they off-gassed significantly. Tomorrow we go back to Arrow Glacier Camp to stay, followed by the hardest day of the whole climb–to Crater Camp.
Day 7: Excitement! We had an amazing thunderstorm last night, followed by pretty significant, and unexpected snowfall. This almost ended the climb, but we decided on pushing through to Arrow Glacier Camp (16,100 ft). Depending on weather, we will go up and over Kili, summiting one day early (tomorrow!) and skipping Crater Camp. Can’t honestly say I mind NOT sleeping at 18,800 feet. If the weather continues to worsen, making the climb look more dangerous, we will turn around and return to Lava Rock, then go down a completely different route. Climbing to Arrow was so different than yesterday–snow covered the route, and we needed completely different clothes, plus our glacier glasses. I thought my glucose monitor had finally given up the ghost, due to altitude or low temps, but it just turns out the glacier glasses were of a color that filtered out the actual reading! Cannot describe the camp too much, as everything is white! I can say the party remains pretty excited, though I think there is some nervousness about doing the hardest route on Kilimanjaro in bad weather.
Summit: We were quite surprised to wake up to deep snow. In fact, several of the tents collapsed, though no one was harmed (a couple were trapped though). We packed up and descended 5000 feet, with the snow ending about 600 feet below our start. Amazingly we started to see plant life again, and before we could blink, we were back in a humid rain forest, replete with gorgeous flora and quite a few bugs! Trying to collect tips for our amazing porter support team; tomorrow we descend another 4000 ft and then return to the hotel.
Last post from the climb! We awoke after a night of about 50 rain bursts but then had dry weather for the entire 3000 feet down. Like descending a million stairs, but in a lovely rainforest. So bizarre to have a flushing toilet and running water–everyone made the same joke about the “mysterious silvery machine that made running water.” Climb over–many profound thoughts coming (after the trip to town, and a shower). Thanks again to the support team, Mazamas, donors and FB readers, and of course our clinical trials participants and families.
2/18/2015: We are back in Moshi – the climb is officially over, though the trip itself is not. Please stay tuned for the missing blogs; we also have over 3000 photos and some nice video footage…
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