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2001 Kilimanjaro diary <)))
Back to main page Kilimanjaro Ascent. September 2001

01-09-10: Monday. Departure for Africa.

We depart Woodside Drive at 12 noon. Panic this morning re VISA card. Can't get online to check status of suspicious-looking balances. Oh well, bankruptcy, here we come. Adam drives us to Audra's place where we wait for Darlene, who is delayed due to road construction in Welland. On to Pearson airport, Toronto. After takeoff: Brigit Jones plus Shrek on the video monitors while we skim along at 1000 Km/hr, 10,000m altitude. Outside temperature is -40 to -50 degrees Celsius. Sounds chilly, wonder what it's going to be like at 6000m on top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Schipol Airport, Amsterdam: large, interesting stores. Not quite exotic as yet. On the next hop, the merely "different" will merge into the "exotic".

09-11: Tuesday. In the air. 5:31pm local time. Just zipped over Khartoum while finishing an Eric Ambler spy novel. Well-crafted plot, terror, intrigue, nothing unusual. Land at Kilimanjaro airport, near Arusha, Tanzania, after dusk. Much like Hamilton airport, on a human scale. We change a little money (CDN$) to Tanzanian Shillings (TZS). Somebody comes to get us in a Land Rover for the drive to our hotel in Moshe.

09-11: Arrival, Arusha, Tanzania.

Arrive late at the Hotel Buffalo in Moshe, to find the TV screens ablaze with news of the New York bombing. This was probably happening while we were in the air over Libya, Ghadaffi country. We sit down with our tour organizer, Pius Kimati, to discuss arrangements and to fork over cash. Hard to concentrate with the disaster news turned up loud, and repeated over and over again. For some reason, find myself with only US$800 in cash. Not enough to pay our share of the immediate expenses, $2200. Was assuming that I was going to use travellers' cheques. Up against a cash economy here. We come to an arrangement where I'll pay the Kilimanjaro Park fees in travellers' cheques, at the park gate. Conveniently enough, this will be about the same as the amount I owe, approx. $1400.

09-12: Day 0, Wednesday - Rest and Recce.

A restless night. The mosquito netting over our bed seems dusty, suffocating. We fling it aside and trust to anti-malaria medication, our second line of defence. Wake up feeling woozy. Muezzin call at dawn, a second call, more distant, sounds a lot like Hebrew to my ear. Not bloody likely. The Jewish community here numbers approximately 2, all of them Canadian tourists, keeping a low profile.

For breakfast, more news of the World Trade Centre attack. Surrounded in the dining room by young American tourists in a state of shock while they watch the TV reports and make plans to head for home.

First day in Africa.no pictures?

Rest day today: Time out to get over jet-lag, mull over the Trade Centre disaster, and cash travellers' cheques. We visit Kilimanjaro park HQ at Marengo with our guides, Amani and Oswald. 1970m. altitude. High forest, eucalyptus, banana trees and cultivated fields located just outside the park boundary. We stroll across a lush valley to a nearby village to meet some of the locals who our guide knows.

They have a farm and show us a few animals. The family looks desperately poor. We try to offer them a little money for the privilege of staring at their poverty. A young man, cadgier than the rest tries to appropriate a TZS 5000 (US$5.00) note for himself. Our guide, Amani, notices this and snatches it away to hand over to the old man who is the nominal head of the family. It's a dilemma: if you offer any money, it's an insult because no reasonable amount is ever enough. If you offer nothing, you reinforce the stereotype of privileged and selfish foreigners.

Down in a lush valley a river runs between banana trees and huge rocks. someone is doing the laundry down there. For some reason it reminds me of a literary scene I vaguely remember set in the South Pacific. Children play hide-and-seek behind the trees.

On the way back we pass through village lanes. A boy is playing with a hoop made of an old bicycle wheel. Haven't seen that game played since I was the same age.

Temperature: low 20s, back in Moshe, lower altitude, mid 30s.

Today we make calculations about how much we'll have to pay for our share of the staff on this climb. 8 porters for 6 days at 10k shillings per day is TZS 480k. The chief guide at 15k/day, 90k. Ditto, the cook, 90k. Assistant guide, 70k. Total: TZS 730,000. Our share for two people out of four is TZS 365,000. The entire expedition comprises 4 climbers, 8 porters, 2 guides and 1 cook -- a troop of 15 people in all

09-13: Day 1, Thursday - To Machame camp, Mt. Kilimanjaro.

1211-02
01-09-13 - Hotel Buffalo, our base while in Moshe.
Day 1, Thurday, departure, the first day on the trail. We reorganize our packs, leaving a few things in the hotel Buffalo storeroom. Stuff that'll only be used on our safari later on.

1216-08
01 - Darlene and Merle, Hotel Buffalo, Moshe
Merle and Darlene befriending the hotel namesake. The hotel bar is just behind Merle.

1211-03
- Loading up the climbing luggage.
We stand around the hotel compound waiting for the Land Rover to be loaded. Amani, our chief guide, doesn't think I'm going to be able to manage the large blue backpack. So I repack my personal gear into a smaller rucksack.

1211-05
- Kilimanjaro Park entrance, weigh-in.
Riding in the Land Rover, we bump our way up to the Machame park entrance at 1700m altitude, a modest 5000ft. All four of us climbers, Merle, Audra, Darlene and Derek are now packed, zipped up and ready to go, but we have delays in starting. Derek has to stand in line while endless forms are filled out and travellers' cheques signed. Then, more problems sorting out the porters, weighing and assigning loads. Audra has brought a duffle bag that is big enough to hold the equipment of the entire Fort Erie lacrosse team. A full load for one porter -- a very strong porter. Much standing around wondering exactly what the hell is going on.

Amani temporarily disappears. A suspicious park ranger carrying a rifle wants to know who our guide is. No one is supposed to trek up the mountain unsupervised. eventually things get sorted out and we start walking.

1211-06
- Amani, our chief guide.
Here, Amani seems to be saying: So long, it's been good to know you. Departure is at 11:30am. We enter the rainforest at last. He leads the way, probably wondering what kind of a crew this will turn out to be.

1211-07a
- We traverse the rain-forest.

1211-08
- Rest stop.
Enormous trees, ferns, and flowers keep us busy asking questions of our guides. Amani and Oswald seem to know the Latin names of everything. The trail is smooth and easy going, but steadily upward.

1211-09
- It all depends.
It all depends. ... OK, this is supposed to be a Latin-based pun: de-pends = hangs down, tree branches hanging down, get it? OK. Too obscure.

1211-11
- Lunch stop.
We have a picnic lunch in deep shade. A light shower worries us for about 30 seconds. Mutters of thunder in the west. Above the tree-tops: sunny, wisps of cloud.

1211-12
- A life of luxury for Audra?
Audra is trying out her "bionic woman" knee protectors. They're supposed to guard against sideways twisting.

1211-14
- We emerge from the rain-forest.
At the end of 9.5mi of trail, we emerge from heavy forest into a region of scrub and smaller trees. Drier, cooler too, less humid. Interesting as the forest is, it feels good to get out into the open where you can see the overall context.

1211-16
- Machame camp, crowded with Canadians.
Machame Camp is located at 3000m, about 9000ft. When we get there, the place is already crawling with Canadians. Putting up our tent, we overhear next-door conversations between the young guns of the Calgary oil patch, who, oddly enough, are discussing amatory conquests, rather than drilling rights. Merle gets busy updating her diary.

The Milky Way is fiercely bright tonight.

09-14: Day 2, Friday - Shira Plateau

1211-17
- Above the forest at last.
Day 2, Friday, to the Shira Plateau. Many pees last night. Our plastic bottles turn out to be invaluable, but you have to be really careful to aim accurately in the dark and to guard against overflow. Temperature, about zero degrees, celsius. The lowlands are covered in overcast at dawn. Clear, the sun is up, but behind the flank of the mountain. I sneak out at 6am to empty the bottles.

We're the first to pack our kit. Much to-ing and fro-ing. Everybody has to walk through everybody else's campsite to get anywhere. Mind you don't step in that damp patch, young gun.

We start walking today at 9:15am. Toiling up a very long, steep ridge. All the surrounding country is under cloud, but way back down there, you can still catch a glimpse of Machame camp in the bush to the centre right.

1211-22
- Senecio Kilimanjari, 10,000 ft.
We encounter the statuesque whatsis plant, almost a trademark of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Senecio Kilimanjari, Amani calls it. Haven't heard this much Latin since high school. No sign as yet of the Giant Lobelia we're supposed to be looking for. Uncle Fraser has asked for a full botanical report.

1211-24
- Above the forest but below the clouds.
Those clouds still seem pretty far above us. Our camp tonight, on the Shira Plateau, is somewhere over the horizon.

1212-01
01-09 - Merle, Darlene, to the Shira Plateau.
Some years back, this area was the scene of a large fire that burnt across the side of the mountain up to the edge of the plateau above.

1212-03
- We're above the clouds at last.
About the only good thing you can say about the fire is that it improved visibility.

1212-05
- The trail to the Shira Plateau.

1212-07
- Everywhere, a scent of wild herbs.
Everywhere in this vicinity, there's the scent of some wild herb. We never did find out what it was, something like the herbs of Provence.

1212-08a
- Lunch on the way to Shira camp.
We didn't realize at first how much the porters were lugging along to keep us comfortable. This turned out to be an iron, not an aluminum, folding camp table and stools -- a luxury we enjoyed till our last night on the mountain. The ladies are trying to look very pukka, formal and correct,

1212-10
- Giant Lobelia, immature.
Aha, the Giant Lobelia, immature specimen.

1212-11a
- Rockscape and lobelia.
Here's the lobelia again, in a more mature condition.

1212-16
- Audra approaching Shira campsite.
Climbing up over the edge of the plateau from our first campsite, the trail begins dropping slightly. The burnt area noted during this morning's ascent doesn't extend to the plateau, where there's much less vegetation and colder temperatures.

1212-17
- Shira camp.
Its been about five miles up a steep ridge to the Shira Plateau and Shira Campsite. Now we can see for vast distances, round and about the tenting area, across the broad shoulders of the mountain. The main bulk of the Kibo crater is close now, and huge. Maybe a little intimidating.

1212-18
- Kilimanjaro from the Shira Plateau.
At last a clearer view of Kilimanjaro. Up to now we've either seen it on the far horizon or from the surounding forest.

1212-20
- Dusk, Shira camp.
Audra is slightly ill tonight. Altitude perhaps. We're all taking Diamox, which is normally a glaucoma medicine. Audra wonders if perhaps the pills are making her ill. The medicine increases the respiration rate as well as being a kind of diuretic to prevent the build-up of cerebral edema caused by lower atmospheric pressure. In the mornings I look forward to the ritual of pulling out my medicine kit and popping down aspirin, anti-malaria and Diamox pills. Then washing them all down with several cups of my recent favourite: Afri-cafe instant coffee, made in Tanzania.

09-15: Day 3, Saturday - Rest, Shira Pl.{#1}

1212-23
- Morning coffee, Shira camp.
A rest day today. The dawn dawns clear and cold. Coffee and hot water brought to the door of our tent help us wake up. Ice on the roof. The shadow of Kilimanjaro's main massif creeps down the spires of Shira Cathedral very slowly.

1212-25
- Shira Cathedral, Needle, Shira camp.
Then, 15minutes later, bang! The sun is up like thunder and the whole campsite bathed in brilliant light. The temperature immediately begins to rise from zero degrees to more temperate levels. The plains below are covered in haze and low cloud, but we don't care, we're far above the petty concerns of normal earthlings. Rapture of the heights I think they call it.

1213-03p
- High altitude savannah.
A late start, but we straggle across the plateau, meeting a group of Tilley-attired Ottawa civil servants on the way back from a look at the Cathedral. They have that dangerous, not-quite-over-the-hill-50-ish look, and are on a grand tour to climb several other peaks in the area: Mts. Meru, Ruwenzori, Mawenzi and others. But the Cathedral is socked-in with cloud so they've turned back.

1213-08
- Climbing the Shira Cathedral ridge.
Looking back toward the Shira Plateau. Our campsite is somewhere on the horizon near the middle of the picture.

1213-09
- Nearing the summit of the Cathedral.
Behind Merle is a long drop over the cliff into the Senecio Kilimanjari, one of the characteristic plants of this mountain. Not survivable even by a latin student.

1213-10
- Atop the Cathedral.
We carry on despite the cloud warnings and toil up a series of ridges to eventually reach Shira Cathedral summit. Audra and Merle are ecstatic. Amani phlegmatic. The rest (Derek and Darlene) are exhausted. Fantastic views of clouds swirling round lava cliffs. I drink too much water, too fast, choke.
I'm carrying an extra litre, one more kilo added to the load. We share a lunch of granola bars at the summit cairn. We're at about 4000m altitude, 12000ft. But still there's plenty of scrub vegetation.

1213-13
- View from Shira Cathedral.
The view is varied with wraiths of cloud sweeping up the valleys, then whipping over the edge of the plateau.

1213-16
- Madam Wanda sees all.
Our camp is behind Merle, on the horizon, to the left of that bush on the right. Hmmm, just realized we've got to walk all the way back there, supposedly in time for lunch.

1213-15r
- The Needle from Shira Cathedral.
The green flecks below the Shira Needle are forests of Senecio Kilimanjari, the statuesque plant already noted at lower altitude.

1213-19
- Descent from the Cathedral.

1213-22
- Lava "bombs", old eruption, Shira Pl.
We're now heading back to Shira camp. On the way we cross a plain where lava "bombs" from some ancient eruption have fallen and lain unmoved for millenia. We skirt the head of a high altitude access road that is sometimes used for emergency evacuations.

Shira camp #2, which we didn't visit, is up on the plateau to the left.
Nearing Shira Camp, a benevolent porter insists on carrying "Babu's" pack. What an incredible difference 10 lbs makes. I feel 10 years younger. I think I actually enjoy being called "Babu". Sort of like "Gramps" or "Zaydy" in Swahili. They're calling Merle "Bibi", the equivalent of "Bubby" I imagine.

1213-23
- Kilimanjaro from our tent, Shira camp.
8.5mi and 6 hrs to reach the Cathedral and return. The Cathedral itself is about 4000m (12,500ft) high. Some "rest" day. And the cook is peeved with us; we were supposed to be back for lunch. Hope he forgives us by supper time. I flop down in the tent for a rest, then spy a picture of Kilimanjaro plus Merle out the tent door. Well, maybe not quite exhausted just yet.

tab={ascent}

2001-09 Ascent, Mt. Kilimanjaro{ #1}

09-16: Day 4, Sunday - To Arrow base camp.

1214-03
- First light.
To Arrow camp. Kefuffle this morning about the use of latrines. Amani catches me wandering off to take pictures, and suspecting another, darker purpose, warns me that the camp custodians have arrived. These park rangers have nabbed another climber, who is guilty of wandering off into the bushes with his roll of white paper.

The miscreant has to submit to a severe dressing down and is sentenced to go round the campsite with a plastic bag, picking up "debris". There is justice in this. Even organic debris doesn't biodegrade quickly up here. Without constant vigilance, the area would soon look like the Everest base camps.

Breakfast. Plus a collection of pills. Diamox, glaucoma drug doubling as high-altitude remedy. Anti-malaria, Aspirin. We're heading for our summit base camp this evening. Our last two nights on the Shira Plateau at 9000ft have been a mere picnic. Now the picnic is over.

1214-04
- On the trail to Arrow Glacier camp.
We depart at 9:30am on the upward march.

1214-06
- Formidable barriers.

1214-07b
- Mount Meru, 4566m, in the far distance. Wow, we're really gaining altitude now. That's Mt. Meru, 40 miles away on the distant horizon. Arusha and the international airport are beyond it and to the left. That's a porter with red windbreaker on the right of Merle adjusting his pack. Dispite the load, he and the other porters will arrive at camp long before we straggle in.

Y070129-02
- Google map, Meru, Kilimanjaro

1214-08a
- Kilimanjaro: the route to Arrow camp.
We're close enough now to set up some real photographic portraits of this iconic mountain. You can see the Western Breach, that dip in the near side of the rim. Uhuru peak, the highest point on the rim of the caldera, is, I believe, that bit of darker ridge in behind and on the right.

1214-11a
- Kilimanjaro: route to Arrow camp.
We'll be making our summit base camp somewhere beyond the black rock on the right. You can see the trail leading onward to its left.

1214-12
- Late lunch en route to Arrow camp.
Lunch at 2pm after a long climb up ridges that seem to lead ever upward. We're now close to the Arrow Glacier summit base camp, located right up against the side of the mountain. What I can see of the trail higher up looks scary, with hanging glaciers on either side.

My pedometer was reading 8mi. at today's start, 12 at the end. Surely we've covered more ground than that. Can't seem reset it to zero. To check validity of my figures, have to do exhausting mental arithmetic at high altitude. Can't face it. Merle is still a tower of strength.

1214-16a
- Tomorrow: up the Western Breach.
This slope, known as the Western Breach, faces us tomorrow. Our route goes up that small ridge in the middle. There used to be a shelter somewhere near here, but it's been destroyed by the weather.

1214-17r
- Kilimanjaro: Western Breach at dusk.
Present altitude: 5300m (17,500ft). Nothing lives here on a permanent basis. The thin air that was merely piquant yesterday offers a serious challenge to breathing today. This panorama is a montage of three pictures. The look of upswept wings is determined by the image geometry and the upward angle of the camera.

All Kili images were scanned from 35mm 4x6 prints, taken by a compact pocket "clamshell" camera. This was the only one I had room for at night in my sleeping bag to prevent the batteries from freezing.

1214-14
- Arrow Glacier, summit base camp, dusk.
We do a hurried repacking on arrival to make sure that our cold weather gear is handy. Lowland clothes to the bottom of the pack. I clear a space in the stones to pitch the tents, wander around taking pictures. After a welcome lie-down that ends up leaving me feeling even more exhausted, I'm unable to eat what looks like an excellent pasta supper.

Feeling nauseous, I lie in our tent while the others hold inconclusive discussions about whether to go on tomorrow or turn back. Darlene is very sick, has zipped herself into her tent, clearly unable to go on. I'm wakened at midnight by Merle for another strategy discussion. We decide to postpone any night-time departure until morning. No Uhuru summit at dawn for us. Some idea about possibly staying put for another day to acclimatize.

09-17: Day 5, Monday - Summit day{#1}

1214-18
- Dawn, final push for the summit.
Now or never. We're wakened at 6am by Amani, our guide, with the news that it won't be safe (or convenient?) to stay an extra day to acclimatise. We do a hurried packing up. I actually feel much better this morning, but facing breakfast is quite another thing.

I cram down a slice of french toast, but can't manage the 3 slices the cook has put on my plate. Pretending to rummage for my diamox, aspirin and anti-malaria, I wrap the remains of breakfast in a napkin and tuck it away for future reference. Darlene is still sick. She'll have to go back down with the porters and join us at the next campsite. The porters don't come with us to the summit. They travers around the side of the mountain to prepare our camp on the opposite side.

1214-19
- Western Breach - 1
We start up the Western Breach, moving very deliberately (read, slowly).

1214-20
- Western Breach - 2
The north wall of the breach.

1214-21
- Western Breach - 3
Shira Plateau and the Cathedral spire are visible in the background. This is where we camped the previous two nights. Audra, Merle and Derek, with Amani, the chief guide, and Oswald continue the zig-zag climb up the scree slope. 15 steps, rest, pant-pant. 10 steps, rest, puff-puff. 7 steps, gasp.

1214-22
- Western Breach - 4
We're making steady progress. Merle is ecstatic. Derek is happy, but still nursing periodic bouts of nausea. Somewhere above here our "Platypus" water bottles start to freeze up. You drink through a plastic tube leading into a vinyl water bag stowed in the rucksack. Where the tube is open to the air, it's vulnerable to freezing.

1214-23
- Western Breach, below crater rim.
I've been uncertain of our chances until this moment, when we attain a final rock wall at the base of the caldera rim. Severely stressed by fatigue but otherwise positive. Bright sun, azure sky, no wind. We've reached something like 5500m (18,000 ft.) The top seems no more than 50 or 100 feet away. I'm confident we'll make it, even if we have to crawl.

We follow along the base of this rock wall for a bit, come to an irregular gap, then clamber up a series of tumbled slabs and into the open on the crater rim. Are we there yet? Our trekking poles are a nuisance at this stage. You have to keep laying them down to get a two-handed grip on the rocks. My pole threatens to slide away down the slope.

1214-24
- Looking back down over the crater rim.
Last night's campsite is somewhere near that bright patch in the centre. The porters, who don't usually come up on the summit, have long since packed up our camp and luggage, retreating with Darlene to lower levels for the trek round the side of the mountain to our next camp on the way down.

1214-25
- Catching breath, Uhuru summit, right.
Here we're a little disconcerted at the remaining height still to be climbed: Uhuru, the highest point on the caldera rim is still another 200m above us. Nevertheless, I know we're going to make it now.

1215-02
- Our final frontier.
The summit snags a few passing clouds. Hope we're not going to be socked in on top.

1215-03
- Furtwangler Glacier, Kilimanjaro.
Passing the Furtwangler Glacier, I throw a token snowball at Merle. I can barely manage a pitch of about 20 feet. Feels more like the shot-put event.

1215-05
- Furtwangler Glacier, Kilimanjaro.
That ice wall is at least 30 feet high, but we don't have the reserve energy to pose anybody over there in front of it.

1215-06
- Uhuru Peak, west rampart.
Skirting the glacier, we head for this rampart of Uhuru Peak. The ground underfoot has a moonscape feel, surprisingly neat and uniform. Until the recession of the glaciers, it was likely under an almost stationary ice cap for millenia. There are few signs of the extensive erosion you see on the outer slopes of the mountain.

1215-04
- Kilimanjaro summit, Uhuru peak.
Our route is up that notch, on the left. Amani, heavily loaded, leads the way, waiting patiently for us laggards.

1215-07
- Ascent: the final phase begins.
This takes us to a gap in the side of Uhuru peak, then up another scree slope.

1215-08
- Furtwangler Glacier from side of Uhuru.
We get a better view of the Furtwangler Glacier and of the smooth, dusty-looking surfaces within the caldera. That hill on the horizon is the side of the main and probably most recently active crater on the volcano.

1215-10
- On the summit, Uhuru Peak.
Finally, up over the edge onto the very top of Uhuru Peak. A gentle slope leads to the tacky summit signpost. I flop down to rest, with my Tilley hat over my eyes.

3:15pm, getting late. We wait for Audra, who is pretty nearly exhausted. I encourage her to be first onto the summit, since the original impetus for this project came from her. Hugs, pictures.

Yes, we made it. Brilliant sunshine, amazing visibility, the clouds have all gone. A few nights ago, we flew past this point in the regular KLM flight from Amsterdam to Arusha. I remember watching the video screen readout of our progress, with speed, temperature, altitude and position. We slowed down from 1000 Km/hr and dropped from cruising altitude to 6000m.

I recall noticing the outside temperature: -5 degrees Celsius, then -2 degrees and rising, and thinking, we can stand that, this planet is our home. It's not outer space.

1215-20
- Kilimanjaro: guides Amani and Oswald.
Our guides, Amani and Oswald deserve a lot of the credit for getting us up here. Not to mention the nameless porters who carried, tents, personal luggage, food, charcoal, and an iron picnic table so we could be comfortable.

1215-14u1
- Kilimanjaro summit.
In this summit panorama, you can see the Western Breach, the route of our ascent from Arrow Glacier camp. Emerging over the smashed outer edge of the caldera, we faced the Furtwangler Glacer. Following parallel to this, we made the final ascent to the summit via the dark ravine on the left. In the centre, the circular edge of the Reusch Crater is just visible.

The crater still has vents emitting hot, sulphurous gases. So Kilimanjaro is not dead, merely dormant. On the right of the valley lies the Kenya border, not far to the north.

I have to give witness to Being Here, and feeling the nearness of Life's primordial elements; an experience that leaves ME in no doubt that this is a holy place. Yes, the summit of a high mountain can be a religious experience to some people.

1215-14u1
- Kilimanjaro summit.
In the panorama, Audra, on the right, searches in her pack for tobacco to make a ritual offering to the powers that be.

1215-21
- The Southern Icefield
Sometime around 3:30pm, we begin our gallop downhill, past the remnants of the Southern Icefield. We've got to lose a lot of altitude, fast. Dusk comes shortly after 6pm. That leaves us about 3 hours of daylight to get out of what COULD be called, a death-zone.

1215-22
- The Southern Icefield
We retreat down gradual slopes at first, along the rim of the caldera, past a series of sun-sculpted glaciers, to a turnoff just before Stella Point. Here the trail begins to dip more steeply. We're still looking out onto a layer of woolly cloud stretching to the horizon.

1215-23
- Mawenzi, sister peak of Kilimanjaro.
This is Mawenzi, the sister peak of Kilimanjaro, part of the same volcanic massif.

1215-25
- Descent at dusk.
Its a very long and tedious route descending the scree slopes. We kick up a tremendous dust and there's no breeze to carry it away. Like skiing, but I'd really much rather take the chair-lift down. Muscles for the descent kick in, different from those used on the ascent, but weakened from fatigue and dehydration.
Audra has sprung a knee and her lung congestion has become acute. She has one guide on each arm going down the worst parts.

This is the normal route up, but to my mind not very scenic. Mwenzi stays visible for a while, but the sides of the valley block the wider view. Most climbers would come up this way in the dark. Thank heaven we chose the Western Breach route. And, in some ways, lucky too that we postponed the ascent until after breakfast. Otherwise we'd have had no scenic views.

Finally, the Barafu hut, reached just after dusk. There we get tea from another group and stop to consider the situation. We spend at least 30min. dithering in the hut about what to do for Audra. Amani attempts to use a mobile phone with weak batteries. The hut is full of other climbers and porters trying to sleep. Eventually Amani decides we must walk down to the next camp in the dark where our own porters expect meet us.

Onward with flashlights and headlamps in the dark. Every bush along the way looks like a tent to our wishful eyes. All the way down, I begin to smell french toast, barf, drink a mouthful of water and then feel fine again. Can't figure out why the odour of greasy french toast is following me around. Some mysterious hallucination of high altitude, perhaps.

We're met by a stretcher party part way down. They carry Audra, but this ends up being even more uncomfortable and she has to begin walking again, supported by one guide or porter on either side. We stumble into Millenium camp close to midnight.

We've lost more than 1000m of altitude, but Audra is still having trouble breathing. Her twisted knee is a wreck. Finally I discover why the odour of french toast has been following me all day. At breakfast at the summit base camp at the Arrow Glacier, I'd been unable to eat, except for one slice of french toast crammed down the unwilling gullet. To avoid offending the cook, I'd stashed two slices in a napkin in the outer netting of my backpack. Just in case of emergencies. Smelling this on the way down triggered me into barfing, quite a few times. But it wasn't really the french toast, more a matter of fatigue and dehydration.

With a shudder, I pitch the toast outside the tent in the dark, just as my headlamp batteries burn out. Into the sleeping bag just in time. The moral of this story is: cast your french toast upon the waters (read, nearest glacier), before you begin the ascent, or it will come back to haunt you seven-fold.

Pedometer: 12-21.5=10.5mi. Dp 8:30am, in at 11:30pm=15hrs ascent and descent.

09-18: Day 6, Tuesday - Descent

1216-01a
- Descent, last day: Rain-forest portal.
It's all an impressionistic blur on the way down. Our last day on the mountain. My french toast has lain untouched on the ground overnight despite a few rapacious ravens infesting the campsite. I now pitch out my gaiters, along with the toast, since they haven't kept the scree out of my boots. Feeling a little better this morning. Spartan regime of bikkies and water today.

Gradual transition of zones, increase of humidity, song birds. Plenty of small flowers, bright beside the path. Impatiens, just like at home, only growing wild. Then into a region of tree ferns. Audra slightly better this morning, knees still bad, lung congestion much less. Merle's knees a bit sensitive toward the end.

We can't see much on the downgrade, too busy watching our footing. The path in soft volcanic earth is deeply channeled by overuse. Sometimes we walk in a mini ravine, knee deep.

I must be really tired. Only having the strength to take one blurry picture today.

We arrive at the waiting Land Rover at dusk. Amani hands me a drink of orange squash, some biscuit. Didn't barf once today.

Incredibly bumpy ride down a steep mountain trail. I count out porter money in the bouncing dark while packed in with luggage, climbers, a park official, guides and unidentified hangers-on. Good thing our own handlers are honest. I have to hand Amani my whole stash so he can count it for me. At the end of the ride, the porters sit waiting in the dark for their pay. They've already been down for hours and they've been walking the whole distance with loads to carry.

Back to Moshe in the Land Rover. Pedometer reading 21.5-6 = 9.5mi. 9am to 6pm = 9hrs.

09-19: Day 7, Wednesday - The day after

1216-02
- View from the Hotel Buffalo, Moshe.
Crickets and mosquitoes in the dining room at the Hotel Buffalo.

We cash more travellers' cheques today. I'm nearly a millionaire. Got 880,000 TZS from $500 CDN in travellers' cheques, 400,000 shillings last time. The lady at the currency exchange recognises me and seems surprised that the old gaffer made it up the mountain.

Russian veggies with rice for dinner. And I've also developed a yen for their Chana Masala. They have a really nice menu at the Hotel Buffalo.

And they've upgraded the room rental. We're now paying $12 a night instead of 10 for a higher-altitude room. With survival no longer an immediate issue, we're starting to savour trivial domestic details once again.

1216-09
- Dinner at Pius Kimati's house, Arusha.
Shortly after our return from the climb, we have dinner at our travel agent, Pius Kimati's house.

Equipment review and general assessment.
Need a bush shirt with more pockets, inside pockets especially, not heavy fabric like the Tilley jacket. Trousers, shorts with side pocket zippers, or other secure fasteners. Should waste less time and have less anxiety pulling out fat wallets and disentangling hidden money belts in public. Also need to solve the problem of how to get a drink without taking off the pack. Merle's "Platypus" mouthpiece and tube froze up on the summit of Kili. The problem of getting enough to drink while nearly exhausted may have contributed to my nausea.

kibo-air
- Kibo summit: western gap (Internet).
Reusch crater visible in the centre. Picture obtained from the Internet.

1210-00m
- Kilimanjaro map
Scanned from the map we carried.

1210-00
- Final proof: from the Fort Erie Times.

black
- As in "Fade to"

History:
07-01-30: finished re-edit and recording of sound clips. Looks best when .bmp's are specified. Due to space limitations, only feasible over the network. Need improvements to beginning and end. Shortage of pictures in places that need lengthier explanation.
Would be nice to have a way to attach multiple soundclips to the same file, displayed with multiple croppings. Without having to create more space-eating versions.
07-02-06: have begun re-editing pictures. Up to Shira Plateau. Improved levels, sharpness. Now have better positioning on virtual screen.
09-11-03: Added Google satellite views.
15-03-04: adjustments for HTML
16-05-03: edits for ease of reading on tablet.
19-04-11: minor orthography
20-02-21: edits for possible NFNC showing.

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