Tanzania 12 November: Kibo Hut - Horombo Hut
Kilimanjaro day 5 - the summit day!
Here we are! After just 3 or 4 or no hours of sleep we start in two groups: first and slower group (more freezing, less altitude problems. Remember pole pole?) starts at 23:00. The faster group (less freezing but higher danger of AMS) starts at 12:00.
The night is clear and pitch-dark. Millions of stars are twinkling above inviting us and giving the feeling of being really "out there", a part of this marvelous universe. However there is little time to look at the stars, let alone to take artistic long esposure photographs - we have to follow our guide, and having a backpack full of water, warm clothes and camera I wish at times I had chosen the slower group.
We are climbing the zig-zaging path leading up the east face of Kilimanjaro behind the guide through the darkness with short breaks for drinking and putting something on. This goes on for hours and seems endless. The combination of darkness, cold and monotony devours the rest of my enthusiasm. I try to go very even, avoiding quick movements, like standing up too fast or putting on the backpack too quickly. It costs more oxygen and you feel it immediately in form of dizziness or headache.
Long, long night. We pass the 5000m mark at some point.
Brooke, who seemed to have no problems with altitude gets cold feet and stops feeling them at all. All attempts to rub, massage, warm them up using heating gels fail and she has to go back to Kibo. One of the porters guides her. Too bad. We would have loved to see her on top!
We keep climbing and finally the day begins to break! What a relief! As soon as we start seeing more of our surroundings we realize that we are almost at the crater rim. Enthusiasm and joy are back!
Upon arriving at Gilman´s Point (5681m asl) and seeing the glacier on the other side of the crater my body releases all the endorphins it has gathered over the last three weeks or so. Being up there is absolutely overwhelming. Tears are welling up in my eyes (and not only mine...) and a deep feeling of gratitude transforms all the horrors of the night into pure happiness.
Lawrence, our chief guide tells us, that who ever makes it to the Gilman´s Point will definitely make it to the summit. This is good news, but by now we already know it from within.
In no time, the first group which we overtook recently also arrives at Gilman's Point. This is a very happy meeting!
We proceed along the crater rim gaining little altitude until we arrive at Stella Point at 5739m. After the tough, steep and cold night climb this part feels like a walk through the park on Easter Sunday.
We could see the summit from the Gilman`s Point. We are very surprised to hear that it is still an hour away, since it looks so near.
We understand WHY very soon, because for some reason this last part is once again really hard. Although it does not seem very steep, it feels very steep and you can only go very very very slowly and need to breathe a lot.
Normally all Kibo climbers get a can of Kilimanjaro-beer, but since we are all non-alc´s we get something like pineapple juice. Great anyway.
But do not think that we are done already. After one or two hours rest and some lunch we head back to Horombo hut 9k away. But this time it is much easier and much faster.
It is the second time during the whole week when we have a little rain. Nothing serious, we just make some use of the rain gear we carry with us all the time.