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!