The e-mails have come through in a very dis-jointed way here in the UK and I have to apologise if it is all getting a little complicated figuring out the day and timings etc. however, I do hope you get the gist and enjoy this informative post in the blog.
Evening – Thursday 10 March
After washing and reorganising my bags – again! Our idea of dressing for dinner is now to put on in thermals, a thicker set of night clothes, hat, gloves and keep warm -it’s quite a funny thing really and quite a sight to be seen.
Dinner last night was spaghetti bolognese, very nice, as usual and pancakes for dessert. To tell the truth eating is an effort, altitude makes you lose your appetite and I found it difficult to eat a plate of spaghetti (but I managed!).
After dinner we had a really good briefing from our chief guide, Makeli, and he for once seemed to be very honest for what was to come and we discussed ascent night and how to prepare, the walking times, the sleeping times and it was really a positive thing.
We are all really looking forward to it.
I decided I needed a good nights sleep last night being the last chance before the long day and so I took a special protein replenishment drink that was supposed to help me sleep, with a view to having a really good nights sleep.
As an aside, the way down from the acclimatisation walk last evening was very difficult because coming down from something so steep is just as difficult as going up, but the views are really massively spectacular. You can’t take pictures to do them justice or really even describe them.
Morning – Friday 11 March
So here I am 6 o clock in the morning the day before ascent night. I have been awake since 2 a.m. so I thought I would get up as I can’t sleep and tell you my story.
After the briefing and my drink it was time for bed and last trip to the loo and then I heard on my way back the two Richards’ were struggling a bit with their sleeping bags. To be honest I felt a bit guilty not helping the non-campers too much before but I really think they wanted to sort things out as much as possible for themselves. When I explained to Richard R there was a hood on the sleeping bag and he said ‘really?’, I thought, he might need a bit of extra help. The next few moments were really hilarious getting Richard into his sleeping bag, zipping him up then him turning over onto his front, straightening his sleeping bag, getting his head in the hood and getting him tucked in all nice and cosy. He then said ‘ooh, its really quite warm now isn’t it?!’ so I felt it was a job well done – I hope he had a good nights sleep. Then it was time for me to tuck myself up and make sure I was fully organised. Camping seems to be the biggest challenge facing us on this trek, the walking is of course challenging but the camping bit you need to be so organised with all the stuff you need at night time, the clothes for the next day, getting things in the place that you will remember them when you wake up during the night and silly little things like making sure the boots are pointing forward so if you need to put them on they are facing in the right direction. I also make sure I know exactly where my torch and glasses are as without that I would be quite lost, but it all seems to be working quite well.
With the air starting to get quite thin even things like undressing make you quite out of breath but that’s to be expected and isn’t too much of a problem. After I was tucked up nice and cosy I relaxed for a bit and went to sleep, unfortunately I woke up with stomach cramps feeling a bit upset. I waited a little while but then decided I had no choice and needed to go to the loo. A little story here is that when we were in our hotel we met a Japanese gentleman with a bit bandage round his head. When we asked him what had happened he couldn’t really explain in English what went on so he did some ‘motions’ (play on words), that when he was coming down from the top he was desperate to go to the loo and he was rushing so much he fell over and banged his head! So for that reason I call what happened to me last night ‘The Kamikazee Run!’. Still, having all my clothes and things where I needed them made getting dressed quite easy although I wasn’t relishing being out there in -5 degrees, doing what had to be done. On my way back to the tent I realised that with all my organisation the night before I had still forgotten to put out the hand sanitizer and Immodium tablets, but they were quite to hand as they were in my daybag and I used them both on my return to the tent.
It is now 12 minutes past 6 in the morning and the sun is just starting to rise and I am looking forward to sitting here in quiet solitude listening to the birds and seeing the sunrise over the mountains.
Just one little point, even though I thought I was organised, when I was getting dressed, I started to look for my glasses and it was only after a little while I found out that they were on my head!
So I got undressed yet again, decided to grab my I-pod and listen to some music and got back into my sleeping bag trying desperately not to disturb Craig too much. It is amazing how noisy getting dressed with a few poppers, zips, belt buckle and the tent zip can be when there is nothing but complete silence all around. Before I got into the tent I took a few minutes to look up into the sky which was completely cloudless. I enjoyed seeing massive horizons, dark black sky and an absolute multitude of stars the like of which you don’t really see like that in many other places. We have been lucky with the weather so far, it has been clear blue skies most days and I really hope that it will stay that way for the rest of the trip, although as the guides keep saying, ‘you never know what the mountains have in store’. So once I settled down in the sleeping bag with my I-pod, I felt quite awake, so much for the good nights sleep! I listened to a couple of great albums, Chris Rhea and Craig Gray, each time setting my I-pod to go off after an hour, but before it did I re-set it for another hour and some more music.
Although I couldn’t sleep, the music took my mind off that fact and I ended up thinking about a lot of things but also smiling at the same time and here are some of the things I thought about:
Because of the difficulties of camping, my mind started thinking about Stephanie (my daughter) and her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Expedition and some of the stories she told us about last Easter in Dartmoor at the end of the snows were really quite amazing. We are in campsites now-with 23 guides/cooks/helpers etc., but they were rough camping in the middle of nowhere, carrying all their own stuff and supplies. We have had clear dry weather, they had snow, sleet, rain, wind and intense wind-chill factor to contend with. I can’t tell you Stephanie how much more admiration I now have for what you went through. You were the team leader aswell and had to carry everyone through it, even dealing with those who had hyperthermia- but thankfully bringing the team back safe and sound. My eyes are filling up with tears just for the emotion of what you must have gone through for which you have my everlasting admiration, respect and love. Jason, you have all that too for everything you have achieved so far, but I would like to add for your Silver Duke of Edinburgh, I know you have chosen the walking option and after I have been through all this I really recommend you carry that on to Gold and not take the canoeing option. Whilst thinking of my nearest and dearest, Lorraine, I really must take time to appreciate what you do for everybody more and give you more of my time. ( I think the altitude has definitely got to Neil’s head now!!!)
On my thank you’s before I went I missed out one important person who is Leon Gold, my brother-in-law. Thank you Leon for all the equipment you lent me for this trip which is all fantastic and working really well. I and all the rest of the guys also thank you for your blog from your trip when you conquered Kili about 9/10 years ago and all the blogs of those who were with you and all the experiences that you had. Your knowledge and insight has been invaluable and has helped us a huge amount on our trip. I apologise for not mentioning you earlier.
Whilst I was in bed doing all my thinking I made some notes for once using my I-pod touch, which I think is an absolutely brilliant gadget. Oh and one other thing, Stephanie I am using your sleeping mattress but took up the opportunity of also hiring a thicker two inch mattress aswell because the guide explained the ground was quite rocky in places. With the two of them I am really really comfortable and when I do get to sleep I am sleeping very well.
Even though I didn’t sleep very much last night and have been awake since 2 a.m. I did find myself enjoying the thinking time and not regretting being awake too much. I am sure I will regret it later on, but this is a once in a lifetime experience and I know I am going to get to the top no matter what.
I am having an absolutely amazing experience and loving every single second. The walking is amazing and my favourite part and strangely enough the bits that are flat or flatter I am finding a little bit boring and am ending up counting 1..2..3..4, 1..2..3..4 (rhythmically) as I walk along and even resorted to singing 10 green bottles in my head starting at one, but the only time I did it I got up to 10 and got bored so finished with that.
I am loving the very steep, very rocky terrain, having to pick where I step, both on the way up and the way down. I find that both a huge physical challenge and a mental challenge having to work out every step of the way what you are doing.
As I think I said above all of the lads are enjoying the walking and we are all doing really well. I think for all of the loved ones of those who are in the party it is time to give an update of how we are all doing.
Stuart and Richard R found Day 2, the very long walking day very difficult. In the evening they seemed to be at quite a low ebb but in the morning had recovered and are both in really good spirits.
David is doing just fine, enjoying the walking and the challenge of the camping – he seems to be in really good shape.
Richard P is perhaps finding the walking a little bit more challenging and the camping even more so, but was happy that Spurs got through the other night even though he didn’t sleep much, being a bit cold through the night. (Could this be to do with the sleeping bag?)
Craig is also doing well but has a little bit of a chesty cough, as does Stuart and even though we have brought with most of Boots and Superdrug, one thing we didn’t have was some kind of antibiotic. Craig seemed to have a good night sleep last night and I hope that he is feeling better today. He is however a doing really great and has a strong constitution and the cough doesn’t seem to be causing him too much problem so far.
As for me I am loving the walking, putting up with the camping and making the most of every minute. So far my problem has been stomach cramps and I am a little bit worried about that but think that the way through is to build up the Immodium over the next few days and deal with the consequences of that once we are down from the summit. I have always thought that the summit night was going to be the biggest challenge and at last nights briefing the guides have offered to carry our water for us if we want them to, and I think I will take them up on that offer just to give my back a little bit more protection. So far my back has been fantastic.
We are turning out to be a really close-knit team, always encouraging each other and urging each other on, sharing kit where people need bits and pieces and helping out wherever necessary. Our mantra is P M A, which stands for Positive Mental Attitude and we keep repeating it as we go along. We all have it.
I think this will be one of the last long blogs, if not the last blog you get from me until we are down from the summit. Doing the blog seems to take up a lot of mental effort, remembering has to be done, dictating it, trying to find a signal to get the details through and as we go higher, energy, breath and mental capacity are going to be at a premium, so I really need to start focussing all my energies on preparing for doing the ascent night so I am going to put the blog aside for now.
You may however, get short snippets here and there but please don’t rely on anything big until a day or so’s time. My hand is getting quite cold from holding the Blackberry – I’m loving every single minute, I’m feeling really good, really positive – not too tired from only 5 hours sleep last night and I don’t want this to end.
E-mail from Richard P re: Day 3 – Thursday 10 March
I have no idea if or when you’ll get this as we hardly ever seem to get a signal.
We’re now at 4,330 feet. That was a relatively short walk this morning – about 3.5 hours, but very strenuous. We’ve all made it but are very tired. No new injuries, strains or headaches, just Craig who has a blister.
The landscape is now lunar. Very rocky and little or no vegetation now. The campsite is by a mountain lake, bit disconcerting to see them taking water out of it though.
We’ve had lunch and I’ve just an hour’s nap to try and make up a bit for last night. We are about to do a 90 minute round trip, taking us up to 4,500 feet and back again, as part of the acclimatisation to the extreme altitude.
We’re all getting excited now, realising we’re closing in on the peak. Just two major sessions to go, albeit the second one will quite possibly be the hardest thing any of us have ever done.
Bloody hell! That 90 minute round trip was more mountain climbing than trekking. We’re all exhausted but excited at the same time. We were just through the clouds and arrived back at camp about 4.30pm.
We have ‘washy washy’ which is some bowls of hot water. We wash as best we can (not easy) and personal hygiene is going out the window, especially for the next 48 hours.
The sun dips behind the montain and I’m sure the temperature dropped 20 degrees C in about 15 minutes.
We’re in a tent having dinner, all in full climbing regalia, woolly hats and gloves. At another time, it would look hysterical.
Over dinner I happen to say that I’ve got no idea how the sleeping bag works. Neil takes pity on me and sorts me out. So once Neil has tucked me – I’m still wearing woolly hat and everything – its off to sleep. And a good one too, first time I’ve been warm in the tent.
Another Richard P e-mail…re: Day 4 – Friday 11 March
Another lovely day, weather wise at least. A good night’s sleep but feeling a bit dry in the mouth, a sign of dehydration, especially at altitude. I need to drink some water.
We’re up, refreshed (kind of) and breakfasted (also kind of) by 8am. We start walking at 8.30am. Very steep to start with, then flattens out a bit. We’re walking for 6 hours today to Kibo base camp, right at the base of the mountain.
We’re hiking from 4,330 metres to 4,900 metres. Feels like I have a blister coming on, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. Fortunately equipment guru Neil has everything you need for a blister. Craig has been sick and still feels sick but is soldiering on. Apart from all feeling completely exhausted, we’re otherwise ok.
We get to Kibo base camp at 1.45pm. I think we’re as exhausted as we’ve been thus far. We have lunch soon, then a few hours for a sleep, and then dinner. We’re due to sleep for a few hours before 6pm when we have the last supper. Then a bit more sleep before being woken at about 10pm for breakfast and the summit climb.
Once in the tent, I decide to get everything ready for 10pm, to avoid having to fumble around in the dark. Probably the easiest preparation, as if its warm, wear it. I’m planning on wearing woolly hat and balaclava, thermals + 3 top layers, 2 bottom layers inc waterproofs on the outside. Plus headlight of course and best of all, my Ipod for the summit playlist I’ve been carefully putting together for the last month. All good inspirational songs.
Disaster. My Ipod clunks and is broken. I’m absolutely gutted as I’ve resisted the temptation to listen to the playlist in the gym, I was looking forward to hearing that much.
I have quite a few songs on my phone, but not the same. I also don’t want to drain the battery, as we should get a signal at the top, which we haven’t had properly for two days now.
I have my last proper toilet visit and decide to take some Imodium to hopefully avoid any panics on the big climb. So….its all come to this. I’m feeling ok and probably have coped better so far than I thought I would. I’m exhausted, but apart from a couple of sore feet, still in one piece. I just hope the Ipod isn’t a horrible omen. Tonight/tomorrow will be the biggest physical challenge of my life, and probably the biggest mental challenge as well.
Narrative from Rongai Route Post…What the guys are to expect Friday night/Saturday morning..
We will start the final, and by far the steepest and most demanding, part of the climb by torchlight at around midnight. We plod very slowly in darkness and cold on a switchback trail through loose volcanic scree to reach the Crater rim at Gillman’s Point (5,685 m). We will rest there for a short time to enjoy the spectacular sunrise over Mawenzi. Those who are still feeling strong can make the three hour round trip along the snow-covered rim to the true summit of Uhuru Peak (5,895m), passing close to the spectacular glaciers and ice cliffs that still occupy most of the summit area. The descent to Kibo Hut (4,700m) is surprisingly fast and, after some refreshments and rest, we continue descending to reach our final campsite at Horombo (3,720m). This is an extremely long and hard day, with between 11 and 15 hours walking at high altitude.