So here we all are back at the hotel after our epic week, all safe and sound. I am still at the hotel with Craig, enjoying a few hours of R&R whilst the others have gone off on a short Safari. I’ve been lucky to have been on Safari before so gave this opportunity a miss. We all have a lot more to say and the blog will keep growing over the next few weeks so please keep watching!

Here is my summit night story….

I had been feeling really good all the way through the trek, coping well with the walking, camping, climate and altitude. Its my kind of thing and before I left was determined to enjoy every minute,which I was doing. It was all amazing.

At 11pm we were woken, not that it was easy to sleep! We were mostly dressed but had a few minutes to add some layers, get our boots on and meet for breakfast! I couldn’t really eat due to the odd hour, excitement and altitude effects but forced down some porridge and a hot drink. I was so excited I could sense the adrenalin rushing which didn’t help the shortage of breath and constant feeling of breathlessness.

I had on full body under armour (modern thermals!!) 2 mid weight and one heavy fleece, thick soft-shell trousers then waterproof trousers on top and (Leons’!) thick summit coat with my waterproof coat in reserve in my backpack, just in case it got really cold even though we were keeping weight to a minimum that night, this was an important luxury I allowed myself. Then it was a thermal balaclava plus thermal hat on top and 2 layers of gloves. I had just one pair of specially thick summit socks but others had 2 pairs on (which I don’t like to do). Oh yes then there is the head torch to complete the set!

It was a clear night, no clouds, so many starts its amazing, the milky way was showing in all its splendor but its all too difficult to take in at the time. We were so lucky as it had been that way the whole time on the trek.

Our water packs were given back to us and warm water was in the metal thermal flasks (that was the only important thing I left at home so they just put it in my ordinary metal bottle!!) In go the purification tablets, I added sports energy powders too, we loaded up our back packs and off we went around midnight.

We snaked off in our line of head torches. In previous days we had established a running order of Stuart, Richard R, Craig, Me Richard P, David. It just kind of happened that way. We tried to keep that order as much as possible but this night they put Craig 1st as he was so poorly ( by the way he is amazingly well now, such a difference at normal (we are still at 1700 meters!) levels. He is sunning by the pool and chilling out!).

Our pace was really set by Craig, but due to his cough, was very slow and regularly stopping. (note to Neil, enough detail on this for the moment!). I was feeling quite warm but noticing the cold when we stopped.

After perhaps half an hour I realised my excitement was causing me to breathe so fast, I made a conscious effort to calm down and regularise my breathing as much as possible. This worked although regular is probably the wrong word here!

I had been used to drinking my camel pack of 2 litres  plus 1 in my metal bottle each day plus more. We knew they would all freeze at some stage and it became very hard to get anything to drink after a couple of hours.

I had no concept of time or distance, you just keep going following the person in front, in silence, left right, left right, trying to breath wondering how far you could get. My I-pod was going in one ear, the other fell out and I could be bothered to put it in again as that needed me to take off gloves. In the end I preferred it that way as I could also hear what was going on.

At some stage I heard that Craig had fallen over and would probably go back. It was a super-human effort to get as far as he did (5000mtrs). We all felt very sad for Craig but had to go on.

We learned that by now we were 1.5 hours behind schedule and realised that to have any chance of the extra 2.5hr round trip to Uhuru Peak  from Gilmans Point we had to step up the speed. As a group we all decided that Stuart and Richard R wouldn’t go for the extra round trip, David & I would and Richard P would come with us too as it was his only way of finding out if it was possible for him.

Sorry, I have to leave it here as I am out of time on the net, need lunch and have to pack!!. More from the UK….!!!

Well,  as we have a 3 hour stop over in Nairobi en route home, I’m using some of the time to continue my story. I haven’t had time to look at Richards version so sorry if some is repeated. Now where were we….

It wasn’t easy to split up the group but all agreed it was best overall.  We did ask the gudes if we all stayed together if there was any chance of having time to reach Uhuru. All they would say was, we will see when we get to Gilmans! Not much help at all!

So on the 3 of us went with an assistant guide and local young lady who was going up Kili for the first time (her name was Hope, most apt!….. lovely skin!! sorry, one of the trek jokes!). We were gasping for breath but going faster. It was hard going. The terrain lower down was mostly frozen scree but due to the steep gradients sometimes we would slip back. Not good when its so hard to move forward!

I lost all sense of time. All physical and mental efforts went in to just moving. It was just one step at at time and get closer, another step. etc. As we went up the temperature fell noticeably and stopping for a rest resulted in legs, feet and hands starting to get cold even after a few minutes. It was about one or two big gasps of breath to one step with a heartbeat even quicker!

Then it seems all of a sudden we were at Jamaica Rocks, the 3/4 point. It was about 6a.m. and we had been going since Midnight.  As one of the guides went down with Craig, replacements were sent up ( amazing logistics again) and one of them joined us. An offer was made for him to carry the backpack for David & I which we happily accepted. James our lead guide had Richards. What a difference that made and I felt slightly rejuvenated. By then all the water was frozen so there was little point of having access to it via the mouth piece from the camel pack.

On we went and came to the final approach. This was steep and rocky. Very hard work needing hands on rocks not just the walking sticks to get up. I always looked for the smallest step possible as I find that’s easier for me but sometimes the step was knee high. I can’t really explain the effort needed at this point. Breathing hard, 50% of normal oxygen, having climbed for 6+ hours, tired from the previous days, lack of sleep etc etc.

Then it was sunrise, when we should have been at Gilmans. We were told it was only 30 minutes to go and that cheered me up because we had made up so much time. Its difficult to tell how much the increased pace took out of us but I still think we had no choice.

The sunrise was so spectacular and special. For some reason it was an emotional time for me and David.  I became a bit tearful! The horizon was huge, the sky clear and I think we could see the earths curvature. We couldn’t stop for that long because of the cold but managed some photos. And on we went.

It was so hard but eventually we made it to Gilmans point (5681 metres) . As Richard R said, ‘you put all that effort in and all there is at the summit is a scruffy sign!’  How true.  It was a strange sense of achievement but no time for it to sink in. We did a few photos, had a quick rest. Richard R made his descison to go down with the extra guide as he had really given his all in getting up the last section.  David and I agreed we would attempt the extra 2.5 hours round trip to Uhuru.

I have to go now, more to follow tomorrow.

Neil x

At the top - the group had to split


0 thoughts on “Neils Summit Night Story 1…….To Gilmans Point (5681 metres)

  1. Well done Neil! Its been great reading your blog, and amazing to hear all that this mid-life crisis group of men have endured. Fantastic!

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