Richard P has managed to get through a couple of e-mails re: their experience of summit night and these are attached for you.
Neil, however is yet to blog…..but will keep you posted as soon as he can. At the time of updating this blog (Sunday 13 March – 10.30 a.m) I have just spoken to Neil and they are still descending (see Rongai Route Narrative for what they are doing now). They all seem in pretty good spirits and are looking forward to a bath,shower,swim and sleep……oh and beer! From speaking with Neil (albeit the signal cutting in and out) I get the impression that everything there is as far from normality and everyday life as you could possibly get and the descent has been gruelling.
The determination of all of the guys has been and still is remarkable, so impressive and to be commended. So well done to each and every one of them for their own personal successes – what an amazing adventure for them all.
Narrative from Rongai Route post – look back on Rongai Route post to see route of their descent
A sustained descent with wide views across the moorland takes us into the lovely forest around Mandara (2,700m), the first stopping place on the Marangu route. The trail continues through semi-tropical vegetation to the National Park gate at Marangu (1,830m). We leave the local staff to return to our hotel in Marangu by mid-afternoon for a well-earned rest and a much needed shower and beer! Approx 5-6 hours walking.
Richard’s e-mails below:
Where to start?
At the beginning I guess. We are awoken by a tap on the hut at 11pm. We’ve all slept in our (coldest day) trekking gear.
We unenthusiastically have some breakfast and set off at midnight, armed with our headlamps.
Craig is suffering with a chest infection but decides to give it a crack. We’re all a bit worried about him, but I guess it has to be his decision. So off we go, single file, in a snaky line. The really steep bits are done in traversing style, like skiing.
After about an hour, Craig calls time and is taken down. We’re a guide down.
There are two targets on Kili. The first one is Gilmans Point at 5681 metres and then round the crater rim (Killy is a volcano) to Uhuru Point at 5985 metres, a further 3-4 hour round trip. Its a bit like a pass and a pass with honours.
After a further 2 hours or so, Maikeke – our main guide – says we’re going too slowly if we want to do Uhuru Point as well and he offers to split the group. The 2 best walkers in the group, Neil and David, want to press on and Stu and Richard R want to go at their own slower pace, almost certain not to get the chance to go on to Uhuru. I need to make a decision and decide to go with Neil and David, at the risk of slowing them up. I would like the option of going for Uhuru. The guides are split again.
Next problem, our water supply freezes on the mountain. We were told it might and that we should blow back into our camel packs to avoid that happening. It didn’t work.
We press on relentlessly and eventually gain an hour or so on Stu and Richard R. But after 5 hours or so, I am beginning to struggle. I’m conscious that I don’t want to hold up David and Neil, but the pace is a bit strong for me and the legs are beginning to lose power and the breathing – now at nearly 18,000 feet – is extremely difficult.
The first sign of light is at about 5.45am and there is a magnificent sunrise at 6.20am. I’m glad of the rest while we take pictures.
The last hour of the climb is incredibly rocky and steep. I’m out on my feet and can’t take more than 4 or 5 steps without stopping. Sounds ridiculous, I know. I’m just determined to get to the top and have already ruled out the possibility of the extra 3-4 hour round trip to Uhuru Peak.
At 7am, after a gruelling 7 hour climb, we reach Gilmans Point. The feeling is not elation however, just complete exhaustion. I have never been so physically and emotionally drained. I’m a bit emotional and confess I shed a tear or two, although I don’t think the others saw!
David and Neil press on to Uhuru Peak and I’m ready to be helped down the mountain. Another guide down.
You’d think going DOWN the mountain would be easy. It isn’t. It took 3 hours and was in its way more stressful on the legs, particularly the knees, than going up. Just not as hard on the breathing. I have to stop many times and eventually make the bottom at about 10.45am – that’s about 10 hours so far today.
On the way down, I look for Stu and Richard R but can’t see them. The thought occurs to me that they have ended up doing Uhuru, which would mean I had made the wrong decision. As it happens, they both turned back at Gilmans too and I couldn’t have gone any further whatever pace I’d gone at.
Craig has already set off for the next campsite and Stuart and Richard R appear shortly afterwards, completely exhausted. Stuart’s ill too with a chest infection. Neil and David appear soon, but there’s no real elation, we’re all too tired to talk or express anything coherently.
So after the night/morning from hell, we have to trek 3-4 hours to our next campsite. Pretty absurd itinerary. Made worse by the fact that the first two hours were in driving hail and sleet. Lovely.
We arrive at the campsite where at least there’s a signal for the first time in a while. David thinks it looks like a refugee camp. All the tents are leaking and we just want our creature comforts back – quickly !!!!
None of us have any appetite, odd considering the energy expended today, and we all go to our sleeping bags early. Except my zips broken – aarghhh !!!!
An unforgettable day.