Today we are walking 5-6 hours to Mawenzi Tarn Camp, which sits at 4300 metres. Mawenzi is the name of the peak that sits opposite Kilimanjaro, and tarn means lake – and the lake provides all the water for our camp (its boiled and then filtered of course!)
It’s a beautiful day, its hot and the sun is beating down on us. The views are tremendous and its incredible to see the huts at Kibo, base camp, and we can even make out the sandy track that we will be taking up to the summit tomorrow night. This is rare, normally at this height it’s very cloudy so we are exceptionally lucky with the weather. Kirsty has climbed the mountain 7 times and this is the first time she has seen this view.
Lunch today was at camp and we spent the afternoon doing an acclimatization walk – basically walking 200 metres up a steep scree incline and then down again. This was to help our bodies deal with the altitude, by going up significantly and them sleeping at a lower level we would help lessen the effects of being at this height. I think it was also to give us a taste of what summit night would be like, although we didn’t know this at the time. At this point none of the team are suffering with any serious signs of altitude sickness although a few of us have bad headaches, me included. It’s horrible to feel the pressure increase in your head as you climb, like someone is squeezing your skull, but wonderful to feel it go again as you drop altitude, I’m taking lots of painkillers to deal with it.
The walking was fine but breathing is laboured. When we stopped at the top I know I am not the only one of the team that had a bit of a minor freak out at being so high up and the effort it took to get there– and tomorrow we are going to climb up the equivalent of this acclimatization walk 13 times to get to the summit.
Our post dinner team briefing was serious. Tomorrow tonight we are climbing to the top of the mountain and Kirsty is now starting to get us mentally prepared for what we are about to face. She is confident that we are all going to make it – but has given us a good talking to about resting, eating and drinking enough and the signs of altitude sickness to look out for. The eating and drinking bit is easy enough, but most the team have hardly slept since arriving on the mountain. This is normal when you are not used to altitude – its frustrating to just lie awake most the night, but at least my body is resting. At least I don’t have any aches, pains or blisters – thank goodness I did so much training in preparation!
So tomorrow we leave camp, as normal, at 7.30am. We walk until we arrive at Kibo at about 2pm and have lunch. We rest/sleep until we have dinner, at approx 6pm, and then rest/sleep again until we are woken at 10.30pm. We then start our summit climb at 11.30pm. I don’t mind admitting at this stage I’m feeling pretty anxious.
So, I’m actually writing my diary tonight in my (well, Peter Golds) lovely warm fleece liner and sleeping bag. I’m wearing thermals and a hat, and of course a headtorch. Its bloody cold tonight. I’m also sleeping with my phone, camera and iPod in my sleeping bag as the altitude is having a terrible effect on battery life, keeping all my devices warm at night is helping. I’m scared about the summit climb, but not half as scared as I am about not being able to use my phone to update everyone with my whereabouts on http://www.whereissarah.unity5.com – I know lots of people are tracking my progress, but especially my poor Mum who is worried sick about me being away – I’m so looking forward to sending the ‘I did it text’ from the top tomorrow (God willing!)