Trip Journal – Kilimanjaro Day 6 – Monday, June 20, 2016 – Summit (19,341 ft) to Barafu Camp (15,091 ft) to Mweka Camp (10,170 ft)
Up at the summit, we spent about 20 minutes taking pictures and looking in awe at the sunrise and spectacular scenery. I had never seen sights so beautiful and was elated that we had made it. Frank had carried my good Canon 70D to the summit and I was thrilled that Amos took pictures with it from the summit all the way back to base camp.
Here are some photos from our time at the summit. The scenery was the most incredible I have ever seen.
We had decided to bring Tim’s One Revolution t shirt to the summit – a tribute to Chris Waddell’s foundation and his mission to bring inspiration and hope to the disabled community around the world.
On the way down we stopped at the spot where Tim fell (just above Stella Point, 18,848 ft) and only now I could see the steep drop off to the crater. We again thanked Frank for being right there and grabbing Tim as he fell on the way up.
With the sun up now, we could see what we had just climbed in the dark. The path down deviated from the path up at some points. There were still a lot of people coming up and it was warming up a lot with the sun out. Off again with the layers and on with the sunscreen. I was proud of myself for not getting sunburned on this trip!! We passed several people who were not doing well – one lady couldn’t proceed because she was so cold. We passed lots of porters coming up to assist people up above.
I thought so much about the past six days and what we had accomplished. What started as a wild idea 3 years earlier was now one of the greatest experiences and accomplishments of our lives. We had come across the world to this beautiful place and done something so challenging, mentally and physically. And we did it!
The path down was over lots of scree and loose rock. I managed to slip only two times & fall on my butt. I stayed very focused on the way down, careful with my steps. I’m a much better climber uphill than down hill. Going down hill, I am generally less sure of my footing. As skiers we know that when you are tired, (usually at the end of a hard ski day) that’s when you’re at higher risk of falling and injury. We saw a couple of these along the trail and were thankful we weren’t riding in one.
We went slow or faster depending on the steepness. In total it took us about four hours to get back to base camp and we arrived at 10:30 a.m. We were greeted with hugs and applause from all our porters who had stayed back at base camp while we hiked to the summit.
We had lunch and then about an hour to rest before we would head out again for another 4 hour hike down to our camp. After lunch I was absolutely spent. We had hiked already 10 hours (add in the exertion with the altitude) and my knees were beginning to feel it. Being someone who has worked hard to overcome knee pain for running , I had hiked every day in my knee brace and this day wore braces on both knees knowing the trek down would be rough. It was. By the end of the hike down to base camp, my knees were pretty fatigued.
We had a brief sleep that was painfully short and then we suited up and packed up to hike once again further down to Mweka Camp. Just as we were about to leave it started to rain. Frank would finally put that golf umbrella to use. I didn’t mind the rain at first thinking my hiking pants were working well and repelling the water well enough. I had my rain coat on top and at the last minute I grabbed the liners to my heavy gloves which I thought would be waterproof (they weren’t)
It continued to rain and didn’t stop the entire 4 hours that it took us to get to Mweka Camp. The path became increasingly muddy and slippery. After about two hours I had hit the wall. My knees were completely wrecked. My legs, feet and hands were soaked and cold. I was hiking very slowly now, much slower than Frank wanted to pace us. I was using my trekking poles like they were canes and agonizing over each steep step down. Mentally I was done and cried, hiking with tears coming down my already wet face. I had started steaming over the fact that everyone else hiking down that afternoon seemed to get the memo that it was going to rain all afternoon and rain gear would be in order. (We would get our silver lining the next day when we were able to don our completely dry, clean rain gear and those gaiters that we hadn’t worn the entire week). We were now completely soaked and cold, not to mention exhausted. We stopped at High Camp (also known as Millenium Camp) so that I could sit for a few minutes in the ranger bunk room and take some Advil, which never really helped. I wondered why we weren’t staying at this camp. Frank explained that people who need to rest after summiting camp here (like us??) but that it was better to get all the way to Mweka so that we could have an easy hike out in the morning.
With the weather so cloudy there was nothing pretty to see and I had lost sight of my gratitude for just a little while. For that time I did not care about the journey but wanted desperately just to get to the destination. We have no pictures from this stretch – we were wet and cranky!
The last stretch seemed to take an eternity and I was very happy to finally amble into Mweka camp around 5:00 pm. Camp was a mud bog. Everything seemed to be wet. And muddy. It was then that I decided camping was cool until it rains. And then it’s just muddy and gross and you can’t keep anything clean or dry. My elation and positivity was lost for awhile in my pain and exhaustion. I needed sleep so badly. I would celebrate later. I was spent after 14 hours of hiking and working on only 3 hours of sleep in the last 36 hours. After an early dinner we went immediately to sleep. And we slept hard!!!