I woke up pumped that morning partly because it was my best night so far. We had breakfast, packed our bags and set off. I had a spring in my step. I think the adventure ahead was exciting but we were also nearing our goal of summiting.  Our first obstacle was the Baranco wall. I have never scaled such terrain so the adventurer in me was looking forward. With our usual speed limit of polepole we started. The thin rocky path snaked upwards with Sam at the lead. In some sections, we had to use all fours because only tiny rocky outcrops served as our stairs to get us up. We had to lean fully on the rocks to resist the pull of gravity from making us fall huko chini . Sam’s humor helped us ignore the creeping fear of heights. He kept our focus looking up and not below. At some point, he asked us to hug and kiss the wall. That was funny. We finally made it to the top of Baranco and that felt good.

It was a relief to proceed on flattish ground for some time while enjoying the views of Mt Meru, peeping above the clouds. The back side of Shira plateau was now visible too. We were headed to Karanga camp and then onto Barafu camp which was our base camp before finally summiting. We had ten kilometers to cover that day, six to Karanga camp and four to Barafu camp. A kilometer on the mountain feels like three or four because of the terrain and the high altitude that one has to deal with.

It soon became a quiet trek as we tried to conserve energy. We got to Karanga in good time, took a break and proceeded on. Some teams were setting up camp here and I envied them for a second because I felt like resting. But quickly focused ahead because my impatience mixed with anxiety for Uhuru peak was driving me. Karanga to Barafu was hard. Our legs felt as heavy as lead. It was a long and slow ascent then downhill into a valley. Suddenly we could see Barafu seated on what seemed like the top of a cliff. We had to push ourselves to scale those rocks to get to camp. We got to Barafu and collapsed with fatigue. Tents were set up, we ate, had a small brief and went to sleep at 5 pm. Yes, 5 pm. Why 5 pm?

The moment of reckoning was almost here. After lunch, we laid out our summit gear. It was like we were preparing to meet a mkubwa. Maybe we were. Sir God himself hapo juu. Sam took us through what we will need to wear and in what layers. We needed to rest because we were getting up at 11 pm to start the ascent to Uhuru peak by midnight. I didn’t question why we were summiting usiku. I liked that it was dark so you don’t see how far you have to go and get discouraged in the process.

The sunset while going to bed was just magical. It was the last nice thing I saw before the darkness enveloped us. It was another rough but short night thankfully. My stomach was in knots and I felt like I was about to get a heart attack. I had to seat up due to difficulty in breathing. I also felt like I was about to throw up. I tossed and turned, and sat up and down till 11 pm when Jaymo’s call got me out of my misery. Yaani his wake-up call couldn’t have been more welcome. Chihia had become our Dr Google so he diagnosed that I was suffering from summit anxiety or something close to that. That was comforting. At least I wasn’t getting a cardiac arrest hehe.

We put on the rest of our gear, got out of our small tents, assembled for one last briefing with Sam and started our ascent. Several other groups were summitting that morning so the led lamps on our foreheads made for cute moving fairy lights in the dark.

The start was good but the intensity was creeping up on us. I was in between Sancho and Chihia. Sam led us with Barasa and an extra porter at the back. We even carried an oxygen tank. Maybe it’s good to summit in the dark so we don’t see all the equipment t being hauled up and get scared.

After moving for a few hours in pole pole slow mo edition, the night silence and sound of heavy feet were interrupted by song. A group ahead of us seemed to be celebrating. I was so happy for I took that to mean they have summitted and we are just about to. Sam broke my joy when he announced that they were just psyching up their climbers to continue.

I still remember the 5000-meter mark when things got really hard. I was sleepwalking and my nose was running. My hankie was so cold that it felt like I was blowing my nose with an ice cube. After some time I gave up and my nose and lips started to freeze. My fingers were frozen too and the double-layered gloves helped little.

I continued climbing while dozing. I can’t explain how I didn’t fall backwards. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. My teammates had to support me from falling a few times. The remaining 900 meters to the summit were torturous. Folks sometimes in life we have to paint a mental picture of our goal for us to get through our current reality, especially when it’s a harsh one. My picture of success was of the day break in a few hours. I started visualizing the morning glow in my mind and feeling the sun’s warmth. All this time while rubbing my fingers buried deep in my pocket to generate some heat.

We were so near yet felt so far. Even Sam was not speaking as much.  After passing a few singing groups Sam pointed at some light above us and said that was the peak. I wasn’t sure if to believe him but I did. I needed something to hold on to. Plus the thought of coming back home having failed to summit would have been shameful. I did want to be labelled ‘ the almost guy’.

We got to Stella point at the crack of dawn. A feeling I can’t describe. I even removed my frozen fingers to attempt photographing the sunrise. Barasa served us some black as if in celebration. I congratulated my teammates and waited to take photos at the kibao and start our descent. I did wonder though why the board read Stella point. I thought maybe it’s english for Uhuru peak. See what lack of oxygen does to the brain hehe.

Sam burst our frozen bubble by informing us that we have to proceed to Uhuru peak. That’s the summit. I didn’t have the energy to argue so I just started dragging my chubby self. That’s how I looked with all the layers of clothing. On the way to Uhuru, we were treated to vast icy landscapes. We finally got to Uhuru peak and took photos at the kibao as proof that we summitted.

On the way down I suddenly got the energy. It is like my batteries charged instantly. Maybe it was the joy of finally conquering Kili. I remember seeing a block of ice shaped like a champagne bottle. I think the mountain was toasting to us for a job well done. I raised my camera and cheered right back with a photo.

We got down fast and were at Barafu camp by about 9 am. Despite the kuchoka, we decided to exit the park. It soon became a difficult undertaking because we needed to cover seventeen kilometres to the gate. I had to create another mental picture to keep me going. That was a hot shower and warm comfortable bed waiting for me in Moshi town.

We finally made it to the park gate, found Abels van waiting to pick us and proceeded to Panama resort in town. We rested well that night and held our tipping ceremony to the porters the following day at Abel’s office. We appreciated our crew by sharing our experience and feedback with them. In addition to tipping them, we decided to leave part of our gear behind for them. They need it much more than we do. That evening Abel took us out for our farewell celebratory dinner.

We left the next morning for Nairobi. What a fulfilling experience that was. I sense that it is a well where I will keep drawing learnings from over a long time. So there you have it, folks. Hope you’ve enjoyed this dossier. Now that we’ve all summitted just find someone to give your gear to, whatever that may be and make their life a bit more comfortable.



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4 thoughts on “The Kili Dossier. Part V”

  1. Sam says:

    Get hold of this book, “Coast Causerie” by Edward Rodwell, it will motivate you to write a book.

  2. Mike Eldon says:

    I’ll do it when I am old enough

  3. Joseph Kahuko says:

    Great stuff Lucus! Glad you conquered this mountain. Kudos!

  4. Gathigia says:

    What an amazing story. I feel like I need to read all the dossiers together with pics included. Well done to you, Chihia and Sancho. Mountains are not my portion but I admire those wg9nc9nquer them. Cheers to my mountain slaying relas

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