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Awoken from Frozen Slumber

Awoken from Frozen Slumber to Continue Downhill

I ONLY got an hour of sleep before the Japanese group we were staying with returned. They had left shortly before my group last night, so their climb had taken about two hours more than ours. They were definitely a slower group, and a much noisier group waking us all up. They had all reached the Uhuru summit, even the one with the very bad cough. Although I was the slowest in our group going downhill from Gilman’s Point, it would therefore appear that I was in a very fast group.

Before I could go back to sleep, Jaseri arrived and told us that lunch was ready. It was eleven o’clock in the morning. We all got up very stiff and very tired. I could hardly walk in the freezing cold. Looking at everyone else neither could they. Fortunately lunch was served in the very next room, where we were served soup and then some meat and vegetables.

There we lethargically exchanged stories about our experiences up the mountain. We had all been in our own little worlds on the crater. Although I had seen Gary, Dawn, and Vicky at the top, I had assumed all the others apart from Ashley would have made it to the summit. It surprised me to learn that was not the case.

I remembered Ashley had turned back just after William’s Point. I had assumed Azaan had taken her back to Kibo to recover. To my surprise not only did she end up reaching the summit, but she had arrived there shortly before I had. I didn’t even see her pass me. She recalled how she had felt incredibly sick over the lower half of the mountain and had convinced us she was pulling out, but amazingly the guide who had stayed with her had managed to convince her to continue all the way to the top. That’s what they are there for I suppose – helping make our dreams of insanity achievable.

Hallway in the hut
Hallway in the hut

Jono mentioned that as I was leaving Gilman’s Point with the others, he had experienced a very sudden and serious panic attack that somehow triggered very severe altitude sickness. He thought he was going to die. Mark and Azaan returned down the mountain with him. So much for the macho hero who insisted on taking his fifteen kilogramme pack all the way to Kibo, saying how crazy people were turning back at Gilman’s Point, and the insistence they would build a cairn at the top for their fellow Canadians they had met at Horombo. Honestly I thought that despite his cockiness he definitely was going to reach the summit even though I would have bet he would be the most likely person in our group to not make it. My initial thoughts had been correct.

Azaan had managed to convince Ashley to continue the climb only to have to bring the Canadians down from Gilman’s Point. I’m sure he’s done the summit a lot of times before and having to take people down the mountain was just part of his job here.

Mark showed us a photo of the sunrise they had taken from William’s Point cave at five thousand metres. It was a great shot, surprisingly similar to the one I had taken eight hundred metres higher when I was above Stella Point on my final approach to the summit.

So it turns out that five of the seven of us in our group had reached the summit. I thought Mark had been incredibly noble in forgoing the summit to be with his son.

Whatever the outcome, the worst of the challenge was over for all of us. From here it was a gently sloping walk back to the start of the track at Marangu forty two kilometres away.

We packed up and left Kibo Hut at about one o’clock. The air was still freezing up here with a chill wind starting to blow. The hike up the road had been pretty epic yesterday, but it was a steady walk heading down. It was not steep, and gravity assisted us as we walked with a reasonable pace down the moderate grade road track, down towards the disgusting toilets at Jiwe La Ukoyo.

Upon reaching the aluminium picnic tables, we briefly rested. We only stayed for a few minutes though as the sky was by now completely overcast as it had been yesterday when we crossed the plateau. With no sun, it was very cold so we decided to press on.

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17 August 2011


Mount Kilimanjaro



4700m ASL


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