Day 6: Kikelewa Camp – Mawenzi Tarn Hut (23rd October)
Approx 4km (2.5 miles) – Estimated time = 4 to 6 hours, we did it in 4 hours
Once again the dawn chorus woke me around 5am and I listened to the hustle and bustle of the camp waking up around me from the warmth and “comfort” of my sleeping bag. It was noticeably colder last night but the tent stayed at a “comfortable” 7C (45F). When I opened my tent flap I had a wonderful view of the Kenyan plains.
As we set off we could see the cloud covered Mawenzi (Kilimanjaro’s 2nd peak) in the distance which was our destination for the day. We made slow but steady progress towards our next camp. Pole-pole was the order of the day; we walked at snail’s pace but it was necessary to avoid problems with the altitude. We had magnificent views of Mawenzi on the way.
VIEWS OF MAWENZI FROM KIKELEWA CAMP:
The day stared in bright sunshine but as we progressed, the clouds came over and the temperatures dropped quite dramatically and we all had to layer up to keep warm. Once again, we have been lucky with the weather which has stayed dry.
SETTING OFF FROM KIKELEWA:
SAUMU AND MYSELF: ASSISTANT MOUNTAIN GUIDES AND ME:
We reached the camp after a 4 hour trek and registered with the authorities at the Tarn Hut. It is situated at the foot of Mawenzi which is very imposing and impressive close up. Next to the camp is a tarn (small pond) where we sourced our “brown” drinking water. That was something else we had to get used to – drinking water with a strong chemical taste from the purification tablets.
VIEWS OF MAWENZI TARN HUT CAMP:
Everything has to be done very slowly at this altitude, even simply walking the 10m (30ft) from my tent to the mess tent. Whereas lower down we had to be told to pole-pole, up here it was automatic; if we moved fast we felt the effects of the lack of oxygen and were soon gasping for breath. I did have a slight headache about 2 hours into the trek but it passed within 5 minutes. Then about 15 minutes before we reached camp the headache started again so I took my first dose of medication of the trip (400mg Ibuprofen). Although I had some Diamox in my bag, I was determined not to use it except if absolutely necessary. Seven out of ten of the others in the group were already on Diamox as a preventative for altitude sickness.
We had a short rest break after lunch but I could not sleep. When I first went to my tent the sun was out and it was like a greenhouse inside so I stripped off my layers and lay down but soon the clouds came over and it became very cold especially when the wind picked up. After several sun/cloud cycles I gave up trying to sleep. I did feel a bit grotty today but I realised that I had not been drinking enough water. 4 to 5 litres is essential at altitude and I had only drunk about 1 litre. I proceeded to drink as much as I could and within an hour I felt much better. Several other people were feeling the altitude today but thankfully no one feels dizzy or nauseous although some of them have tummy bugs.
VIEWS OF MAWENZI:
The campsite is frequented by African ravens which are nothing like the ones back home. These birds are huge, as big as chickens and have large, powerful and quite nasty looking beaks. They are scavengers but for some reason they loved the bars of soap that the porters used to put out for us along with the bowls of hot water for washing, so much so that we ran out of soap by the next camp as the ravens had pinched the lot, even when hidden under other bowls. The vegetation at this height is sparse and the wildlife is starting to disappear but we did see a few small birds, rodents and lizards in amongst the rocks.
In the afternoon we went for another acclimatisation walk 150m higher up the mountain. These increases in heights would appear to be very minimal but they do make a significant difference to our bodies in preparation for higher altitudes. After the walk everyone waited in their tents for dinner as it was just too cold to be socialising outside. So far I am coping with the weather (I really don’t do cold) as it’s not too extreme; it also helps that I have got the correct mountain clothing for the conditions. I actually took more warm clothing than was stated on the kit list that we were given, and I am really glad I packed them all.
Dinner was a laugh as was every dinner previously. There are some real jokers in the group who keep us all amused. After dinner it was back to our tents for another disturbed sleep. Very few people get a full night’s sleep due to the discomfort, the noise and the cold.
Night camp : Mawenzi Tarn Hut Camp (4330m / 14,200 ft)
Height climbed today (including extra acclimatisation climb): 1000m / 3300ft
Temperatures: 14-24C / 57-75F during day to around 3C / 37F inside tent at night
Climate: Sunny with several clouds in the afternoon. Clear sky at night.