Kilimanjaro Day Five – This is it!

Final camp before the summit attempt, Kilimanjaro

There’s a pattern forming in my diary – I like to start by complaining how bad my sleep was and then finish with saying how completely amazing my day was so I’m going to stick with this:

I’ll start with last night’s sleep – it was shit. Firstly, it was very, very windy which meant that it was really noisy inside the tent. Secondly, our tent, along with everyone else on the campsite, was on a slope which meant that I was constantly sliding down to the bottom of our tent and waking up pressed up against the tent door. Thirdly, it was freezing and, because it was freezing I didn’t want to get up to pee and, because I didn’t want to get up to pee I didn’t drink much and, because I didn’t drink much I woke up with a headache (and desperate for a pee regardless).

I realise that this sounds quite whiney, but it’s not. I don’t feel annoyed or frustrated by the situation. A little tired, yes, but no negative feelings about it. The reason I’ve written about it is so that anyone who might read this, who is considering climbing Kilimanjaro has a genuine, honest description of what it was like “warts and all”.

The walking today was quite easy compared to the previous days. We were one of the first groups to leave camp this morning and we walked with Elia for most of the way. The climb out of camp was steep and slow but the path flattened out to some extent. It was extremely windy on the flatter areas which weren’t at all sheltered. It was a real struggle to walk into the wind and the only way I could breathe was to turn my back to the wind and take a deep breath. Before long, we dropped down slightly and it was much less windy. It was at this point that Elia pointed out tonight’s camp to us but, like yesterday, he explained that it wasn’t as close as it looked and that we would have to climb down and back up again to reach it.

View from base camp, Kilimanjaro

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Elia made us rest for about 15-20 minutes whilst our porters caught up with us and pushed on ahead. Matthew joined us at this point and the four of us carried on towards the camp. The final climb up to camp was steep however, it wasn’t too far. As ever, I was in awe of the porters who were practically running up, carrying bags and tents etc. on their backs and heads.

We signed in and bumped into the Canadian guys again. We had a quick chat about the walk behind us and the summit ahead of us as it sank in that, in a matter of hours, we would be setting out on our summit attempt. We headed off to our tent where our porters were working hard to secure everything to the ground. It was very, very windy at this camp and, despite the sun, actually quite chilly (it’s no wonder really considering how high up we are). From where our tent is positioned we can see people doing “practice runs” up the start of the summit path but Matthew said he was happy with our progress and he would rather that we rested.

View from base camp, Kilimanjaro

It was so windy that we ate our lunch in our tent (I think there was a real risk that the mess tent was about to blow away at that point). We had a delicious potato and veg stew type of dish which really warmed me up. We spent the afternoon sorting through what we needed to wear for the summit attempt (I decided on pretty much every single item of clothing I had brought with me) and we packed what we would need into our daypacks whilst it was still light.

We had dinner very early and Matthew talked us through the plans for tonight – we are to go to bed now (it’s about 6 p.m.), we will have a wake-up call at 11 p.m, tea and biscuits at 11.30 and start walking at midnight. Matthew explained that he and Elia won’t be taking bags with them (so far they’ve carried all of their stuff for the seven days themselves) so that they will be free to help us. Juma changed the tube on my Camelbak so that I now have a thermal one on which hopefully won’t freeze.

Toilets perched on the edge of a cliff

We’ve returned to our tent and put most of our clothes on to sleep in as it’s already very cold and there’s no way I can face getting dressed at midnight when it will be even colder – this way, I’ll just need to add more layers.

We really need to try and get some rest now but I’m so excited I’m not sure I’ll be able to.

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