The last 24 hours have been filled with all kinds of emotions and lots of drama. Of course, the drama was all caused by Sean but I’ll work through the day’s events in order.
Neither of us got more than an hour or so’s sleep. There was a mixture of excitement and nerves (I’ll be honest, it was mainly nerves) which made me restless. The wind howled through the campsite all night making the climb ahead of us seem more ominous.
Sofi brought us tea and biscuits at around 11.30 p.m. (this was technically last night if that makes sense) and we layered up. I had two long sleeved base layer tops, one mid-layer, two fleeces, a waterproof coat and a parka jacket on. I also had two pairs of base layer leggings, one pair of walking trousers and my waterproof trousers on top, two pairs of gloves, three pairs of socks, a buff, ear-warmers and a hat. I could barely move but at least I wasn’t cold.
With our head torches on we set off into the darkness filled with anticipation of what the next few hours held for us. Would we make it to the top? There’s not much I can write about the five hours that passed between camp and Stella Point but it was dark, cold and very windy. Our pace was slow and, at points, quite painful but we weren’t expecting this to be easy! Like the previous day, the wind meant that I couldn’t breathe without turning my back to the wind but I soon got into a rhythm and it didn’t slow us down (saying that, I think if we’d slowed down any more, we wouldn’t have actually been moving)
We plodded on at our own pace for hours and hours and hours and hours. We passed some people who were walking slower than us and we passed those who had raced past us a few minutes before and had now had to stop and rest.
It was hard work. So much harder than I had ever imagined it would be. I felt like I was going to throw up for what felt like hours (looking back, it can’t have been more than 30 minutes). Stella Point never seemed to get any closer, there were always head torches miles ahead of us, the mountainside was never ending. I stopped and cried at one point, feeling completely hopeless. Matthew gave me a hug, said that he had to get me to the top and pushed me on my way again.
Finally, we reached Stella Point just as a thin line of light was appearing over the horizon. We saw the Canadian guys there too but they were just on their way back down again. Matthew let us rest for a few minutes but not too long as it was so cold. We both had quite bad headaches at this point and Matthew said it was ok to take paracetamol so we did. Looking back now, I’m so proud that we managed to get all the way to the top with just two paracetamol tablets each.
We set off on our way again and we were slightly deterred by the fact that Uhuru Peak was still 45 minutes away – we were completely exhausted and just walking in a straight line was a huge challenge. Matthew took the camera from my backpack and started taking pictures of the sunrise, of us and the mountain – without him, we would have no photos to show that we ever made it to the top! There was no chance of me taking photos.
We finally reached Uhuru Peak just as the sun fully came up, giving everything a lovely warm, orange glow.
We had made it.
We spent a few minutes at Uhuru Peak, took some photos and started to head back down. I was feeling a little queasy again so Elia and I walked ahead of Sean and Matthew who came down a little slower, taking photos along the way. As we started our descent from Stella Point I heard a girl scream and turned to Sean tumbling – literally head over heels – down the mountain. The girl who had seen him fall was screaming as Matthew, Elia and two other guides rushed over to him. He must have fallen about 20ft and had only been stopped by hitting a rock. He sat up before I even had the chance to register what had just happened or time to panic about how badly hurt he might be. The guides were fussing around his leg and trying to strap it up and, at first, I thought he might have broken it. It was difficult because I’d been told to stay on the path as they didn’t want me to fall too but this meant that I couldn’t hear what was going on.
Eventually Sean stood up but fell down again almost immediately. He had hit his head on the rock and knocked himself out so he was quite unsteady on his feet. With a little help from Matthew and Elia, we started to make our way back down again but Sean remained unsteady. The descent route seemed much steeper than the ascent route and it was entirely scree covered. Even with walking poles, it was a challenge to stay on your feet. Along the way Matthew spoke to other guides about Sean’s fall and radio calls were made to camp. Before long we had our whole team of porters on the mountainside with us helping and encouraging us back down to camp. I cannot explain in words how caring and helpful they were. They made the return to camp so much more bearable. I know they see people do this climb all the time but they seemed genuinely happy that we had made it to the top.
When we reached camp we were supposed to rest for an hour or so and then head back to the next camp, but the decision was made that Sean needed to get to hospital and, as such, we had to make the two day descent in the next few hours before it went dark.
Like the ascent, there’s not much to write about the descent back down to the gate. We had to walk very quickly and it was extremely painful on my knees. We both slipped and tripped quite a lot due to being so tired. We bumped into the Canadian guys again who, through “Chinese Whispers” had heard about Sean’s fall and been told that he’d been airlifted to hospital!
We continued down until we reached the gate where our Land Rover waited for us and we were presented with our certificates. Even though we were both in pain, we were so proud and relieved to have made it up and back down! It was the best feeling in the world.
We took Sean to a hospital in Moshi where he had a check up and, luckily, was told that everything seemed fine. We were then taken back to L’Oasis where we are both spread out on a sofa in the dining room/lounge area waiting for our dinner.
It’s been one hell of a day but it’s been the day that we made it to the top of Africa’s highest peak!