Kilimanjaro – Flashback – Day 6 – Summit night

Day 6 (technically we’re still in Day 5 right now) on Kilimanjaro, the night we were all waiting for had arrived.  The few hours we were meant to sleep was probably the longest I’ve ever experienced, all I can remember was the howling wind and thinking “Sh*t, we’re walking in this soon!”

Woken up at 10:30pm, we quietly got dressed, put as many layers on as physically possible (finally wearing the down jacket!) and nervously waited for the rest of the team so we could head off.

Equipped with head torch and a few snacks stuffed in my pockets, at around 11pm we were off.  It’s such a weird feeling walking in pitch darkness, not knowing where you are, only catching glimpses of other walkers head torches in the distance (trying not to think how much farther we had to walk).  As per the rest of the trek, the pace was slow, almost too slow in places.  Shortly into the trek, I felt like I couldn’t breathe and panicked trying to remove the neck scarf thing I had on, luckily my tent buddy Vicky was on hand to sort me out!

The terrain underfoot was very loose and at times quite a struggle to get up, every step you took you slipped further back.   We finally reached Stella Point around 6 hours later, which sits on the rim of the crater.  At this point we knew we didn’t have too far to go, but everyone was flagging, even passing out at some points due to the altitude or tiredness.  I can’t remember how long it took from Stella point, but we eventually summitted at Uhuru Peak (19,341 ft) at around 6:30am.

Uhuru Peak

I did it!

At the time, I just wanted to get the picture done and get down as quickly as I could…thinking back now I wish I’d taken more time to fully appreciate the views, but then there’s always the next time 😉

You can just see the curvature of the horizon

You can just see the curvature of the horizon

Looking back at the Summit.

Looking back at the Summit.

Heading back down towards Stella Point was done at a much quicker pace, you didn’t need to go slow due to altitude now.  From Stella point back to Barafu was a mixture of running, jumping and scree sliding!  In the daylight, it seemed so much different to what you were experiencing in the night.

Having given my day pack to one of the guides who was no-where to be seen!  I had no access to a drink and coming down the slope kicked up a lot of dust which made you incredibly thirsty.  I did manage to catch up with a fellow team member and grabbed a drop of his slowly defrosting drink thankfully.  Another one of the tour guides walked the rest of the way back with me, taking my coat and fleece as the temperature warmed up.

Arriving back into Barafu camp to be greeted by one of the kitchen staff with a glass of orange squash was probably the best drink I’ve ever tasted!  Having a few hours to spare whilst we waited for the rest of the team I managed to get some sleep, the best sleep I had on the mountain due to a combination of exhaustion and the fact that it was warm!

When the last member arrived back into camp, we packed up and set off pretty much straight away, heading down towards Mweka Camp (10204 ft), our final camp of the trip.

Reflecting on summit night, only now do I fully appreciate how hard it actually was.  Walking for 6 hours in pitch darkness, unable to speak properly to other team members due to the high winds.  It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and am so proud that I did it (that we all did it)….

Settling in to the tent I managed to get a small phone signal, I sent one text to say ‘I’ve just done it!’…

However, it’s not quite over yet, one more day to go….

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