Jan 23, 2014

Kilimanjaro - to Uhuru and back (day 6)

We get up and put on at least two base layers, winter/ski pants, soft shell and winter/ski jackets. I push myself to eat two bowls of porridge, although I feel sick from it. Stan feels worse that yesterday and doesn't want to eat any porridge. We start walking little after 2 o'clock and we can see some groups of lights up on the hill. The serious slope starts right away from the camp and almost without exception will make our life harder in the next vertical 1,300 m/4,300 ft. It gets harder for Stan and Chewa takes his dayback. The path winds around rocks and scree.

After an hour or two we meet the first group that has given up. We can't laugh at them not making it, because we know very well what they have been up to and a part of us wants to turn away to the camp as well. I feel for them and tell myself that I am going to get to the top for them as well. After some time we meet another group of one that are going back untimely. Stan's state doesn't improve and he frequently needs rests, he feels dizzy, but continues.

The sky is starting to lighten up behind Mawenzi and every time we walk to the right we manage to feast our eyes on the unbelievable colors of the sky. We won't make it on time to see the sunrise on Stella point at about 5,700 m/18,700 ft, but it doesn't matter. I look upwards from time to time and the crater's edge doesn't come any closer, as if somebody stacks more and more rocks on top. If you hurry little bit the mountain takes away from you the little oxygen that it has given you, it is very impatient with the impatient ones.
Mawenzi and the sunrise
Speechless because of the beauty and the fatigue
Looking back to the camp

We continue slowly upwards, polepole, even more polepole, we barely move. At about 8 o'clock Sasho, Ivan and I finally reach the damn Stella point. We stop for 2-3 minutes and Washington let's us to continue on our own, as we feel OK and stays to wait for Stan and Chewa. The three of us are walking, having a break, continuing. Sasho is the biggest machine, the freshest of us three. He plays some music on his phone to pour some energy into us, we are going to get to the top together, listening Notorious B.I.G.'s Mo' money, mo' problems. We meet a guy with his guide, he is very pleased that he made it to the top, but barely stands on his legs, intoxicated by the lack of oxygen. 
Stella point, at last
Crater panorama

Sasho has to play the song for a third time until we finally get to the top. We made it, can somebody give me back my oxygen now. Uhuru is reach at 8:40, about 6 hours and 20-30 minutes from the start. At last we can relax for a second and catch our breaths. We take some photos of us, but even this activity is difficult. 10 minutes after we have left the top we meet Stan lead by Chewa and D.C. His sight is blurred. We decide to go back to the sign. While we pose for a photo Stan asks Sasho where to look at, where is the camera.
Kibo's crater

At 9:20 we turn back as I push myself to make some photos, although I don't have any desire, but latter I will be sorry if I don't have any pictures from here. Chewa together with Sasho and Ivan go downhill at a fast pace, while I stay back and wait for Stan and D.C. The three of us go slowly, the way back won’t be easy, nor fast. Washington supports Stan and leads him where to walk, while I try to support him mentally. Every 5 minutes he wants to sit down and rest, but it's better for him to go down as fast and as low as he can. After we have passed about 2/3 of the way, 3-4 of our porters meet us. D.C. has called them to come and help us to get Stan to the camp. A little before 14 o'clock we reach finally the tents, 4 hours after we left the peak and 2 times slower than Ivan and Sasho.
Back from the top
The four of us on Uhuru
The peak and the crater
Glaciers 1
Glaciers 2
Downhill to the camp

We grab a bite and go to rest for an hour, as we have to see if Stan's condition will improve or not. Ivan starts calling the insurance company to see our options. After an hour D.C. measures Stan's oxygen saturation – 45%, while 75-90% is normal in these conditions. We have to get him the lower we can fast. At the next camp, Millenium, at about 3,800 m/12,500 ft there is a helicopter pad, and there should be a doctor as well. We grab our luggage and go. Initially Sasho and I support him, but he as a true mzungu or white master wants the porters to help him.

After half an hour one of the porters intercepts us with a metal stretcher, which is mounted on wheel with a shock absorber – pretty modern. They put him on the stretcher with some of the luggage, tie him good and off we go. We reach Millenium camp and learn that there isn't a real doctor, only a guy to give basic first aid. Because there isn't a doctor to give his opinion the insurers don't want to send a helicopter. We arrange with D.C. for an extra tip to get him down to Mweka gate at 1,800 m/5,900 ft, which we had to reach tomorrow. We head downwards again, the path we are walking is very beautiful, if only we have been walking from 2 o'clock in the morning (now being 17:00). After some irritating calls with the insurers and after some of their stupid question, finally they say that the hospital in Moshi is warned, and that the check up/treatment is prepaid. 
Goodbye Kibo

We stop at sunset for a break and enjoy the amazing view. Soon it gets dark and we continue walking on the unknown path in the dark, as our headlights are in the other bags which are next to Stan on the stretcher. We worry not to miss the camp, because the last thing we want is to get lost. Sasho prays that we don’t stay at the Mweka camp, but return to the hotel. He isn't so inured any more, he is sick from the dirt in the tent and the carbohydrate food. Soon the Kilimanjaro emergency stretcher comes and head to the camp together.

At the camp, the ranger calls for a vehicle to take Stan to the hospital, but still we have another 2 hours of walking, at a fast pace. I prefer to eat even porridge, but not to walk, I'm sick of it. Finally, we get to the vehicle and fortunately we get inside as well, with as many porters that can fit in the Land Cruiser. If there is a car in Africa, there is always an attempt at breaking the record for most people in a vehicle. There are even two guys outside, holding to the spare tire. At the gate I go and register us, our occupation is robots, and Stan – corpse. Our jokes are getting very coarse, but we are very tired. I apologize but we started hiking at 2 in the night and now is 23 o'clock. The walking took us about 15-17 hours and a total of 5,400 m/17,700 ft displacement. I also sign in Stan in the problematic people ledger, so the next time they don't let him climb it.

Sasho and I get into a van and Thomas (one of the owners) takes us to the hotel. We thank the crew for the service, for the memorable experience and the successful climb and announce in front of everybody how much they will get as a tip, while Chewa translates. We give another $100 for the guys who participated in the saving of Private Stan. While we eat with Sasho, the other two guys show up. Stan refused to stay at the hospital, his oxygen saturation is already 90%, he feels better, but still has some problem with the eye sight and his sore throat. At last there is shower, at last there is bed with pillow, my pillow. During the night I don't move a finger, I guess all of us are corpses.

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