From Karanga to Barafu is only a few hours of easy walking, more dusty winding trails rather than climbing over rocks. We were supposed to sleep away the afternoon in preparation for our 10pm start for the summit attempt, but at 4,600 meters there’s no way I could sleep.
We tried to play head to head Tetris on our DS’s but I couldn’t think so Zett wiped the floor with me (we’re usually quite evenly matched), so we sort of just layed there snoozing and tripping till it was time to eat, then layed there again till it was time to go.
The first part of the summit climb is a pretty steep and loose gravel path, I see now why you need gators, your feet sink quite a ways into the gravel and would fill your boots without them. It felt like you only get 60% worth of each step, so it was pretty slow going.
At around 4,800m Eloise really started to struggle, she was a real trooper though, she’d struggled every day since the second day and was still pushing herself. At this point though she needed some help, so William started helping her along.
It was freezing up there in the middle of the night, you had to balance out what you wore so you didn’t sweat while you were walking. It was really uncomfortable to stop for more that a minute, so Zett and I took good old reliable Oswald and went ahead at a nice steady pace. We only met back up with Kiwi and Eloise up on the summit itself.
At one point I heard a loud crack, as if a rock had hit me in the head light, this small thing highlighted how screwed up everyone’s head space was. I ask everyone if they heard it and all I got back was weird stares, and confused looks, it was as if everyone was stoned out of there minds and in there own little world.
I only found out once we were back a the hotel that it was one of the batteries in my headlight exploded from the cold and altitude, lucky for me it didn’t stop it working.
The really tough gravel part finishes at Stella Point, from here the trail flattens out to nice hard pack trails. Here we rested for a little bit, had a little food and got cold, Ozzy said “Only 200m to go” after an hour or so we realised he meant 200m vertical assent not of trail left to walk.
I struggled my arse off on this last bit, it seemed so stupid to find it so hard to walk up such a flat easy trail, but I couldn’t get enough air in. It was around -20 degrees at this point, just on dawn, if you pant too much the freezing air actually hurts your lungs so you’re stuck in nasty catch 22.
The summit was surprisingly not too crowded, once we stopped for a minute we realised why… It was f’n freezing!!
Even with your fleece glove inners on, your hands instantly froze up when you took them out of your pockets, trying to take a photo was a real task. We were only there for a few minutes when Kiwi turned up, in pretty good shape also. To our suprise a few moments later we saw Eloise plodding up the trail, porter under each arm head slumped down.. but still walking!
A massive effort, but we still had to walk all the way down,.. I had a cracking head ache and was feeling quite nauseous as this point (as well as still tripping balls), Killian said the only way to feel better is to get lower so we headed back down.
Now that the sun was up things started to warm up quite quickly and we could see what we had been walking up all night. Not unlike what I imagine the surface of the moon would be like, grey gravely sand and rocks as far a the eye could see. We developed a weird half skiing style to get down the loose sand and gravel trails.
I felt like I was remotely controlling my body from a control room behind my eyes, like I said before I’d been tripping since before we headed off, now that I was really exhausted it was worse. I didn’t start to get my senses back till after our much needed 2 hour power nap back at Barafu camp.
We still had to drag our sore and tired legs all the way down to Mweka camp before we could really rest, everyone slept REALLY well that night.
The last day was a really nice gradual trail through some beautiful forest, and it was done.