The last two days of hiking have carried us over steep barren ridges and into deep gorges filled with streams of glacial runoff. However, in terms of difficulty, the two days couldn’t have been more different.
The hike from Barranco camp to Karanga camp required us to go up the face of a mountain ridge called the Barranco Wall.
This particular ascent represented the most dangerous challenge of our trip due to the width of the ledge and the sheer steepness of the climb.
There is a pass along the wall called the kissing rock. It got its name because the narrow ledge forces you to hug a rock that is jutting out, requiring you to keep your face next to it the whole way as if kissing it, in order to safely pass. Below is nothing but jagged rock at the base of the ridge.
Although none of us were without fear and apprehension, we were all able to traverse it.
After the kissing rock, we were encouraged to hear from our guide that nothing from that point on would rival the Barranco Wall. Needless to say, that came as a great relief. However, when we pressed our guide, he did share a story about a porter who had fallen backwards and was seriously injured.
The next morning, we got an early start on our way to Barafu camp, the base camp for our summit attempt. Although this hike would take us from 13,000 feet to 15,000 feet, it was our easiest yet in terms of terrain. It took us up a gradual slope for about two hours until we leveled off and ascended again. We walked through fields of jagged shale and parched mountain desert. It was like what I imagine a post-apocalyptic picture would resemble, like a scene out of “Mad Max.”
When we got to Barafu camp, we were treated to vistas that defied our small scope of the world and its wonders. Before us, thousands of feet below, stretched cumulus cloud banks that looked like a never-ending field of the softest cotton one can imagine.
To our right sat Mount Meru, suspended above the clouds like a giant rocky temple. To our left were the sharp peaks of Mount Mawenzi, another of the Kilimanjaro volcanoes.
Being exposed to such majesty is humbling and begs me to contemplate how finite I really am.
I think, at the very least, each member of our party is motivated to gratitude.
Speaking of humility, when we first arrived at Barafu, we were witness to two individuals being rescued from their summit attempt due to severe symptoms of altitude sickness. This is a good reminder that although we are so close and can literally see the peak, we are still 4,000 feet away from our goal. We are confident but know that our own summit attempt will be no lay-up.
Tonight at 10:30, we will be awakened to begin our final trek to Uhuru peak, the very top of Kilimanjaro. We are all nervously excited and hopeful that our preparations have been sufficient.
My next entry will hopefully tell the story of a fantastic summit experience and the adversities we overcame to achieve it.
Read RA Dickey’s complete article for Bats and The New York Times here.