J.D. Baldwin's Kilimanjaro Diary - Day 4

Day 4 (Thursday, 3 March 2011), 2012 local time

Another night of bad sleep, though a little better than the 4 to 4½ hours I'd been getting. Then a long, tough day, with the prospect of even harder ones to come.
Up as usual at 6 am, breakfast at 6:30 am, followed by packing and organizing. The porridge, bread and 1-2 eggs for breakfast is starting to get kind of old, but it would be unseemly to complain about the food.

Meru in the west, sun just hitting the top of it
Meru in the west, sun just hitting the top of it.

Kibo with the sun rising behind it
Kibo with the sun rising behind it - from this angle, the crater is clearly visible.

Hit the trail at 8:30 am ... up, up, up and more up. Then steep downhills, then more up. Repeat over and over again. At about the halfway point to Lava Tower, we intersected with the Machame Trail (known as the "Whiskey Route"), a very popular trail that is more touristy than Lemosho, but less so than Marangu / "Coca-Cola." From here on out, we share the trail with Machame hikers, so there will be more traffic and larger camps.
Somewhere along the way on Day 4, it occurs to me that (because we are consistently moving faster than Team Slacker) we should be Team Haraka. (Haraka being Kiswahili for "fast.") But Robert says we're actually a slower-than-average group. (Gotta love that honesty.) So I suggest that maybe we are Team Haraka Nusu, "nusu" being Kiswahili for "half." Robert tells me that "haraka nusu" doesn't really make sense, it should be "haraka kidogo" ("little bit fast"). What Robert doesn't understand is that "half-fast" makes for a nice (if highly unoriginal) aural pun in English. "Haraka Nusu" passes, not exactly by acclamation, but at least without objection. And a Facebook group name is born.

Trail to Lava Tower
The trail to Lava Tower (porter visible in foreground); Lava Tower itself is the formation on the lower right of Kibo.

A bit short of Lava Tower, we had the mini-camp set up for lunch and a bit of rest.

Getting ready to resume hiking after lunch
Getting ready to resume hiking after lunch.
Photo by Gareth.

Then more up, up, up ... seemed like it would never end. At last, we arrived at Lava Tower, the highest point (to date) at which I have ever stood on the ground. At 15,190' (4,630 m) it is higher than any point in the continental United States. I feel a bit winded when I try to move quickly, but am feeling no real ill effects from the altitude yet.

The group at Lava Tower
The group at Lava Tower.
Photo by Simon.

Striped mouse and bird at Lava Tower
A striped mouse and a bird at Lava Tower.

After Lava Tower, I somehow got linked up with assistant guide James, who decided the two of us would go haraka ("fast") to the next camp, Barranco Camp. Before I was even aware of it, we had left the rest of the group well behind. I decided not to make an issue of it, and just try to keep up with James, asking for stops only to remove layers of clothing, as it was getting a little warmer as we descended to Barranco Camp.

Gloria is happy to see Barranco camp (picture by Anne)
Gloria is happy to see Barranco camp (Barranco Wall visible past camp).
Photo by Anne.

As we had done our acclimitization at the very high Lava Tower, there was no talk of any "acclimitization hike" at Barranco Camp. My early arrival there gave me time to look at, and reflect upon, Barranco Wall. I was frankly terrified of Barranco Wall -- it's several hundred meters straight up, not a treacherous hike, but it seemed like it should be incredibly difficult. For my MMBA friends reading this, think of the "hike-a-bike" trail to Hidden Valley in Moab. The bottom of Barranco Wall is at more than twice the altitude of the top of hike-a-bike. The vertical climb is at least double, and the "trail" is narrow, rocky and hands-and-feet climbing in some places. I hope I can sleep tonight. I may just lie awake thinking of the Wall.
Spectacular view of the stars after sunset, and we can even see lights of towns near Moshi (Moshi itself is behind Barranco Wall), far below us. It's cold here (just above freezing, perhaps), but not very windy.

Stats for Day 4:

Starting elevation (Shira 2 camp) 12,500' (3,810 m)
Lava Tower
15,190' (4,630 m)
Ending elevation (Barranco camp)
13,044' (3,975 m)
Resting heart rate (evening)

Day 5

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