Sunday 3 November 2019

4. Kilimanjaro Challenge : Lemosho Route - Day Three - Shira 1 Camp to Moir Hut 4,200m

Jambo Jambo!

Thanks for dropping in on my latest blog of Day Three from my expedition along the Lemosho Route of Mt. Kilimanjaro having already travelled roughly 14km and ascended 1,360 metres over two days since our rain drenched start at the Lemosho Gate.    

Despite our dismal and wet start on day one in the montane forest, we we would wake up to the glorious canvas of blue sky which we'd been praying for since the start of our ascent. Crunchy frost still ladened the spiky moorland which slowly began to disappear as the sun started to peek over our first clear view of Kili in the daylight. Amazing! 

But, I unfortunately didn't get to start Day Three of the journey off in the feeling I wanted and had a slight sting of bad luck...or karma...

Pain and Pleasure...the real challenge begins...

The night before, me and some of the team parted ways under the moonlight and resigned to our tents. I laid down snugly in my still fortunately dry four seasons sleeping bag, imagining the adventure of the next day that lay ahead following the clouds to Kilimanjaro until it suddenly sprung on me. A slight burning pain in the pit of my stomach made its self known to me, intensifying ever so slowly. I tried to relax and ignore it, hoping that if I could fall asleep, I could sleep things off with a good nights rest under the star strewn sky above.

The stomach pain lingered there though, all night denying me of the sleep I desperately wanted. I kept checking the time on my light watch each time the pain would arouse me again from any ounce of slumber I could get, 12am, 1.30am, 3am. I need my sleep! I was wondering if something I had eaten my stomach had an intolerance to, or was it the malaria pill I took at dinner, or the onset of altitude sickness? It could have been any of these things and with the frustration of my stomach pain not allowing me to drift away into peace, I tore back the zip on my tent at 4am and found the annex frozen solid. Like a piece of cardboard. the ice sparkling like twinkling glitter specks all over it. I worked the zip down in further frustration and the sudden view which appeared before me took my breath away.

Mt Kilimanjaro stood naked in front of my view. The snow on its three volcanic peaks gleaming under the blanket of stars that stretched themselves above it spotlighting it. The clouds hiding it had lifted and I could see the monstrosity of the dormant volcano and what challenge we had ahead - it kinda filled me with a romanticised tingling excitement staring up at it for the first time since we entered the National Park. We had a long way to go. Still staring like a starry-eyed child, I clambered awkwardly out my tent and walked across the camp and stood breathing in the icy air to try and relieve my stomach pain. The respect I felt for the mountain or just mother nature at that moment was phenomenal and how privileged I felt to be standing up and be able to look at Kili in the splendour of the African moonlight.

After returning to my tent, I still couldn't sleep and rose again at dawn a little down and feeling creeping nausea invade my system which didn't spike my appetite much at breakfast. Nausea was really frustrating on the mountain, you are burning alot of calories over long distances everyday and need to refuel - I was told at The Altitude Centre ascending through high altitude can cause your body to route less blood to organs not in heavy use during the climb such as your digestive tract. This and the accumulating stress on your body can increase your levels of the fat cell hormone leptin which decrease your appetite and I think this was maybe what was starting to happen to me - Day Three was going to be the start of little nudges of some minor altitude symptoms if you're biologically susceptible to them. Sleep deprivation was also not good stead for higher acclimatisation so I was going to have to hope for better night sleeps to lower my risks of AMS! No more stomach aches! 

Bit of AMS science for you - but everybody's body is different. This was a completely new experience for mine and would be an experiment of how it would cope with extreme altitude.

Still, despite the first two nights of the trek now leaving me a bit sleep deprived, I had to remain positive with my goal and push on with the pangs and discomfort of nausea. Besides, it was a beautiful African morning to behold as we set off on Day Three heading deeper and higher into the National Park.

Heading to Kilimanjaro 

So Day Three begins slapping on the 50f+ suncream on for the first time in the glorious Tanzanian sunshine heading east further towards Kilimanjaro, trekking this 14km to our third camp Moir Hut. Taking my usual place at the back of the group again - I just felt the pace was a bit too quick and fast for my tentative knees and was more my style to hang back and take my time 'pole pole' with my assistant guide Kotalieb without me risking any more possible symptoms of AMS by going faster than my inexperienced body was comfortable with. Kotelieb was happy to be patient and hang back, educating me about the flora and fauna of his own Chagga region Kilimanjaro, listening to bird song and catching a glimpse of scuttling four-striped grass mice and streaky seedeater birds fluttering around us - you can't help but fall in love with the beautiful charms of Africa's nature.    

This third leg of the journey was going to be relatively flat and densely packed with moorland shrubbery and lots of big rocks to duck behind when the Diamox came into affect. Still sipping away at 3 litres of berry flavoured water each day, (hoping not to get sick of Asda's Berry flavoured electrolytes) I was doing this more so with the lingering nausea and intensifying sunshine bearing down on us and the passing porters, heading to the next camp.

 I was every 15 minutes saying.

'Kotlieb, need to pee...'  

He was so patient, but when you've got to go, you've got to go...especially on Diamox - the pee maker.

Heading for you, beautiful Kilimanjaro - 'The Roof of Africa' steaming with clouds in the sun

Who put this big rock here? 

Enough silliness, pressing on - my lead guide Robert caught up with Kotelieb and I a bit later, he was also semi managing another group doing the Lemosho Route so was spreading himself thinly through the trek - besides this was his second time in a row on the mountain and was far capable of catching us slow pokes up. He told me that nausea could also be caused by a lack of sugar in the body so I resorted to eating the only thing at the time that I felt I could munch on - strawberry laces!

Must dash!

As we started to ascend near to 4,000 metres, our fleeting treat of the warm sun was being teased away from us again as the terrain than began to steepen out onto the border of the cluttered moorland and into the creeping fog of the semi-arid alpine desert of dust, sparse clearings and lots of lots of rocks!! Don't think I've ever seen so many rocks! 

Time to get the woolly hat and down jacket back out again! You have to carry these layers in your backpack all the time, plus waterproofs, as the changing temperatures and conditions at altitude can catch you out pretty fast - would be awful to have left your waterproofs in your luggage which has already sped off with the porter to the next camp! You can't chase them or have any idea which porter has your bag!

Leaving my very own three tiered rock cairn on Kilimanjaro!

At this altitude, the weirdest plant on Kilimanjaro is the strange flower of the Lobelia deckenii. These cabbage shaped plants take 8 years to flower, with the blue flowers hidden inside the leaves to protect them from the frost - nature so clever!

At the rate I was going, it felt like it would be 8 years till we got to the top!

Kotelieb and I going 'pole, pole' as we enter into the realm of semi arid alpine desert and ascend higher up into the mist 

Starting to see the greenery getting sparser walking across the high altitude of Shira Caldera

 Where on earth are we? I'd be completely lost without Kotalieb.....

Had to leave another mini Cairn of this point on the route, the slabs of alpine desert rocks surrounding me reminded me of a London street wall, passing climbers that had come before me from around the world using the opportunity to largely etch their names into the jutting rock faces and proclaim their undying love for us all leaving footsteps on Kilimanjaro to see.

Becky ♥'re still up there ☺4Eva

Our next camp Moir Hut was shrouded by the wispy clouds hovering on the ridge straight ahead which we needed to keep patiently following around, which meant only one thing - rain!!! No!!!!!

Passing salt caves sunken into the ridge line - it is said you may get the occasional buffalo wandering here in the rains...

So after 6 hours of 'pole, pole', 3 litres of water drunk, myself and the group had now reached 4,200 metres amsl at out third camp Moir Hut!. There's always something so satisfying when you arrive at the next camp, first the relief you know you're going to be able to get some rest but also we had successfully (meaning we were all still alive!) struck off another leg of the journey and were getting closer to the summit. 
This camp photo was taken the next morning as when Kotaleib and I arrived, shortly after the rest of the team, the thick slanting rain was already moving in through the mist so I had to make a quick getaway into the dryness of my tent. The porters were so sweet later to take my muddy boots and gaiters and wash them clean for me, now that's first class Kilimanjaro Kandoo service! 

The Kandoo Guides and Porters do everything they can to make you more comfortable on the trek and our 'tent guys' were kind enough to escort me to my solo tent where my sleeping mat and luggage were waiting. There was no better way to arrive after an 11km walk to finally have a lie down on a dry mat and tent! Such small things like sunlight, dryness, a comfortable bed and a hot drink would mean the world to us during our Kilimanjaro trek, when we were lucky enough to get the weather.      

Video Diary from my tent...on how I was feeling after Day Three. 

Hopefully the nausea was going to subside and I'd be able to refuel a bit better other than strawberry laces! 

The unrelenting rains sweeping throughout the afternoon foiled Robert's plans to take us on an extra acclimatisation hike a little bit higher than our camp and then return back down to sleep again to help us acclimitise for the next more challenging stages of the climb. The unusual rains that seemed to chase us were not letting up and unfortunately our bad luck with the adverse weather robbed us of this acclimatisation opportunity - something that I knew very well would have been beneficial, but was going to leave us at a disadvantage and bite me in the butt (or in my case my head) later on with how serious this Kilimanjaro challenge was going to test me twice as hard without it.

After health checks and some dinner, my health score tallying at normal 'O's (aside the nausea) and my oxygen level and heart rate reading fine at this new higher altitude, we were pre-warned about the possibility of Golden Jackals, snooping around camp during the night looking for food. 'If you see them, turn your headlight on, stare right back at them and let them know that you know that they know you have seen them'.....urghh...or something like that...

But before going to bed, the rains had now cleared and the heavens were kind enough to show off the hundreds of twinkling stars and bright constellations of the African skies, I had never seen the Milky Way so crystal clear above me, its misty purple print sprawling across the entire expanse of the sky that my head could roll with. Absolutely stunning and was so grateful to see it up there, I was literally starry-eyed for real.  

Still, star-crossed or not, Day Four of our ascent would mark the cross-over point where we would ascend over the 4,500 metres barrier and into the second, more challenging half of the climb where the real signs of AMS may start to rear its ugly head and I'd have to face whatever may come head on in this new territory.....about time for Diamox and a good night sleep I think with no Golden Jackals bothering me!

Thanks for reading Day Three of my Kilimanjaro journey along the Lemosho Route for 'Action For M.E' who are a lifeline to sufferers of Chronic Fatigue like my sister having to cope with the absence of energy in their everyday lives. I'd really appreciate any donation you can give to my Just Giving page to help me out!

Asante Sana and see you next time.....over half way and getting closer!

'Hip! Hip! Hop! Hop!' Hakuna Matata

Equipment and clothing I used were from Ultimate Outdoor and Cotswold Outdoors

Meindl Boots
North Face 
TYTNY Walking Poles
Regatta Outdoors 

Day Ascent Distance : 590 metres (1,935 ft) 14km

Total Elevation (Day 3) 4,200 metres amsl (13,779 ft)


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