Sunday 10 November 2019

7. Kilimanjaro Challenge : Lemosho Route - Day Six - Karanga Camp to Barafu Base Camp 4,673m

Jambo Jambo!

Welcome back to my Kilimanjaro blog as I battle up the highest mountain in Africa for charity 'Action for M.E'. If you've been keeping up with each day of my journey Asante Sana for your time and interest - I'd made it onto Day Six coming to the latter part of the ascent pushing through the challenges of AMS, bad luck with the relentless adverse wet weather and sleep deprivation. Things were going to get more difficult and testing for us all in our attempt to conquer the summit of Kilimanjaro, but I knew I had the self motivated resilience and dogged determination from all my support to endure the further hardships that lay ahead....question was, was I going to be stopped?
At this point on the Lemosho Route at Karanga Camp, we had slowly travelled 45km (28 miles) over six days (with rain every one of those days) and would be pushing on another 4km further up the alpine desert and southern slopes of Kibo to Barafu Base Camp - gateway to the summit.    

Me and my tent porter Richard, in flip flops! - always making sure it was up for my arrival to camp

Morning at Karanga Camp - the bubble of damp mist and gloom still hemmed in on the montane belt around Kibo as we set off on our 678 metre quest to reach Barafu Base Camp. Being this high up now in the rarefied air, the rain was sweeping in again and turning into freezing sleet in the low temperatures, nipping at our faces as we began ambling along the barren alpine desert over boulders and shattered rocks like clattering broken plate pieces.  

Summit night was festering at the back of everyone's mind and the potential adverse weather conditions which could be in store of us as we entered the sub zero temperatures of arctic glacial territory. Our gloves and clothing were still on the damp side and we were so desperate and anxious to not risk getting anymore things we were going to need on the summit night wet - 'hyppp--ooo---thhheeerrr--miiiaaaa'. We gave up trusting a weather forecast as it always seemed to change moment to moment up here on Kilimanjaro, we just were preparing for the worst.  

So yep, afraid so, most of us braved the chilling sleet along the 4km faint trail marked by rock cairns with swelling bare hands - I would tell myself the pain was only temporary and was tough enough to endure it for a short time. Either that or I would have wet gloves for the summit night......the worst of the two evils. 

Brolley's out again!

No risk, no reward 

After kilometres of trudging along following the bouncing colours of speed walking porters we began to meet the junction connecting with the Mweka descent trail, finding myself squinting up through the wispy veil of white mist as I raised my dripping hooded head at the looming Southern Icefields of Kibo making it look ever so close now!

Brrrrr!!!! Chin up, nearly there! 

Into the wild....the base camp lay at the end of a valley after a short scramble up the cliff face.

'Team Seo Cac' reach Kilimanjaro Base Camp!

At 4,673 metres, we reached the base camp Barafu, meaning 'Ice' which figures from its chilly temperatures and close proximity to Rebmann Glacier (which we couldn't see of course) the sleet began to turn to snow and we plodded through the many clusters of tents which felt like forever to find 'our spot' in an almost Russian cold war camp atmosphere. It felt like walking into a fridge you couldn't escape from but would be the place to set us up nicely for our last push to the summit and if it were clear, we'd have had a fantastic view of the final leg of the journey up. Maybe it was a good thing it was a mystery to us...

We'd all got this far, pushing through the threshold of altitude sickness and just 5km away from Uhura Peak and the summit of Kilimanjaro, the finish line. Doesn't sound far right?

The sleet was still whipping into the base camp as we had to huddle like packed sardines again underneath our mess tent and wait for our tents to be ready so we could dive in for some private refuge and a rest. The ground was extremely sloped making it pretty tricky to stay upright on a chair but had to deal with the awkward seating for dinner. All our boots were still absolutely soaking wet again on the inside, having it near impossible to get them even remotely dry over the course of the drizzling week. 

Wet boots on Summit night?? Our guides had a plan....  

But would I be living the outcome of wet boots on summit night, that was the question that hung in the balance. 

♥ Final Health Check ♥

At 4,673 metres, I had recovered from my AMS headache, but I think the introduction of more stress on my body had irritatingly not been letting me have a great deal of an appetite as we ascended higher into altitude and hypoxia zone (thats lower levels of  Ghrelin for you 'the hunger hormone' sounds like 'Gremlin' too because it is like one!) which was infuriating as the food looked so good!  I'd been snacking away on my protein bars my gym had given me and chocolate to keep my energy levels up - I recommend you bring snacks you really like to eat if the camp food is not stimulating your appetite. 

So, now having worked hard to reach the base camp with just 5km to go to the finish. I was feeling no more AMS symptoms apart from my lower levels of ghrelin, no breathing problems, no vomiting, no rushed trips to the loo or anything I felt was threatening to me, I felt healthy and was all pumped ready for the summit night.... but when I came to have my last health check - something was up. 

It was my heart!!! 

My blood oxygen level was fine (I think maybe 85% for the altitude) but my heart rate was SOAARRRRIINNNGGGG!!!! as if I'd seen the most beautiful person walk in the room! ♥♥♥♥. This couldn't be right, I had trained for six months with a breathing mask limiting my oxygen intake so my heart should be used to it. I felt I was just feeling excited to be so close to the final push and I'd been fine with my heart rate until today and the reader must be wrong. Or maybe it wasn't.

Noo!!! don't be so cruel to me getting this far! I hate you heart, hate you, hate you, hate you right now!   

I felt there was someone picking on me up there after all my hard work and resilience over 6 days in getting to the last camp. It wouldn't do what I wanted (I have a wild defiant heart by nature of course so....) and I could be on the verge of disaster at the final hurdle with it now being my heart rate out of all these things that was either going to let me attempt my dream or was going to break itself into a million pieces.

I was going to have to let fate or karma decide (well actually the guides really in this case) and I remained optimistic and defiant, giving my heart a telling off for playing up. I felt my body was fine to attempt the summit, was just excited and nervous. I was so close!  


Back in my tent, all calm again - we'd be awoken at 10pm which would allow us just three hours of sleep before the final push to the summit over night. It would likely take us 7 arduous hours up into the volcanic arctic glacial region laden with snow. Yes, really, 7 or more hours. It sounded hard, but this was the incredible challenge of Kilimanjaro - it wasn't always going to be comfortable and easy to reach 5,895 metres, I just hoped my body was going to be as strong as my mind to see me through to the finish.   

Video Diary before Summit Night - wish me luck!  

The team were in for a long wild night ahead. 

Thank you guys for all your support up until this point on my Kilimanjaro Challenge for 'Action For M.E'. I'm hoping I can convince you still to please donate to my Just Giving Page to help sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome like my sister, if you've been enjoying seeing my pain and pleasure on my journey up to the base camp!     

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

Meindl Boots
North Face 
TYTNY Walking Poles
Regatta Outdoors 

Asante Sana,

Day Ascent Distance : 678 metres (2,224 ft) ascent 4km

Total Elevation (Day 6) 4,673 metres amsl (15,331 ft)

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