Aug 31, 2010

Back from Kilimanjaro

I'm a little late in writing this post, but better late than never. Two weeks ago, I got back from my trip to Tanzania where me and 3 buddies climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was a great trip - a week on the mountain, 3 days of Safari, and a few rest days scattered between. I posted some photos to Picasa: Kilimanjaro Trip Pictures.

The photo on the right is one of my favorites.  It is taken from the campground on the 2nd night, which you can see in the background.  The peak framed in the camera lens is Mt. Meru, which is the only other nearby object that sticks out above the clouds.  From this point on in the hike, we were always above a sea of clouds looking down.  The mountain we were standing on would cast a long shadow onto these clouds in the morning.  By luck of geography, that shadow would point straight at Mt Meru.  This photo however was taken right after sunset, so there are no mountain shadows being cast about.

99% of the hikers climbing Kilimanjaro start at midnight from Barafu camp at around 15k ft altitude, hike to the top (19k ft) for sunrise, and then turn around and descend a few minutes later back to 10k ft altitude. Our group instead opted for the little known Crater Camp option. We started our hike from Barafu at 8am, daylight and much warmer. We ascended to Stella's Point on the Crater Rim, 500 ft lower and a 30 minute hike from the actual peak (Uhuru Peak) and then dropped down into the Crater for the night. The plan was to wake up and start hiking at a leisurely hour of 5am in the morning.

The crater was well worth the extra day, most of the hikers never set foot in it, but we had time to explore. I opted to check out the glacier inside the crater, which is shrinking and may soon be gone completely. Many of our porters had never done the Crater Camp option before, so they were just as excited as we were.

Unfortunately, after going to bed, the altitude kicked in for me. We were all already weak, but it really hit me hard. When our guides woke us up in the morning, I decided to descend instead of finishing the last few hundred feet to the top. Acute Mountain Sickness was an interesting experience - it felt like the worst flu you've ever had: headache, nausea, vomiting, and extremely low energy levels. I had to take a break between tying one boot and the other. I was wearing a heart rate monitor for the trip and my resting heart rate was around 120 beats per minute - normally, it's around 70. Fortunately, dropping altitude did the trick. A few hours later at a lower vantage point, I was feeling absolutely fine. The other 3 in our group finished the route to the top and joined me that afternoon.

Not too many meteors, but the stars were better than I've ever seen before. By day 2 we were camping above the clouds, so there was essentially no man-made light pollution except for our own flashlights. The milky way was not only bright and clear, but I swear that I could actually make out hints of different colors in the stars with my unaided eye. I tried but failed to take any photos worthy of sharing.

On the tail end of the trip, we went on a 3 day Safari. I have to admit that I was mostly on the trip for the hike and hadn't really researched the Safari much in advance, but it was also a blast. Nice and relaxing, and crazy amounts of wildlife as you'll see in the photos.

1 comment:

Gareth Boyd said...

Better late than never!