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and to protect batteries, phone, torch and recharger, all electronics
are now in the sleeping bag with me.
Day 4: 3900m to 4700m (no acclimatisation)
The night is bitterly cold and I only manage to get warm halfway through
the night. Temperature drops at a rate of roughly two degrees every 300m
so the nights grow progressively colder.
None of this affects our appreciation of our surroundings. We wake to
the ground covered in frost and ice and the whole scene is quite magical.
Despite being on the edge of the short rains, we have been lucky with the
weather and the mornings are clear, giving us a grand view overlooking
Kenya and Tanzania as far as the eye can see.
Steve, who suffered from altitude sickness the day before, vomits
several times and reckons that he has had the worst night of his life.
He’s one of the fittest guys in the group - proof that altitude sickness
does not discriminate.
We set off at 9.30am, arrive at Kibo Hut (4700m) at 1pm and have lunch
at 2pm. We rest and have an early dinner in an attempt to get as much
sleep as possible before summit night.
I have my daypack ready and sleep in my summit gear minus only my
waterproof jacket and pants.
Nevertheless, sleep is hard to come by. An English group of 49 climbers
takes off at midnight with a taunting “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi” cry.
I wake at 2am to find my pulse pumping along at 110, up from a normal
resting rate of about 60 at sea level.
Day 5: 4700m to 5895m to 3600m
Up at 3am. No one has slept much but everyone is ready to go. The plan
is to reach Gilman’s Point at 5685m in six hours, then make a roundtrip
along the ridge to Uhuru Peak (5895m) and back in three hours. Then it’s
back to Kibo Hut again in another three hours.
The freezing temperatures create new issues. For those using bladders
to carry their water, the hoses have all frozen so they are unable to drink.
Some water bottles have also frozen solid. Sunburn cream has turned to
gel and energy bars are as hard as stone.
I take Sudafed and for the first time in five days my sinuses are clear.
Any day before this one and it was unlikely I would have been able to make
the summit. The hacking cough persists but I am taking antibiotics twice
daily and it is not getting worse.
It is pitch black and snowing when we start up a rocky path,
and several hours later enjoy the sunrise over Africa – the most
extraordinary hour of the entire climb.
We continue to crisscross our way up the mountain over loose shale.
Everyone has their own strategy to cope with the altitude. I focus on
deep breathing, in through the mouth on a count of three and out
through the nose on a count of two.
I also focus on avoiding any action that requires an increase in
breathing rate. Any time I forget to focus on breathing or overexert myself,
I am immediately hit with a thumping headache, which only a rest and a
return to steady breathing will make go away.
We continue up to Gillman’s Point, where the shale turns into
solid, steep rock. This is tough going because it means taking knee-high
steps, which is impossible without overexerting yourself, and which
has the inevitable results.
At this point we come across a number of the English who left that
morning and haven’t made it, more than a few of whom are being
supported down the mountain on the shoulders of guides. It turns out
that out of the UK Deloitte team of 49 people, 31 (60 per cent) reached the
“At Gillman’s Point we are enveloped by cloud...
when it clears it exposes the massive ice walls of
the glacier soaring 30m overhead”
Kibo Hut, on the day before summit day.
Walking the ridge between Gillman’s Point and the summit.
The mess tent.
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