Kilimanjaro Day 4: Shira Two Camp to Barranco (3900m)

Another night of much peeing in freezing conditions, corroborated by ice on the tent in the morning (from the damp, not my pee!), but the sun was out and we could really appreciate the sunrise and wonderful vista. The mess tent was dripping so much that the porters simply picked it up while we were in the middle of breakfast and moved it, leaving us eating alfresco. Although it was only -2 degrees, the sun was so strong even at 7.30am that we were soon toasty warm.

I was still feeling a little sick and my hands and face were so swollen that Abraham prescribed me the dreaded Diamox and I didn’t argue. I consequently peed all day, but since everyone else was too, it wasn’t a problem! The morning’s walk was in brilliant sunshine, as seemed to be the norm, and beautifully warm despite the altitude. George was today’s leader, and although quiet, he turned out to be very affable and we soon got chatting about Africa, Swahili and food. Every day I would try to learn a few more words from the guides and to practise them. My repertoire was now extending to making jokes about Abraham the Big Potato (viasi kubwa) and my favourite response to “how are you?” of “ndizi juu” (top banana). It became a standing joke for the rest of the trip with all the guides and many of the porters, embellished with additions such as the small potato assistant guides. In return I taught them English slang expressions with which to regale their next set of clients.

George set a very comfortable pace, but by mid-morning the nausea had returned and even the gentle uphill was a bit of a struggle. After lunch, the fog descended and I soon became chilled, having been lulled into a false sense of security that morning by the warm sunshine and not having put enough layers on. However, the final 45 minute to the top went well and I felt much better again. Meanwhile the fog was descending and lifting in rapid waves, affording us with sudden marvellous glimpses of the sun on the mountain, which lifted our spirits no end. Or at least, they lifted my spirits, but poor Mark behind me was feeling so ill that every time I told him to look up, he grunted and ignored me. A quick photostop at the Lava Tower (pictured) and then a 2 hour descent with some minor scrambling. There was now persistent freezing fog and I was chilled to the bone, not helped by what felt a desperately slow pace (though several people unused to steep descents complained later it had been far too fast for them). I know after my experiences on Toubkal I shouldn’t complain about other people being slow, but I feel somewhat justified by the fact that I was slow on Toubkal due to dehydration and altitude effects, rather than just inexperience and lack of fitness. But I forced myself to put it out of my mind as it would serve no useful purpose to feel bitter. It’s nice to be the fittest person on the trip, at least. I was immensely looking forward to the following day and the Barranco Wall, which I saw as the second highlight of the trip after the summit.

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