Kilimanjaro Day 5: Barranco to Karanga (4000m)

Slept deeply but not for very long, and for the first time was wide awake and up early before even bed tea. Maybe it was because it was my birthday, or perhaps the acclimatisation, but I felt very bouncy and was chatting away to the guides as I took pictures of the sunrise. I also caught my first glimpse of the famous Barranco Wall towering above the campsite, as it had been too cloudy to see it the previous night when we arrived.

I was actually a little disappointed with the climb up the wall, as I had been expecting it to be much more dramatic and exciting after all the fuss made about it, not just by my companions but by previous trekkers. It turned out to be a very easy scramble and most of the time was spent waiting for the long traffic jams (or as Coleman the kitchen porter told me, “a traffic peanut butter”. It took me a while to get the joke — he knew how much our group liked peanut butter rather than jam on their toast in the morning). The traffic jams were caused by the fact that there were literally hundreds of porters trying to get up the wall, blocked by slow trekkers. Some of those with heavy or wide loads also needed assistance to squeeze through the narrow gaps.

However, the sun was out, I was full of beans and it really was a glorious morning, with a few more hours of climbs and drops, and a bit more scrambling to liven things up. The sun and mist alternated constantly, affording tantalising views of Kili and of the vistas below, which disappeared as soon as you dared to get your camera out. I felt strong today and barely breathless at all, despite the slightly faster pace. However the last push up a steep rocky section of hill really challenged my lungs — clearly the guides were hungry and keen to get us to the top for lunch!

Another beautiful campsite on a steep and rocky ground this time, I made the schoolboy error of walking up the hill from the mess tent to the loo (about 30 yards) at a normal walking pace and nearly had a heart attack at the top. Thank goodness our loo had a seat and was not a long drop, or I could easily have fallen in! After another hour’s rest, we had a second acclimatisation walk. Everyone was in good spirits and we had now reached number 5 in the falling over competition. Still left to fall were me, Dom, Jo and Giulio (probably not coincidental that we were the strongest and fittest!).

After dinner, I got the customary birthday celebration from the guides and chef — a birthday cake with candles and a present of a Kilimanjaro tshirt. It felt very personal and it seemed that they all really cared about the celebration, which was very touching and made it a really unique birthday. How many people get a birthday cake baked for them on a campsite at 4000m?

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