Today’s walk was only about 4 1/2 hours, all uphill but at a very slow pace on compacted scree, and I felt strong throughout with not even any difficulty breathing until the last 10 minutes, despite the steam train noises emanating from Mark’s lungs behind me. To be fair, he had a cold all week, which he very kindly gave me, resulting in constant nosebleeds and a blocked nose at night, and the consequent sharing of my pot of Tiger Balm with him. Barafu Camp was cold, windy, busy and on a very steep hill, but as usual our team of porters had rushed to get the best spot and had found a quiet spot for us amongst the rocks on the far side, away from the general hullabaloo. For some unknown reason, they had placed the loo a long way down a treacherous descent which proved challenging in daylight with walking boots on, let alone at night in a pair of Crocs! I’m sure they do it deliberately for fun. At least my tent was near the mess tent, if far from the loo, as even that stretch was not easy to negotiate!
More stunning views of Mawenzi Peak, and I whiled away an hour sitting on a rock in the middle of nowhere, soaking up the sun despite being bundled up in down jacket and several layers against the biting wind.
After lunch we had a very detailed briefing from Abraham and the other guides, which for the first time had a very serious tone, and which left me feeling more nervous – at least momentarily – although I’d heard it all before and there was nothing new. Until then I’d been looking forward to the challenge, but suddenly the reality hit me and thoughts of freezing cold, altitude sickness, hallucinations and even death were I not to descend quickly enough, scampered through my brain like mice. At least the rest of the group were fairly subdued and there were no stupid questions. I caught Abraham in a quiet moment afterwards and reminded him about my sight difficulties in the dark. He reassured me that I had been assigned Joseph as my personal guide for the summit, which I was very relieved about. All the guides are lovely and I didn’t mind at all which one I was assigned, but I felt a special affinity for Joseph which was, unbeknown to me at the time, soon to grow into an incredible bond.
After more discussion about clothing, I finally made my decision about what to wear, and tried on what I had planned, although at 2pm in a boiling hot tent with the sun beating down, the 5 layers including down jacket felt a little superfluous. After an early dinner at about 5.30pm we were packed off to bed to try and sleep, which amazingly, I did.