Friday, December 25, 2009

The Shell Kilimanjaro Challenge - Intro

Hi folks, welcome to the Kilimanjaro chronicles! Karibu sana, Kenya mwezi rafiki yangu!

I was privileged enough to be invited along on the Shell Kilimanjaro Challenge, a regular annual Shell event, it seems. All the participants gathered from around the globe to meet at the Marangu Hotel in Tanzania.

There was:

From Kenya:
Lazarus Muema; veteran of a previous Kili ascent as well as Mount Kenya, our group captain;
Peter Wachira; also a Kili vet;
Theuri Mwangi
Myself - Dick Morkel

From Egypt:
Sherif Maarouf

From Nigeria:
David Adeyanju

From South Africa:
Antoinette van Rooyen
Tessa Granger
Kirsty Scott
Nonto Mkhize
Dumisani Dilima and
Lynne Hannay.

Ominous but spectacular towering cumulus over Moshi as I drive through Arusha on the way to Kilimanjaro

The players started arriving from Saturday night; not without some drama. Nettie, Tessa and Dumi arrived from Cape Town via Dar Es Salaam, sans luggage. In their hand luggage they did have some kit for the ascent, and Marangu Hotel has stuff you can use if you are stuck, but the girls’ biggest concern was that they may have to come to terms with summiting not in clean underwear!

Luckily the system works and all is delivered on Sunday morning.

Delight at being reunited with their gear – LTR Nettie; Dumi; Tessa

On Sunday evening we all meet for dinner and a briefing by “doc” Desmond, the hotel manager and Kilimanjaro expert. It is thoroughly comprehensive and covers everything including what to take along and all the hazards we can expect en route and on top – including the various types of altitude sickness. We are encouraged to start taking Diamox right away.

Day 1 – Marangu Park entrance (1970m) to Mandara (2700m) – The rumble in the jungle

A hearty breakfast; last minute faffing and packing and we get to meet the crew – all 26 of them! One personal porter per climber; one chief guide and 1 deputy chief guide; 4 other official guides, chef and the rest are general porters and dog’s bodies. There is a lot of stuff to get up the mountain. Each climber has his own rucksack, which a porter will carry along with his own. Then there is all the food and water and cooking equipment; and all the waste that needs to be returned.

The team at the start - LTR: Techno Dave from Nigeria; Sherif "walks normally" the Egyptian; myself, Nutty Nettie; Kirsty the rescuer; Surfer babe Tessa; Naughty Nonto; Rose the chief organiser from Shell Kenya; Thoughtful Theuri and disappearing Peter.In front: Captain and Kili vet Lazarus; Ritalin kid Lynne and Duracell Dumi.

My personal porter; Nelson and I

Unsuspecting enthusiastic climbers at the start: LTR Tessa, Dumi, Kirsty, Nonto, Nettie, Dick, Dave

A short drive to the park gate and we officially sign in. This is a fairly time consuming process. There is a lot of labour exploitation in the park, so each porter / guide gets his load weighed. If it is at all over the allowed weight, contents will be randomly offloaded!

Team Faff and I

Some group photo posing and we are finally off. We are warned to go pole–pole (slowly) so as to acclimatise best. It is well known that the fit guys who show off by walking quickly on days 1 – 3, are the first to be overcome by altitude sickness on summit day.

Ominous notice at the start

It’s a beautiful walk through thick rain forest along a perfect footpath. Going pole-pole allows us to enjoy it even more and to get to know one another and bond as a group.

There is Dave, who was on his laptop at dinner last night and has a photo voltaic solar panel mounted on his rucksack to keep his cell phone and camera batteries charged – he earns the nickname Techno Dave.

There’s Sherif, the Egyptian, who talks like a pom and walks like anyone else.

There’s “Duracell” Dumisani, who is always up for a longer or more extreme route or an additional loop, and is always up ahead. Pole-pole; Dumi!!!

Then of course there’s Lynne. Initially nicknamed “Sandton Shopper” and later “Mall Rat” ‘cos we saw here briefly on Sunday morning , then she disappeared, apparently to go shopping in Marangu – not exactly a shopping destination, and then caught a taxi all the way to Moshe. Turns out she is so not like the city girl type – in fact quite the opposite. SCUBA diver; mountain biker, KLR 650 rider… she’s into everything. On top of that she is studying part time and breadwinner for her siblings – this gets her nicknamed Rita-Lynne (Ritalin) because she cant stand still – along with Dumi, always up front.

Let’s not forget Naughty Nonto – now here’s a city girl. When she first caught a glimpse of the mountain she could not believe that we were making her go all the way up there.

Together with Nettie, Tessa and Kirsty, the above 2 make up team faff. And boy, can they faff. But more about that later.

Luckily, there were the 3 Kenyans – Peter, Theuri and Lazarus – experienced kili climbers and level headed dudes. We were lucky to have Lazarus as our leader, always ready with a wise word or 2 and stabilising influence on the group.

Typical day 1 scenery - Elias, deputy chief sherpa, leads the route and determines the pace.

Rita-Lynne with giant 'shroom brolly

Giant tree in the rain forest

We really did take it “pole-pole” – what should be a 3 hour 7 km walk we stretched t 5 hours, including a lazy lunch in the forest. Towards the end of the walk, as we ascended, the trees were less tall and the sun started coming through. Then suddenly we were in a clearing and there was Mandara huts. A quick cup of tea and a wash and then a short walk to nearby Muandi Crater – an old extinct volcano. On the way up we once again passed through some thick forest and saw some colubus monkeys – it was important to spot these today because it was the last day of Movember – and these black and white monkeys sport long white beards and moustaches.

Colobus Monkeys

Sunset on the crater rim, and back to Mandara for dinner and an early night. Tomorrow, a longer walk

Tessa and "Poisoned" Charles (pronounced Chalice) (the chief guide) at Maundi Crater

Charles pointing out our destination from Maundi Crater as the sun sets over Kilimanjaro

I though I would just throw in this one of me at Maundi Crater also...

Day 2 – Mandara to Horombo (3720 m) – Cape fynbos and the paper trail

I shared a 4 bed hut with Sherif and Techno Dave. Techno Dave is a big dude, but after a while I had to resort to violence to try curb his snoring. I can now write this from the safety of a 300 km separation. First I tried a quick prod with my hiking pole and then pretended to be fast asleep myself – but he did not even miss a breath’s worth! Next a substantial prod. Best I could achieve was a mumble and straight back to snore city. The prods got progressively more violent, and in the end I merely raised the pole as high as could and walloped him as hard as I could. It worked! I wondered the next day whether he had any unaccounted for bruises, but did not dare ask.

We care awoken with a cup of tea and a bowl of warm water for washing. Get up, wash, dress, stuff everything into rucksack and we are good to go. I go and enjoy a great breakfast and at 08:00; and I am ready to start the day’s hike – but I’m the only one. More faffing, waiting for stragglers, umpteen team photos, and finally we are on our way.

Today’s walk is longer. We leave the rain forest after a while and start encountering typical Western Cape style fynbos – complete with abundant proteas.

It is a bit humbling to be overtaken by porters carrying huge loads on top of their heads

“You say the hill's too steep to climb?
Try climb it!
You say you'd like to see me try?
Try climb it!
You pick the place and I'll choose the time…
And I'll climb that hill in my own way.
Just wait a while, for the right day.
And as I rise above the tree line and the clouds;
I look down, hearing the sound of the things you said that day…”

Fearless; Roger Waters.

We eventually rise well above the clouds. Occasionally they clear and we are afforded a vista over the vast Tanzanian plains and hills. Some lakes; some towns; some mountains but mostly just a vast expanse of African emptiness.

LTR: 2 unidentified porters; Sherif; Peter; Charles (remember to say it Chalice); Nonto; Nettie taking a pic; Kirsty; Theuri in front. Extinct volcano and Tanzanian landscape in the background

I think this is the pic Nettie took

...or maybe it was this one...

I know Kitsry definately took this one!

Did I mention that we have been taking Diamox since before we started? Diamox was initially invented to reduce pressure in the eyes to treat glaucoma. It was then discovered that it was a great drug to get more oxygen into the blood stream and prevent altitude sickness. An unfortunate side effect is that it is a powerful diuretic (i.e. it makes you pee a lot). Therefore a full night’s sleep without having to get up is rare. (This was also the reason why I was hesitant to take a sleeping pill to escape the Techno Dave cacophony – but I did eventually and I am happy to report that my sleeping bag remained dry in case you were wondering)

What I have not mentioned up to now but has to be said, is that the Diamox has a terrible effect on the trail sustainability. Behind every rock; behind every bush, behind every tree is several 100’s of unsightly toilet paper heaps. This has to stop – in future they should make hikers bring town in a ziplock bag all the TP they use. Sadly it’s the girls that are to blame. Learn to drip dry ladies!

Higher up on the climb, as fatigue and the effect of altitude worsens it’s not even off the trail anymore.

Typical lunch scene.
Mawenzi ridge above us. Typical "todger" forest on the slope.

We cross several gorges via well constructed bridges and reach Horombo Camp a bit tired; a bit out of breath; but generally in good shape. Time for a quick cup of tea and a wash, and we are off for another walk up to the zebra rocks. It is important to get as much altitude as possible in order to acclimatise. We get up to 4000 m and turn back. It’s chilly up here. I have a bit of a headache and take a panado effervescent. It helps. I can also feel the lack of oxygen. A lot of breathing; but not that much rush.

Finally arriving at Horombo

Peter and Nonto checking in

Zebra rocks

Dilemma – now we are allocated 2 off 6 bunks dorms to share. We are 5 ladies and 7 blokes. I get reassigned as an honorary chick and stage a lucky escape from the snoring. It is not without penalty. I get subjected to the most unbelievable faffing complete with live commentary. “Where’s my liner? I can’t find my liner. Anyone seen my liner?” “Have you looked in the … and under the…and over there…? Let me help you.” And they continually unpack and repack everything. This despite that the fact they have made a package for each day in a vacuum sealed bag with a label for each day. And then one sees another unpacking and repacking and she thinks she must have forgotten something too and compulsively starts to unpack / repack. Chicks; here’s how: Just chuck everything into the bag; end of story. Try get the smelliest stuff the deepest. Simple! And then they start yakking on about their bowel habits. Oh dear…

But hey; I get a great night’s sleep. Despite being stood on a few times as they get overcome by Diamox moments.

Sunset over Kilimanjaro

Full moon rising over Mawenzi.

Read below about Day 3; or go to

Day 3 – Horombo to Kibo; 4700 m – Into moon country (drugs made me do it)

Another disadvantage of being allocated the girls’ dorm is that I get banished outside into the cold when it comes to wash time. But I am still grateful for the good nights sleep. Yet another great breakfast (how do they make pancakes up here?); yet another photo faff, a motivational talk from Lazarus, and eventually we are off.

Full faff mode with added panic in the chick's dorm

Team faff and I with Charles in front of the chick's dorm (its safer here)

We are under no illusions as to the fact that this is where the big game starts. It’s a big hike to Kibo and the final ascent starts at midnight tonight. Now more than ever we have to conserve energy.


Start of day 3; Horombo camp in the background

The vegetation changes dramatically now. Some scrub and succulents and still flowers. It is also markedly colder than previous days and the fleeces, beanies and buffs come out. It was suggested that we wear the under layers that we would use for the ascent tonight, because it would be too cold to change once we get to Kibo. But we decide it’s not cold enough for that yet and brave it.

All along the route, at appropriate intervals, there are toilets (or pizza huts as Lynne called them) but not enough to limit the toilet paper trail, now becoming exposed because there are few rock outcrops and even less vegetation as we pass Mawenzi peak and enter the Alpine desert. There are also dedicated lunch spots with picnic tables and seats. At these locations, even up here at 4300 m, there are mice and crows that feed on the human waste and buzzards that feed on the mice. None of them would be here were it not for the Kili climbers.

The group splits up into several smaller segments. We (Nettie; Tessa; Kirsty; Lynne and I together with front guide Elias determining the maximum pace) are up front on the saddle, now almost completely devoid of vegetation. It is getting very cold and after a while it starts to rain. There is a mad scramble for rain gear. The wind also gets worryingly strong.

Rain gear panic

Its not too far to go now and ultimately Kibo camp comes into view. We are very aware of the effect of the altitude and cold. Nettie is in trouble and starts shaking uncontrollably. I have a terrible headache and just can’t seem to get any air in as much as I try hyperventilating./ Finally we reach Kibo – a grim and barren place with toilets straight out of Trainspotting (I will spare you the photos). Nettie is in deep trouble now with bad nausea. Hypothermia is also threatening and right away she crawls into her sleeping bag. Kirsty the rescuer cuddles her to try warm her up. It works and after a while she is able to join the rest of us for some hot soup. The food is once again great and despite beginning to experience altitude sickness, I am able to eat a healthy amount.
What we did not need to see: an injured climber being evacuated down on a one wheeled strecher.

By this stage most of us have used lots of medication. I’ve been taking ½ a diamox twice a day and several panado for the headache. We have been warned that diarrhoea is a regular effect of the high altitude and took an Imodium also. I am happy to report that as a result, I did not have to get too closely acquainted with the trainspotting toilets of Hell.

Back to the dorm, we begin the preparations for tonight. Start dressing so we don’t have to faff too much in the middle of the night. Head torch and spare batteries (and spare spare batteries) ready; camera and spare batteries (and spare spare batteries) ready; all clothing sorted, nutrition organised…

It is desperately cold up here at Kibo (4700 m); even in the dorm. It is a big base where several routes merge for the final ascent and it is rather busy. Several other groups are here and most cannot be accommodated in the dorms and have to sleep in tents outside. Wearing most of the ascent kit, we crawl into ours sleeping bags for a bit of rest, not expecting to sleep. In our minds is the apprehension and nervous anticipation; in our bodies the violent resistance to being forced to operate out of its design conditions.

Some of the team express doubt about whether they will continue tonight. Nettie is keen, but not in good shape. Nonto is exhausted. Outside, the wind is howling. It’s not looking good. Surprisingly, I drift off into an uneasy snooze.

Day 4: Summit – the death zone

We are woken at 11:30 that night. Nonto; in the bunk above me leaps out of bed. I am delighted to see her keen to continue. Nettie also feels much better and is ready to have a go. My headache is gone and I find that the few hours of rest have allowed me to acclimatise – I can breathe normally! Then it dawns on me – the wind has died down too! I go outside and it looks perfect. It’s warmer than when we arrived here; there is a layer of thick cloud to stop radiation and there is a full moon above, just casting some light through the clouds.

Back inside, I continue dressing. I decide to go with the maximum gear anyway – here’s what I wore; from the bottom up; inside to outside:

CUM inner socks
CUM outer socks
Hiking socks
Hitech hiking boots

Boxer shorts (I wish I did not bother with these)
Rapid Sports thick neoprene / lycra tights
CUM trousers
Rain pants
CUM gaiters

Rapid Sports wicking undervest
Capestorm WPASS long sleeved lycra top
Long sleeved tee shirt
Capestorm Pufadder fleece
Thick Swazi Frontier First Ascent fleece
Rapid Sports skiing jacket
North Face Gore-Tex weatherproof jacket

WSP scarf
Cape Epic buff
First ascent beanie
Jacket hoodie

Woollen gloves
Skiing gloves

Underneath the outer jacket I wear my Karrimor 6 ℓ rucksack, now only containing my Platipuss hydration bladder which is filled with hot water, some medication and spare batteries. These have to be insulated otherwise they freeze. I run the hose inside my clothing so the water in the hose will not freeze. In addition, I have insulation for the hose. I need to take an additional 1 ℓ and fill a water bottle. I don’t have space for this and Kunda, one of the guides takes it for me.

I carry my camera inside my inner jacket pocket to prevent it freezing.

I have a quick cup of tea in the dining area and some cookies, then head back for the dorm to get the last few things ready. I find Nonto back in bed! (her earlier apparent enthusiasm was based on diamox / bladder demands) She explains that she knows she will not make it is not going to try for fear of holding up the others. I persuade her that she only has to get out of bed; make it out the door and try a few steps outside before making such an important decision. She can’t argue with that logic and is soon ready.

In the dining area, Techno Dave leads the team in prayer. We gather outside and set off. All 12 of us and 6 guide. Once again we are encouraged to go slowly. The scree and ash slopes get steeper as you go and your steps tend to make deep tracks and slide considerably. To ease the situation we follow a zig-zag route


It is manageable, but somehow still extremely difficult to walk. After a while my headache returns. I am dosed to the max and can’t take more Panado. Even the slightest change of pace makes me pant for breath hopelessly.

Lynne and Dumi

At 5000 m it starts snowing. There is still no wind and the gently swirling snowflakes in the moonlight are too beautiful. I can’t resist sticking my tongue out and trying to catch snowflakes on it. The snow lifts my spirits and I happily declare to the others that it will now be warmer and the snow will soon pass after which it will be a beautiful day. They don’t all share my optimism.

The snow on the ground makes the ash slope surface crispy and our boots have better purchase now. But soon the wind returns and what was a gentle snow becomes a proper snowstorm. All is not well with Nettie. She is sick again; way behind and hypothermic. The guides are used to people whingeing and do their best to encourage them to keep going. But they take one look Nettie and decide to evacuate her off the mountain as fast as possible.

We reach the Hans Meyer cave and shelter from the storm for a while. We were encouraged to drink a lot and I find the hot water in my backpack comforting. From this point my memory is vague and the story is pieced together from flashes, photos and accounts from others. I remember getting a bag of Mars Bars out; dishing them out in the cave and that they did not agree with all! I remember Tessa producing a Mars bar coloured technicolour yawn later; and Peter (or was it Lazarus) also getting nausea after eating it. Note that nausea is a symptom of altitude sickness and quite normal. There was nothing wrong with the Mars Bars. (provided they serve pan galactic gargle blasters there) (sorry – in joke)

Sheltering in the Hans Meyer cave

Kirsty looks in bad shape. She begs to be taken down the mountain. No Kirsty, carry on; you can do it.

Regarding altitude sickness – everyone is susceptible to it; it is entirely dependant on whether you spend enough time acclimatising. There are 3 types –
§ Regular altitude sickness – shortness of breath; nausea; fatigue
§ Pulmonary oedema – condensation in the lungs; extreme fatigue; bubbling in the lungs when breathing; not enough aspiration
§ Cerebral oedema – swelling in the brain: headaches; irrational behaviour; confusion; dizziness; hallucinations

The latter 2 are serious and cause for immediate evacuation to a lower level.

All forms of altitude sickness improve immediately with reduction of altitude. Even before we reached the cave, we came across several other climbers being escorted down the mountain, the disappointment ubiquitous in their faces

We are already well behind schedule and can’t afford to spend any more time in the cave. We press on – it is steeper now; every step becomes and effort. I come across Dave resting on his poles; looking beat. I have lost the ability to talk. When I try, only a dry croak comes out. I place a hand on his hunched shoulders – he responds; only after several deep breaths; a soft “I’m OK”. I know that he is not; but there is nothing I can do to help and leave him there.

Getting difficult

Dumi. Lynne and Sherif struggling below.

I find Nonto; also struggling; but moving very slowly. I place a hand on her back and push gently. I notice she is giving long steps and suggest to her to try baby stems. It helps. Together we plod slowly up the beast of a mountain. But I can’t sustain the effort and move on; beyond. Again a short rest stop / regroup. I lean on my pole. We were warned not to sit down as we would not get up again. The blizzard is intensifying, but every so often the wind diminishes for a while, giving us hope that it will let up. The Diamox is still doing its thing, of course, and the effort of doing the necessary wearing 2 layers of gloves and 4 layers of pants is ridiculous. For the girls it is of course much worse. We no longer have the luxury of shelter or inhibitions and just go where we are. Lynne copes by giving a running commentary, painting a mental picture so grotesque, that no-one dares look in vaguely in that direction.

Light starts breaking through. I have lost all sense of time but I am aware that there is enough light to abandon the head torch. We are now above the ash and scree slopes and I know it cant be too much further to Gilman’s Point on the rim of the crater. My watch altimeter is giving inaccurate readings. We encounter 2 Americans on their way down, looking beat. I manage to utter “how was it?”

The one responds “terrible….terrible!”

My heart sinks. “Did you make it Uhuru

“Yes – terrible”

This does not help me. “How much further to Gilmans?”

Long pause. “Don’t know - About another hour”.

I am shattered. Can’t be another hour. We plod on; pole-pole. I just place my feet in the footsteps of the climber in front of me, not sure who it is anymore. Then I see another climber, following a different path. Not sure which way to go. I start walking that path, but the person evaporates. This happens a few times. My head is pounding. Every step becomes a monumental effort. After every footfall it takes 10 breaths before I can even consider the next. Rest on the pole. Don’t sit down. Drink. One more step…

We are separated now. Dumi, Lynne, Tessa and Kirsty are somewhere around. Charles is leading. Another step. Another. Rest. Drink.

Slurp, slurp, nothing. Out of water. Never mind; will make it to Gilman’s Point soon and get tea there.

Getting steeper. Plod plod plod, breathe breathe breathe; rest on pole. Problem. Whenever I breathe, glasses fog up. Remove them. Snow stings face and eyes. Difficult to balance. Why is snow pink? Where am I? Oh yes…

Plod plod plod. Baby steps. Pole-pole.

Suddenly a level bit; a sign; people sitting. Gilman’s Point! We are at the rim of the crater. Can turn back now; will get certificate. But I sit down, have a quick rest, some photos. Check out the view – no view – visibility 5 – 10 m. Feeling a bit better. Head count – Charles; Kirsty (looking much better) Peter; Dumi; Tessa (vomiting up Mars Bar), Lazarus and me. “Where are the rest?” I croak. Nettie evacuated; Dave evacuated (Pulmonary oedema); Nonto taken down (exhaustion). The rest still on their way up. We have lost 3 guides along with the 3 evacuees too. The tea still on its way up. Guide Kunda, with my spare water bottle still on the way up.

Tessa and I at finally at Gilmans

With Dumi

 Kirsty and Dumi. Note icicle hair.

We can’t wait; getting too cold; getting too late. Dumi had plans of going down into the crater to the ash pit. Probably too late for that now. We push on for Uhuru; 6 of us. Walking is a bit easier, now, going downhill, in fact, for a while; then undulating; but not very steep. We come across an ice cave guarded by icicle stalactites. I take a photo of Peter, and then ask him to take one of me, but by then the camera has frozen.

Peter at the ice cave

Then steadily climbing again. Plod plod plod; breathe breathe breathe, pink snow. Fogging up glasses. Remove them, Feeling irritated; remove headgear. Thirsty. Head exploding. (Dark forebodings too)

Kirsty appears like an icicle encrusted angel and I beg water. She obliges. I spill my heart, croaking that I’m sick. Must continue, though.

We come across a sign and another path, where another route joins. Later realise that is Stella Point; but the sign is blown over face down in the snow. Push on; steep climb now on a along icy precipice. Plod plod; half a step at a time. After a while I realise I am alone. Wind screaming; stinging my face; head freezing. Realise I am not wearing beanie, balaclava and hoodie and pull them on again. I feel hands on my shoulders. Charles. “This way”. He turns me around and points out where I must step: “mind – ice there”.

The cloud clears for a moment and I catch a glimpse of the crater on my left. It’s on my left? I realise we are going back. The ice is hurting my eyes. I ask Charles to clean my sunglasses. It does not help. He gives me his.

We reach the others. They explain that we have to turn back. We are more now. I don’t complain. Just want to get off this cursed mountain now. Back at the ice cave; more photos.

Peter, me and Dumi

"Poisoned Chalice"

Plod plod plod – seems to take forever now. Finally back at Gilmans. We are 7 climbers now and 2 guides. Lynne and Sherif had also made it to Gilmans and together with guide Gibson set off for Uhuru. We met them somewhere near Stella point and they joined us in beating the retreat. Theuri had made Gilmans and turned around there, with one guide, can’t remember who. We finally have warm tea, which helps a lot, before starting the descent.

There is some panic when the lucid amongst us realise that one climber; Peter; is now unaccounted for! They conclude that he must have have started the descent without us; without a guide. Fortunately that turns out to be correct - but it explains the nickname Disappearing Peter.

Kirsty, Lynne and Tessa still standing; me defeated. Others starting descent.

Sherif with combo flag

Going down is difficult. I am still wobbly and Charles continues to point out where I should place my feet. But it gets easier as we descend and after a while I am capable on my own. We are the last people left on the mountain now and need to hurry. We reach the ash /scree section now and instead of following the zig zag path we go more or less straight down, sometimes sliding. Tessa gets a skiing action going and makes rapid progress past me. I am still too weak to walk fast and have to watch every step, but I feel stronger with each metre. Finally we reach Hans Meyer cave. The sun has come out now and we have a long rest, languishing in the sun, enjoying the warmth. I lose a few layers of clothing. Guide Kunda is there with my spare water bottle and I drink long tugs, feeling the strength flowing back into me. There is cell phone reception and it is warm enough for the phone to work, so most of us take the opportunity to sms friends and family. Dumi, who was the most energetic of us all, and who has not been taking Diamox because of an adverse effect on his vision, is now beat, and falls asleep in the cave. Some of us continue the descent and it is much easier now, in the warmer conditions and thicker air. I am able to run and also make rapid progress, giving big steps and sliding on my ass in the ash.

Resting at Hans Meyer cave

The last bit of the descent back to Kibo

Kibo when Nettie arrived there earlier

It must have been around 11:00 or 12:00 am when we reached Kibo camp. We took our time resting, having lunch and preparing for the long walk back down to Horombo. Nonto is waiting there, Nettie and Dave having been taken down to Horombo immediately upon reaching Kibo. Now we walk really fast – no need to conserve energy and every need to lose altitude quickly.
By the time we get there, I am feeling fine, so are Nettie and Dave, who have been chilling there since early afternoon. A great dinner; lots of stories told and we hit the sack big time. It’s been a very long day.