Ah, the final day before summit. Day 5 was taking us to the promised land of summit base camp for the Machame Route. Not a day too soon. Sure, one more day of acclimatization would have only helped. But after four spectacular days, now I was beginning to crave reaching the summit.
Hiking the Machame Route from the Karanga Camp
The day began as all the days with the morning routines that set us up for the day’s hike. The tedious, the necessary, and the helpful all were taken care of and we took off from the Karanga Camp at 13,800 ft (4,200 m) for a seemingly short 3.7 miles (6 km) hike up to the Barafu Camp at 15,100 ft (4,600 m) (at that altitude, short walks are challenging!). Did I mention that after all these days of sleeping bags, tents, daypack, large backpack, jackets, zippable hiking pants, rain gear, etc. one gets REALLY tired of zippers? Velcro all the way, bay-bee!!! (Thanks, Sarah for your help fixing zippers!)
The route was devoid of vegetation. Rocks everywhere. Small rocks though. Like debris almost. And some neat views, as usual on this mountain!
Our time at the Barafu Camp
The Barafu Camp was a camp of sorts for us: we were setting up as usual except we were NOT going to spend the night at this camp. You see, at night, midnight specifically, we would we leaving this camp to summit. But that, my friends, is Day 6 so out of scope for this post!
This camp was VERY rocky. I had to mind almost every step to not trip or step on a rock that would give way from under me. To walk around our tent to reach the vestibule on the back (vestibule is a generous term; it was a place to put our bags zipped away and protected from any rain), we had to be extremely careful.
I woke up in the middle of one of my naps once it was dark to go to the toilet-tent and, though there was a full moon (it was beautiful especially on summit night), while minding the rocks, I missed noticing the cable holding another tent down and I almost had my face meet a rock that would have likely broken my nose or jaw (and end my attempt to summit). Luckily as I started falling, I caught my balance and didn’t hit the ground. BIG whew. And added respect for the camp…
In any case, this camp was a little bit surreal because of the landscape. We were also on a steeper slope than we had been at any other camp. However, always looking for the bright side, some of us concluded that at least we were towards the “exit” of the camp on the way to the summit so we would save, oh, about 4 minutes once we started heading up to the summit…
Though we were not staying overnight, this camp was very important. We were to have a nice late lunch and then do two very important things:
1. Pack/Prepare for departing for summit at midnight.
2. Resting/Sleeping whatever we could to have more energy for the climb that night and to also allow our bodies to get as used as possible to the higher altitude.
Being active after getting to camp was not the best thing to do as the body would not get to recover. So we were advised that whether we napped or not, that we lay down for as long as possible. Not being one to ignore advice from experts, after lunch I did all I could do to prep for that night’s departure (we were stopping at this camp after coming down from the summit) and proceeded to get comfy and lay down.
I was very pleased that I napped (can’t recall how long a nap but it was long) not once but twice with the final one leading me to wake up around 10:30 PM which was great! I was able to say bye to the first group of 4 from our group to depart (they were leaving an hour early to be sure they had ample time to make it to the summit by sunrise). Then I took care of a few things before sitting back down at the same mess tent where I had just said goodbye to our first group an hour before to wait for our own departure.
I couldn’t wait to get going… – but, wait, that’s midnight so that story is part of Day 6!
Back to Day 4…
… on to Day 6 – summit night !
Other posts about the Kilimanjaro trek: