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Kilimanjaro trek February 2010 News of our Expedition

(Photos in slide show: Bill Weber, Dan Mazur, Arnold Coster, and Felix Berg)
News of our recent expedition: Kilimanjaro Trek Wild Game Safari February 2010
19 February- 6 March, 2010
Dispatches: Please click one of the links below to go directly to that dispatch or just scroll down.

28 February, 2010
 
The walk back to civilization. We broke Millenium Camp just after daybreak for the 5-hour hike to trailhead -- downhill all the way, but with some scrambling over boulders. The sky was clear and afforded great views of the plains below and Kili behind us. We passed through Mweka Camp at 9:00AM, right on schedule. From there we picked up an improved trail and entered a lush cloud forest. Tree ferns lined the path. Turacos scolded us for disturbing the peace. We arrived at the checkpoint at the park entrance at 12:30 and were awarded certificates for summiting. We bid farewell to the 27 guys who supported our effort. A 30-minute ride through coffee and banana plantations brought us to the Impala Hotel in Moshi. Circuit completed. We survived and accumulated memories that will last lifetimes. We head out for safari tomorrow morning and return home on 3/7. back to top
 
27 February, 2010
 
Hillbilly Hikers impersonate mountaineers!  All of the training and preparation paid off as all nine of us summitted just after 8:00AM.  We probably deserve some degree-of-difficulty points for chosing the more challenging Lemosho Route, but the non-Hillaryesque execution was no doubt an insult to true mountaineers.  We actually had tea available enroute!  It was physically grueling -- eight hours of climbing from Base Camp -- and steep seems like an insufficient descriptor.  We motivated ourselves by recycling the old adage about how to eat an elephant (one bite at a time).  The first six hous were in darkness using headlamps.  That was a good thing.  If we had been able to see the enormity of what we were tackling, we probably would have hightailed it back to our sleeping bags.  But with sunrise, we were rewarded with views that only a true wordsmith can adequately describe.  The top of Kili is a huge place with massive glaciers scattered everywhere.  We hear that they have been melting since the Little Ice Age which leaves one to only imagine what the summit must have looked like 250 years ago.  The thickness of the glaciers was a huge surprise.  Pictures just do not capture the scale.  At an elevation of 19,340' the human body begins to encourage descent.  In spite of ample doses of Diamox, we began to experience a few headaches and stomach cramps.  After snapping a few group photos, we began the three-hour journey downward -- perilous in its own right.  After eleven hours of exhaustive effort, we were rewarded with a one-hour nap and some soup before breaking camp to descend out of the high zone.  Mother Nature failed to read the promotional information about the joys of climbing Kili and made her daily intervention -- a thunderstorm, but this time accompanied with sleet.  So instead of hiking for another five hours, our tired bodies received a reprieve, only two more hours.  It was a day that we will never forget. back to top
 
26 February, 2010
 
Staged for the summit bid. We packed out of Karanga Camp early this morning and climbed 2,000 feet in elevation to Barafu Camp, otherwise known as Base Camp at about 15,000' above sea level. It is hard to imagine being able to level enough tent sites on steep slopes of broken shale, but it is quite comfortable. It needs to be! We have the afternoon off to rest, dinner at 5:30, sleep until 11:00 and then head to the summit. We will be wearing four layers of high tech clothing, each designed to produce warmth in the frigid cold and strong winds. We can expect temps around zero, not counting the wind chill factor. At this point we all have visions of warm beaches, palm trees and pina coladas. We are scheduled to reach the crater rim at Stella Point around sunrise and Uhuru Peak about an hour later. The climb is 4,300' in elevation. Show time! back to top
 
25 February, 2010
 
'Rest'/Acclimatization. Mountaineering guides have a cruel sense of humor. The term 'rest' simply means that you only climb 1,500' in elevation and go back to the same camp. While we were 'resting' our way up the mountain today, some of us heard what was music to our ears -- "Where yawl from?". I suppose one southern can always recognize another. The passerby was from North Carolina and caused a wave of homesickness to sweep through our team. (In the South, rest means rest.) He told us about a member of their team who was 77 and on her way to the summit on the 6-day plan. That pretty much ended our whining and bellyaching, at least for a while. In all fairness, we had a relatively short day and some of us treated ourselves to Purell/handiwipe 'showers' and donned a set of less-dirty clothes. Those who didn't no longer need to announce their arrival. Tomorrow begins our summit push. back to top
 
24 February, 2010
 
Quite a climb. After a great camp breakfast, we joined several hundred other people on the narrow path that zig-zags up the sheer, 1,000-foot high Barranco Wall.There were several traffic jams at some of the more demanding sections. It took a couple of hours to make it to the top, and every climbing team was so tired that there were no incidents of trail rage. Once on top, the views were spectacular. A blanket of clouds cloaked the big city of Moshi and the surrounding countryside, but Mount Meru projected prominently to the west. We arrived at Karanga Camp in the early afternoon. We will be here for 2 days acclimatizing for the big push to the summit on Friday night. It is getting pretty nippy at night. The tents are encrusted with a thin layer of ice each morning. back to top
 
23 February, 2010
 
A very long day. We hiked for 9 hours and gained 3,000 feet of elevation before descending to Barranco Camp at 12,000 feet. We were very close to the glaciers today as we traversed the southern face. We added a rock climbing experience with the ascent of  Lava Tower which looms a couple of hundred feet above the alpine desert. We left cape buffalo and eland behind as we rose above the moorlands but have the constant companionship of white-necked ravens. Everyone is tired tonight, so we are turning in early. Our first task tomorrow: climb a 1,000-foot wall.  Aaarrgh!  back to top
 
22 February, 2010
 
Today was a ligth-duty day, by Kili standards. We only climbed 1,000 feet today instead of the 2,500 feet of each of the previous two days. We reached Shira 2 Camp in time for a late lunch. A steady rain escorted us the last quarter mile and gave all of us a chill in spite of our raingear. We took sponge baths and reunited with the outside world -- finally got a cellphone signal after three days. We are sleeping at 13,000 feet tonight and bracing ourselves for a long, steep climb tomorrow. The beauty of the surrounding landscape and rewarding friendships power us along . back to top
 
21 February, 2010
 
After a hot, full breakfast we hit the trail for a long, steep climb. We passed through a magnificent red cypress forest and eventually rose above the clouds that so kindly lubricated our footsteps the previous day. The moorlands were a unique plant community that offered numerous kinds of flowering plants and spectacular views. The cameras clicked into action. We finally climbed high enough to get our first clear view of Kili. Awesome, and quite frankly -- intimidating. Recent snowstorms left it cloaked completely in white. After arriving at the previous camp at dark, it was a real treat to arrive at Shira 1 Camp well before nightfall. We could actually arrange gear in our tents where we could find everything. After the camp crew finished their chores and turned in, we were lulled to sleep by the gurgling of the Simba River and the pitter-patter of raindrops. back to top
 
20 February, 2010
 
We departed the hotel @ 9:00 for the 2-hour ride to the trailhead. The scenery along the way included a gorgeous landscape, occasional teams of oxen plowing in the fields, women transporting goods balanced on their heads and wooden villages sprinkled. The potato harvest is in full swing. We arrived at Kilimanjaro National Park, paid fees and registered. On the way to the trailhead, an afternoon shower rendered the trail impassable by our vehicles -- non-Thomson 4x4's -- neither of which would engage in 4-wheel drive. We donned our hiking gear and started our long hike to Big Tree Camp, now 2 miles further than planned. The hike was challenging, made more difficult by a steady rain at the end. But, our guide Isak quickly arranged soup and a hot, nourishing meal. The sleeping bags felt snug and toasty warm. back to top
 
19 February, 2010

Team arrived at 10:00PM and had a quick commute to Moshi for a late supper and much-needed sleep. back to top

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