Summit day. We got up at 11pm the night before, ate some cookies and tea, and
were ready to start up the summit by headlamp at midnight. Only the seven guides
and assistant guides come along on summit day and they stagger themselves between
every few of us in case people start dropping or slowing down. At this point I
was real psyched. There were some stars out and what could be better than
heading up to 19K feet at midnight freezing your ass off? Not much.
The trail started up some sleep slick rock and then leveled off before the
switchbacks began. After that it was switchbacks essentially to the crater rim.
It doesn't matter what's around you cause your world consists of how far your
headlamp can shine and the pair of boots that you're staring at in front of you.
The guides were quite talkative along this portion of the climb, which was nice
cause it really took the breathe out of anyone to say much! I felt like shit
near the beginning but that passed and started getting some vertigo around
18,000ft. There were others who were hallucinating, puking, or just chugging
along while temperature dropped down below zero.
After about 5hrs I heard that we were about 20 minutes from Stella Point on the
crater rim. This definitely gave me a second wind and even a bigger smile! The
horizon was starting to get some morning sun on it and we would get on the
crater rim just as the sun was coming up. Those 20 minutes seemed to last
forever, but once on the crater rim the guides were singing, dancing, and
hugging everyone! Everyone joined in knowing that we only had about an hour to
the true summit. After more celebrating and tea we started around the crater rim
towards the Roof of Africa and to the summit of the largest free-standing volcano
in the world! I felt like I could've jogged it, but probably would've died. The
surrounding glaciers were huge! Instead of tapering off most of them had
enormous vertical headwalls. There were a handful of other folks on the summit
and everyone took their turns taking pictures with the summit sign. It was
After about an hour it was time to head back down to Barafu camp. It only took
2.5hrs to get down but it was nice to see what was around since the sun was out
now. Just as expected though, barren high alpine desert. At one point I was
looking down at a field and these big boulders looked like canvas tents, until
they started moving! Then I thought they were wooley mammoths that the Tuskin
Warriors ride in StarWars and realized I was losing my shit and better keep
going. I got down to that area and it turned out that they were just boulders.
Wow, high altitude and no sleep are better than drugs! It was a big relief to
come over a ridge and see camp below around 9:30am. Some porters were waiting
with orange drink and congrats, before hanging out and starting to pack up. It
was amazing how the air felt so much thicker at 15K than at 19K feet, felt
almost like being at sea level. It was great just kickin' back watching
different groups of people trickle down off the summit and how tired but happy
they were. After everyone got down it was time for lunch and to pack up before
heading down another 6,000ft to Mweka camp. At that point gravity took over and
carried me down the 3hr hike. We went back through all the vegetation zones and
to the edge of the rain forest. This part of the trail was recently re-opened
from repairs and at points it was thick gooey mud, sliding through it was a lot
like practicing tele turns!
Best part is that there is beer at Mweka camp! Oh man did those taste great. We
had a few of them and talked about the days hike. It seemed like it was so long
ago but only less than 12hrs before we were on the summit. After a 10,000ft
descent the day was almost over. Caught a buzz quick and after dinner everyone
crashed. Probably the best sleep for me on the entire climb, it should be after
being awake for close to 40hrs!
Sunrise on the crater rim; Glacier near the crater rim
The Happy Meal; Josephat, me, Steve B.
Big ass glacier headwall