I can’t begin to imagine the levels of exhaustion that the group must have felt during today’s trek, but the group photo at the summit certainly shows how happy they were to have completed their climb. I love that photo because to me it just encapsulates the pride that Matt felt of their achievement – standing as he was, practically on the topmost rock. Certainly today’s entry seems to give a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘pinnacle of success’. Well done everyone …
Day 20 – 4th August
Today is the day that I have looked forward to and dreaded the most in equal measure.
We got off to a bad start when our leader (Chris) missed his alarm and slept in. Luckily Matt H. had also set an alarm and he dragged Chris out of the fire by waking him up 10 minutes later. Despite the slow start, we scrambled well as a team and soon enough the camp site was a hive of activity as we physically and mentally prepared ourselves for the challenge ahead.
Freezing fingers made heavy work of the daily jam sandwich prep., but Matt H and I bravely buttered away. After a few forced spoonfuls of porridge and a diamox pill for altitude sickness I was good to go. Despite the sub-zero temperature, I set off in only one layer and my wooly hat, following Craig’s advice from yesterday.
We headed up and up, getting slower and slower as the air thinned and the gradient increased.
We stopped early on for a closer look at a chameleon in a tree by the path.
After a couple of hours we reached Jackson’s pool, a small lake at just over 4,000 m.
As the day went on I got more and more fatigued, particularly my shoulders and legs. It was clear that Gav was suffering a lot more than me. A few people, myself included, started to feel a little dizzy from the altitude (the worst was Sam who felt sick and was seeing floating spots).
After about 4.5 hours, we reached a cliff edge with a beautiful view of the caldera, the second longest volcanic crater in the world. From there you could see the peak, although there were two soul crushing false peaks before we finally reached the summit.
Exhaustion momentarily faded into exhilaration as we realised what we had done. Gavan all but collapsed, suffering as he was with exhaustion and altitude. We worked up the energy to stand for some pictures, and then bombed it back down as Sam was displaying worrying symptoms.
We stopped at the edge of the caldera for lunch, and then came back down to Mude. The total time for the journey was 8 hours; 8 hours of pain and suffering for the most part. However it was completely worth it and the joy at the top was intense.
We had little left to give by the time we got back, half the team slept while the other half lounged on some benches by a newly made fire. We stayed this way for several hours. A French traveller made it up from Sasa at some point and we talked a little to him, but mostly we kept to ourselves.
Tomorrow we have to go back up for an hour then cut left and head to Kajui Camp for our final night at altitude.