Friday, February 3, 2012

Kilmanjaro: (Day 3 & 4) Reaching the Summit

Kilimanjaro: Day 3

To start this entry off, I am going to be brutally honest with you:  I miss Steve (and all my loved ones of course).

I realized that this is a very uncharacteristic and girlish thing for me to say, but, I have been away from the Love of My Adventure 3 ½ weeks now and am sitting alone in my tent, reading a book that includes some miserable relationships.  Plus, despite the fact that I am smelly, hairy, and dirty that silly man would still find me attractive.

Okay, enough of that…

Before I go on with today, I want to take a quick step back to last night.

It can be very boring being in a tent by yourself, especially when all you want to do is reach the Roof of Africa.  At one point, I even started to doing Pilates moves in my tent.  Eventually, I ventured out again into the chill for another “call of nature”.  On my way I found the other Umbwe American.  Happy to find someone else who clearly spoke and understood English, we shared our days adventures and quickly resumed our running and athletic conversation from the previous day (He was a decathlete at Auburn).  While this helped pass the time, it was also a long enough time to chill me to the bone.  When I got back to my tent for dinner, my guide chided me and said I needed to stay in my tent to keep warm.  He promised tomorrow would be no worse (I was unconvinced).  Even in my 5 layers, I was cold.  I began to worry. As “tough” as I am, climbing twice as fast as average, cold me a BIG baby.  Soon after dinner I crawled into my sleeping bag and remained in the fetal position for the rest of the night.  Until I had to pee of course…the moon, stars, and planets were quite beautiful.

Speaking of nature’s call…the bathrooms at today’s camp are especially nasty…especially the one I’m next too.  My guide and porters were nice enough to put my tent next to a small cliff for covering, and I can’t smell the fumes from inside my tent, but “whew!” when I venture out.  I’ve opted to use the farther bathroom.

Today I unzipped my sleeping bag at 6:20.  Shortly thereafter, my very nice porter/waiter (Mwenga) alerted me that the mountain was clear and insisted in taking my picture.

Again, I was ready to go too early and patiently awaited breakfast reading and shivering in my tent.  Again, they gave way too much food.  I took coffee, toast I slathered with PB&J, a small banana and a slice of avocado, which left another piece of toast, and egg, hot dog, and a large piece of an avocado.  My guide told me I didn’t eat a lot…do I look like I’m 215 lbs?  Maybe with all my layers.

With the sun shining, we finally started the day’s hike.  Dhahri told me today would be a much more gradual climb, which it was, after we got done scaling the side of a cliff.  It was a blast (despite still feeling slightly disoriented), and we passed everyone in front of us. A few times I did have to remind D that I had short legs.  Once in awhile D paused to speak with another guide, always inquiring about each other’s climb.  He always had a slight smile as he mentioned Umbwe and our ascent plan.  Soon, it was only us and the miraculous porters (who, in my head, began to refer to as demi-gods).  By the end of the section, I was able to remove 3 layers. 

Awaiting us next, to my surprise, was a “gentle” downhill path.  I wondered if my legs even remembered how to walk downhill. After a few steps, my legs caught on and we relaxed into an easy stroll until we had to use some caution on slippery spots of melted snow. 

Right before Karanga Base Camp, there was another climb, with 2 options.  One was more gradual with several switchbacks and a line of porters.  The other was steeper and I only saw two porters.  In a few moments I quickly considered my options and decided to continue on the steeper route as we had done from day 1.  We were the first client and guide to reach camp, in less than 2 hrs.  Luckily, our plan was to skip this camp.  After a half hour intermission, giving our porters enough time to catch up (they left after to finish cleaning up camp) and me enough time to get cold, we continued uphill to Barafu Camp.

Now this was actually a gradual (compared to the last 2 days) uphill.  However, “pole pole” was just fine with me.  We were now at an elevation where there was no vegetation except for moss, a few short weeds, and “forever” flowers (okay, that  might not be the technical name, but it’s something like that).  Everything else was rocks (and some litter…err) though still beautiful in its own way, especially when the clouds intermixed with our footsteps.

For the first time, I actually started to get a bit tired and sleepy.  My stomach was also rumbling.  I took this as a good sign, that I was working hard, and maybe I’d get some sleep that night.  At a short stop for water and a bathroom break behind a rock, I told D that the only reason that I might be a bit jealous of men is because it must be way easier to go to the bathroom there.

We made it to camp by 12:45, signed in, took some pics, politely sipped the very sugary coke handed to me, listened to some black-eyed peas, and awaited the rest of our troop.  These poor blokes were tired, and with good reason.  I told our chef, who is not much bigger than me, “pole sana!” (I’m very sorry).  D told me they are happy this is only 4 days, but I know this is still quite a bit more aggressive that what they are used too.

Once in the privacy of my tent, I decided to “freshen up”.  I changed my socks, underwear, and sports bra, used some deodorant, and cleaned my hairy legs with hand-sanitizer and lotion (I had already brushed my teeth as my tent was being put up).  I then put back on all the dirty base layers I had hike in that day.  To get even cleaner, I brushed my hair and applied rinse-less shampoo to my frizzy and pony-tail indented locks. “Ahhh, it’s good to be clean!”  I was then presented with another much too fancy lunch of watermelon and oranges, a chicken leg, a warm coleslaw type dish, and fresh French fries (they looked good, so I ate a few), and some sugary Tang-like drink.

Since then, I have basically read another few chapters, ventured out to the far bathroom a few times (fresh feeling gone) and am “patiently” awaiting tomorrow’s summit plans.  I would have been eager to go now if it was not so cloudy.  I even have all my cold gear lined up and ready to go.  Until then, the rest of the day will be reading and possibly finishing my book, dinner, bathroom trips, and trying to stay warm (so far I am succeeding).

Until tomorrow… After my final ascent and complete decent!

Rach J

(It was also on today’s hike I finally accepted my non-traditional path my life is supposed to take.  Before, even knowing this was wrong, I felt guilty not having aspirations to work a 9-5 jobs plus overtime, the norm of our society.  But that was, to me, not living life as an adventure.  Sure, it is a life-style for many, and it might work just fine for most people, but that is not what my life is supposed to be.  After this trip, I’m not exactly sure where my life will take me.  What I do know is that it will be a wonderful and beautiful Adventure.) 

Kilimanjaro: Reaching the Summit, Day 4

I’m still slightly upset about the monkeys.  I only kind of saw the back of one, through the trees.

Oh, and I MADE IT TO THE SUMMIT!  I was on the “Roof of Africa” at 5,895m…for about 1 minute before I said lets had back down before I freeze to death.

Rewind, back to the beginning. 
I got about 1hr of sleep.  Not because I was cold, but partially because wake-up time was 11:30 p.m. and it was too early for me to sleep much, partially because I think I was allergic to the sleeping bag or sick with a stuffy nose and sore throat, and partially, well mainly, because I was too excited about summiting my first mountain (the ones in San Diego do not count).

Then I realized that my first summit would be one of “The 7 Summits”.  To most people, this was probably not the brightest thing to do.  But hey, I am a Nypaver twin, and somehow, it works out.  (Go back to June 2010 when Sandi runs her fist trail and ultra race, Mohican 100, and well, you know the rest.)

So like a kid waiting for Santa, I waited for my wake-up call.  When it finally came, I was basically ready, having slept in most of my base layers.  I simply added toe warmers to my 2 pairs of regular socks and 2 pairs of Smartwools, put on my oversized rented hiking boots and XL women’s winter jacket that could fit 2 of me, and secured my headlamp. But of course, I “had” to have something warm to drink first and a snack, so they brought me cookies and hot water.  I opted for a Powerbar instead of cookies, and made a way too strong cup of coffee (neither of which settled well).

By 12:00 am, we were off.  Already we could see a trail of hikers going up.  D predicted this would take us 6hrs, our longest hike yet.  The first part of the trail involved us scaling up large, sloping rocks.  I walked on top of them like a newborn calf.  Then came a path of deep crushed rock, with some much bigger rocks to climb over.  Soon my oversized jacket became much too warm and in the way, so I gave it to D.  He took off his thinner windbreaker to stuff in my pack (which we were meant to take turns with) and he put on my jacket, which fit him well.  He also stuffed my super warm gloves in his pockets that I didn’t need quite yet. 

Of course we passed everyone in front of us, and I clumsily followed D, sniffling and trying to stop the waterfall coming out of my nose.  Then the wind picked up.  It really picked up, as in it was nearly knocking me sideways.  If I had an umbrella, I could have Mary Poppinsed my way down to Moshi.  I was glad I was carrying the pack for extra weight. 

With the wind came the cold.  I figured I could wait 10 more minutes before and find the cover of rock before switching jackets back.  This never happened.  I ended up tucking my chin and mouth into my jacket, barely looking up, which was good because for the first time, the top of the mountain seemed distant.  With my numbing hands and feet, doubt also crept in.  There was a chance I could freeze before reaching Uhuru peak, and my footfalls were already wobbly.  I tried to remain positive, I knew I could make it, but this was hard.

Nearer to the top, D noticing my much less enthused responses, helped me put on his windbreaker and threw hand warmers in my gloves. This helped a little, but I couldn’t help but think how foolish I was not to take back my coat and gloves.  Now all I could do was keep moving.

After an eternity of walking, okay, maybe less than 5 hrs, we reached Stella Peak.  I gave D a big hug, full of relief.  He then informed me the Uhuru Peak was still a bit away. 

As we walked towards the highest point on the mountain, we passed the crater.  It was full of snow.  Some people sleep there. Crazy.  I wouldn’t do it if someone paid me a million dollars.  I’d be dead anyway.

Still, looking back, I wish I could’ve gotten a picture.

Another eternity later (15-20 minutes), we finally saw the sign for Uhuru Peak.  I gave D another hug, climbed to the sign, and waited to get a quick picture of me at the highest point in Africa.  Unfortunately, D couldn’t get the flash to work.  In my sleep deprived, oxygen deprived, frozen drunken-like stupor, I couldn’t help him.  All I have for proof that I had reached the summit is a dark, blurry picture of me bundled up next to the barely visible sign, plus a certificate.  I knew my body couldn’t handle much more abuse, I had pushed it all the way up, and I told D it was time to go back down.

Looking back, I really wish I had more pictures and had seen sunrise, but then would I be writing this from a hospital bed now?  It took me the rest of the morning to convince myself that I did not cheat.  I, Rachel Nypaver, had reached the “Roof of Africa”, via Umbwe, on my 4th day!

On the way down we passed quite a few people still going up, murmuring “have they already reached the summit?” probably more so wondering why we didn’t stay for sunrise than impressed.  But yes, we had been the first to summit that day. 

I was then blessed with a beautiful sunrise, as me and D gleefully “skied” our way down back to our tents.

The next part of the game plan involved 2 hrs rest, breakfast, and a quick decent down the mountain.  I got 1 hrs sleep and began to clean up my things.

Before I even finished eating breakfast, D was at my tent ready to “rock-n-roll”.  Knowing I was a runner, my guide and porters planned to go fast…I foolishly thought running was even a possibility, which is not, unless you’re a superhuman porter.  Forgetting D had done this, the Mweka Route, a thousand times, I decided I could keep up with him as he flew over the rocks.  I could not.  I stepped on a rock on top of a rock, which I knew was unsteady, and took a nice fall on my left side.  I was lucky no ribs were broken.  Lesson learned.

The further down we went, the hotter it got and vegetation grew.  Before I knew it, I was sweating in the jungle (where I kind of saw the monkey).  In 1 day, just 4 hrs, we had passed through 5 eco zones!  Way before we finished the final finish line (or huts), my quads were talking to me, now they were screaming and nearly popping out of my thighs.  I was tired and happily satisfied with my journey, although it was hard to believe I was already done.  It seemed like just an hour ago I was taking my first steps uphill.

After stopping at the Bushmen house, tipping my guide and porters, I shocked everyone at the CCS house (who worked there or was an old volunteer) with my presence. I was not supposed to get back until Thursday. I briefly but enthusiastically talked to my friends about the climb, but I was longing for a shower, bed, and contact with my loved ones at home.  However, before I could Baba Flugence told me my extra days were not part of the CCS program (which is understandable).  Now, I had already been planning on staying a day or 2 in Marangu to run and explore, but now it was not just an option.  It was find a hotel or pay more to CCS.

I am a big girl.  I’ve just stayed in Africa for 3 ½ weeks by myself (albeit with friends, actually a family of friends) and I just climbed a mountain…but this is still a bit of a worry.

But that’s okay.  Like always, I will figure it out.  It is all part of the Adventure.

Safari Njema.

***Note: Yes, everything did work out just fine.

1 comment:

  1. Smelly, hairy, and dirty. I will always find you attractive and will always love you =)