Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 5 Summit of Kilimanjaro

The one word that describes Day 5 is Grueling!
My body was functioning on adrenalin, and high octane power snacks. I was not partaking in any race per se and was going at my own pace with my guide Hussein. Like an extension of my right arm he monitored my every step. From Barafu Hut at 15,091 feet we trekked for roughly 7 hours, eating dinner at 9:30pm and crawling into our tents for a few hours rest before attempting the climb to Stella Point and then the summit at Uhuru Peak to arrive at sunrise.
At 1:00am our guides woke us to start what was going to be the continuation of longest day of my life. The effects of high altitude combined with very little food and even less rest was taking it's toll. Roughly 3 hours into it I got a nose bleed that just wouldn't stop. The head guides were insisting that I turn around NOW and descend to lower ground. They assumed I had the sudden onset of AMS, Altitude Mountain Sickness which can induce very serious acute life threatening symptoms.

Nose bleeds happen with regularity to me at home and the altitude of Red Deer, Alberta in no way compares to Mount Kilimanjaro. I requested they give me some time to treat myself in ways that have worked for me prior to this climb. I proceeded to use snow as an ice pack and within a few minutes I continued on climbing albeit feeling a lot of sinus congestion. Any sunscreen that I had applied had long but disappeared and the reflecting glare from the glaciers and snow burned my nose like a flaming marshmallow had landed on it. Reminding me of campfires from years past.

Accompanying the disorientation caused by sleep deprivation, poor coordination and fatigue I would take 5 steps then rest for 5 seconds, take another 5 steps and so on.............. I'd come up to others also suffering, many having to stop and vomit from high altitude effects. At one point a stabbing pain was throttling my shoulder blade and my heart felt like it was going to pop my chest wall it was beating so fast. Uh oh! My mind started to gasp!
A group of four pass by me on their way down having already summited. They are focused and determined jocks giving it their max. My buddy Cabel, who is well trained in fitness, confirmed that the muscles in my shoulder were in spasm and felt like ropes intertwined in a hard mass. I was not having a coronary. Whew! Hussein relieved me of my backpack, encouraging my every step as I gimped my way upwards.
Stella Point at 18,815 feet was within reach and from there it was only 2 more hours to summit at Uhuru Peak.
Standing atop "The Roof of Africa" 19,340 feet seemed so surreal it could have been a dream. After taking photos, and in a matter of only a few minutes my toes started to tingle from the lack of oxygen, so a quick descent was necessary. My skiing ability helped me to navigate my way down from the summit skimming atop chunks of shale. I was able to assist someone who was unable to slow down or stop "running" downhill from the summit which resulted in one of the few injuries of our entire climb. A few band aids is all that were needed to patch him up.

Many of the climb team ambled into Millenium High Camp around 7:30 pm more than anxious to have a hot meal and a substantial sleep. However, the porters were still setting up camp when we arrived and putting up the tents. Nourishment did not begin until 9:00pm give or take and I had succumbed to sheer exhaustion. Over a period of twenty-eight hours, I'd only slept for three, and the longest day of my life jetted into no mans'land as my head hit the pillow.

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