Tuesday 14 August

Rachel, Rachel, and Ian

Not such a good night. My threatening tummy forces me out of bed at around 3 am, and my sleep is quite broken.

We leave the campsite on a fairly steep climb up onto the first ridge. Looking back I see the last of the camp equipment being packed and a line of porters snaking their way up behind us. It is not long before we are overtaken.

Crossing onto the next ridge we converge with a group doing the Lomosho route, also with ATR and the Africa Walking Company. Their itinerary is one day shorter than ours; they began their trek the day after us on Sunday and will therefore be summitting on the same morning as us. We hope to see them and wish them luck.

(magnify) Moir Hut to Lava Tower

The landscape becomes progressively more dramatic. Kibo is now directly in our sights. Behind and below is the Shira plateau and the remnants of the Shira crater rim. Beyond that is nothing but a sea of cloud.

We reach the junction and campsite where the Baranco trail forks off to the right. A lone rickety dome tent flaps forlornly in the wind.

It is actually not much further to Lava Tower Camp (4600 m), a narrow saddle between a wall of broken rocks and a tall rocky outcrop. Unfortunately this makes it a bit of a wind-tunnel. We eat a cooked lunch and then take a siesta. I’m feeling quite tired now as the altitude and cold are really starting to make their presence felt.

(magnify) Lava Tower Camp

The walk was long and hard and I’m quite shattered now. During the walk my head started hurting a bit everywhere. Poor Rachel really is struggling – she had the runs yesterday, a continuous pounding headache, and feels a bit sick. Breathing is my main struggle.

Later in the afternoon we walk to Arrow Glacier Camp at 4800 m to help our acclimatisation. This is where the Western Breach route takes off from. But for the last eighteen months the route has been closed due to a serious rock fall that killed three climbers.

(magnify) The abandoned camp at Arrow Glacier

The walking is rather harder than I expected. Lose scree underfoot means that for each step forward I seem to slide nearly as far back again, and in order to reach the camp we must first descend before climbing back up again. RL reaches her limit, her headache causing her great difficulties, and returns to Lava Tower, and RS decides to go back with her.

Returning to Lava Tower Camp

Finally we emerge at Arrow Glacier Camp. It is a scene of desolation. The toilet huts have been overturned and smashed by the wind. The whole area is rubble-strewn and orange-coloured cliffs rear up in front of us. There are patches of snow, and the bottom of the glacier just extends down to our level, though out of reach on the other side of a steep scree slope. We can see where the Western Breach route begins and it does indeed look treacherous, but Uhuru peak above appears for the first time almost within reach.

It is cold and windy back at the camp. I break out my down jacket for the first time but I’m still cold eating my dinner. That night I just can’t seem to get warm and I end up wearing my down jacked inside my sleeping bag.