Thursday 16 August

(magnify) Leaving Karanga Camp

Last night wasn’t as cold as the previous and I slept well. We also had a later start this morning, which helped. When I got up (only once!) to go to the loo in the middle of the night the mist had cleared and I could clearly see loads of little lights below. In one place there were many lights – Moshi! It was quite a magical sight really.

I think I more-or-less slept through, but could gladly have got up from the hard bed a little earlier than 7 am when bed tea finally arrives.

The camp is a hive of activity and porter FM radio drifts across the air. I’m not hungry enough to eat a big breakfast and the porridge is like water this morning. I suspect that as well as hot chocolate, they are also running out of powdered milk.

Nessie hitching a ride

We climb straight up from the campsite. There’s not a lot to say about the morning’s walking to Barafu. We are in the high altitude desert now, rock and scree, and occasionally shattered slate. The sky is mostly overcast and the odd flake of snow drifts down. We go slowly. When after an hour I look back we seem hardly to have covered any distance at all from the campsite. Far below, the African plain is just discernible through the haze.

(magnify) Approaching Barafu

We reach Barafu at about midday (4600 m). We pass by a couple of groups of tents on the lower slope, then weave around large rocks as we climb further up through the campsite. There are tents perched impossibly on any available space. We squeeze past a mess tent sandwiched in a chasm where there is a very bad toilet smell. It is not our tent I am relieved to note.

Emerge on the far side of a shoulder to see our tents pitched amongst the boulders and scree. It is quite amazing that they are pitched at all, and absolutely dumbfounding that inside it is flat and almost level.

(magnify) Barafu Camp

Each night the campsite has become progressively more rocky and precarious. This is definitely the worst! It is basically a huge hill of shale with loads of camps dotted around. (Very busy site due to being one of two ways to approach Kilimanjaro for the summit climb.) It is a credit to the skill of the porters how they manage to pitch the tents in a flat(ish) rock-free(ish) area when there are rocks everywhere!

We eat a hungry lunch of vegetable pasta and soup. It is time for our summit briefing. All are now quite apprehensive. It is getting very close. (Noel has only just registered that it is tonight.) We’ll be going to bed very early, to wake again at eleven and then get walking at half-past.

(magnify) Late afternoon in Barafu Camp

Outside there is steady snow falling. The light is dull and cold. I retire to my tent to read. I’m cold and every movement is a bit of an effort. I just want to get on with it now.

I’ve got nearly everything sorted. Spent over half an hour experimenting with how to insulate my platypus hose. Finally got it sorted inside a pair of short long johns that I’ll not be wearing! Quite ingenious I thought. Tonight I’ll be wearing three layers on legs, eight on top! Not including two socks, two hats, two gloves. I hope I won’t be cold!

I’ve decided to stop taking Diamox after only two tablets. The main reason I started taking them was for the breathing and as that hasn’t improved and a whole host of other things have worsened I don’t think they’ll benefit me. So now Ian and I will be the only ones not taking it.

I’m pretty concerned about the night ahead and the numbness and tingling in my face (from the Diamox) is annoying. I’d dearly love to reach the top as I have survived thus far but at the same time I’m unsure how realistic that is. In this time twenty-four hours it will all have been revealed. I’m going to try to get some rest now.

Dinner is at five – Juma’s special “Summit Goulash.” Except that with potatoes, RS insists that it is a stew, not a goulash. We play a couple of rounds of Uno, then retire to bed to try to get whatever sleep we can.