Sunday 12 August

(magnify) Striking camp

I wake once during the night to go to the toilet. The stars are bright and I can also make out Mars, and I see two shooting stars streak past. But overall I have a very sound sleep.

Bed tea is brought round at six. The first light of dawn is yellow-red over the rim of the plateau. A bowl of warm water for washing appears somewhat later after I have finished my tea. Over breakfast we hear of the varying degrees of sleep that were achieved last night, with Orsi probably having fared the worst and me the best.

Giant heather

The morning’s walk takes us across the plateau towards the rim on the south side of the plateau and the ‘Shira Cathedral’. Once more the pace is very, almost agonisingly, slow. It feels hot when the sun is on us, but chilly otherwise. For most of the way we are walking amongst giant heather.

We rest at the bottom of the Cathedral. Wreathes of mist are blowing across the rim. We leave our bags and climb to the cairn at 3700 m. To the south we can see the forested lower flanks of the mountain below us. The other way we catch occasional views back across the plateau through the mist. It’s quite a height gain for two days, not so much from last night’s camp, but from Arusha we have come up more than 2300 m. I’m feeling fine, but RL has a bad headache.

(magnify) On from the cathedral…
(magnify) … towards Shira Hut (Photo: RS)

From the Cathedral it is another two hours to the Shira Hut campsite up a gentle climb to 3840 m. The campsite is less busy than Shira One, rocky but perhaps a little less dusty than last night. There seem to be two other sizable groups sharing it with us. The tinny noise of a transistor radio issues forth from the cook’s tent. Jagged rocks are visible through the swirling mist to the east.

We eat a lunch of soup, bread, and cake, and take an hours siesta. RS has moved into my tent to give RL a bit of space to herself.

(magnify) Above Shira Hut campsite

In the afternoon we take a short walk up the hill a little way towards Kibo. Orsi and Tom stay behind at the camp. As we walk, clouds move across the summit, offering occasional and tantalising glimpses.

After Tosha judges that we have gone far enough we stop next to a large boulder, on top of which we all crowd for a photograph with the cloud-wreathed Kibo behind us. Frank (our summit porter) says that we have reached about 3950 m, and the rock makes another 1 m.

Back at the camp warm washing water is provided and I find a rocky area away from the dust where I can have a better wash than yesterday. All of a sudden I notice that the mountain is finally free of cloud. The sun is lowering in the western sky and the light is just starting to turn orange. There follows a photo frenzy as we all scramble to grab that elusive shot.

Left: (magnify) Shira Hut Campsite
Right: (magnify) View across Shira to the plateau rim
Left: (magnify) Kibo from Shira Hut Campsite
Right: (magnify) Mount Meru emerges from the cloud

As if that were not enough, as the sun disappears behind the Shira mountains, Mount Meru, tinged pink by the setting sun, emerges in the distance through a sea of cloud.

Another delicious dinner. We play cheat and Old Maid afterwards. I discover that Tom is a Mornington Crescent player and we promise to get in a few rounds sometime later. RL’s headache is slightly better. Orsi was sick earlier, but is putting a brave face on things. The rest of us seem to be more or less all right.