Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shira Camp (3749m) - Barranco Camp (3972m)

Dawn at Shira

Shira Hut Weather Station
It was still pitch dark when my alarm started singing “Brass fever” at 5am and the stars were still shining brightly. By the time I had dressed myself to head out to the toilet the sun was breaking from behind Kibo peak and there was a wonderfully clear dawn sky with Mr Blue Sky and Mr Night fighting for space. With every sleep deprived morning I was constantly surprised at how alert and cheery I’ve was feeling and I want to hope that it was because I was genuinely having such a good time and I couldn’t wait for the next day to start.

The air was a lot colder this morning as there was no clouds to shroud us and even with the sun bearing down strongly we were lined top-to-toe in fleece and down for the first time. We headed to Shira Hut at 7:30am which is a permanently manned hut in case of emergencies and even has its own weather station due to the growing concerns of climate change. Heading onwards and upwards, I could feel the effects of the thinner air as I was starting to get breathless easier and I had to make an effort to take deep breaths every so often, but none of us felt ill as such.

The Lava Tower
We stopped for lunch just before the Lava Tower which was to be out highest  point of the day at 4637m. Not only was I starting to acclimatise to altitude, I was also definitely starting to acclimatise to the toilets as although the long drops weren’t so long anymore, we stopped caring so much. After lunch the weather had turned blisteringly cold, no thanks to the winds that had also developed, and I needed 3 layers for the first time of the trip. When we reached the Lava Tower we weren’t able to climb up the tower itself due to the fact we were now walking inside a very windy cloud which would make climbing along a small ridge somewhat 

The Machame route takes you on a spiral around Kibo crater and Uhuru Peak meaning that the summit is constantly in your sights, like our own personal Goliath looking down at us and laughing.  The walk continued through all forms of tundra landscapes such as ice, snow and scree and the home stretch to camp was a stunning valley lined with indigenous Senecio kilimanjari which were like hairy palm trees that adopted animal like forms.

Is it a Llama? Is it a tree?
The valley took us down to Barranco Camp which was at a mere 3976m, compared to the Lava Tower, but it sits beneath the intimidating Barranco wall which we were to tackle the next morning. After arriving at the camp it was very blissful; from the newly built toilets to the fact it was warm enough to sunbathe (for some). After card games we all gathered for dinner for another great meal before finishing up for the night. No matter how many times I went out of the tent, I still couldn’t get over the nights sky here; the stars were almost bright enough to light up the mountain itself. I can’t imagine how nice it is with a full moon!

Sunbathing at 3976m!

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