February 17, 2016

On The Trail: KILI Day 2

Mti Mkubwa Camp (9,023ft)

The nighttime weather was comfortable, we were sleeping at 9,023 feet and never really felt cold. The sleeping bags and pads Climb Kili provided were good but I was glad I brought my self inflating mattress pad for extra comfort. We woke up at 6:30am with a porter at our tent with the offerings of tea or coffee. This was an every morning occurrence and a welcomed one. A perfect way to start the morning.


Shhh, everyone is sleeping. Coffee selfie.

As coffee was being served, the camera crew set up time lapses or gather footage of the hikers waking up and taking in the unfamiliar surroundings.  I grabbed a few interviews. Our camp was in the rain forest and the setting was perfect, complete with a seat for our subjects to be interviewed.

First Camp. Perfect limb to sit on for interviews.

Perfect limb to sit on for interviews with Mti Mkubwa Camp behind us. The large tent was where we had our meals.

One challenge as a camera crew was collecting footage and interviews while still packing up camp (rolling up sleeping bags, packing clothes) and our gear, having breakfast, refilling our water bottles and camelbacks, and leaving on time with the group. Carrington (my tent mate) would begin packing up his side of the tent while I shot footage then we switched off. It doesn’t sound difficult but this was a fast moving machine. Time was of the essence and I had to determine what gear would travel with us (rain gear for me and cameras, batteries, tripod) and what would be advanced to our next camp. I knew things would get easier as the trip went on, this was only morning 2 of 8.

Breakfast was served in the large tent. During breakfast, porters filled our water bottles and camelbacks. Before entering the tent, a porter was there to provide soap and hot water to wash up before eating. Porridge (I added honey), eggs, fruit and toast was the normal breakfast. It was hearty enough to fill me up but I never felt weighed down. Being our first morning, there was one common theme being discussed:

There can be many side effects from taking Acetazolomide (for altitude sickness prevention).

They kind of read like one of those pharmaceutical commercials:

Side effects may include: change in taste, confusion, diarrhea, drowsiness, increase in amount or frequency of urination, loss of appetite, nausea, ringing in the ears, tingling or pins and needles in hands or feet, vomiting.

I experienced some tingling in my hands throughout the first day but after the first night in camp, we all realized the one side effect that interrupted our sleep. “Increase in amount or frequency of urination” was a a common discussion at the breakfast table. I know, great breakfast discussion right?

What did I pack in my back pack?

Think of this as packing for a flight.. one bag would go head with the porter (as if it was checked luggage, not be seen until your destination, next camp) and your backpack is like your carry on.

I put anything I might need randomly in my outside pockets. It’s much easier to ask someone to grab an item from the pack rather than stopping, taking it off, putting it on the ground and back on.

Outside pocket #1: Snacks, (EnduroBites, Clif Bar Bloks and M&Ms). As far as snacks go, you don’t want to be trying something you aren’t familiar with. On a mountain in Africa is not the time to see if your body can tolerate new food experiences.

Outside pocket #2: Small toiletry kit that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, body wipes, small scissors and nail clippers. Also any medication I might need on the trail (Immodium, cipro, aspirin). It didn’t make sense to bring medication and not have it with me during the hike. Bottle of Deet (in a plastic bag) and sunscreen.

Top external pocket: I decided this small pocket would be my “light” pocket. It held my flashlight and headlamp (yes, it stayed with me the rest of the trip), extra headlamp batteries, a knife, and a multitool.

Inside pocket: Rain jacket, rain pants, garbage bags (in case I needed to cover anything and everything in a downpour), trekking hat (that is also waterproof),  top layer, camera batteries and memory cards (in a sealed plastic bag).

I used an S carabiner to attach my 32oz water bottle to the pack, but it had to be moved inside because the momentum of my steps made it crash against the pack which became annoying pretty quickly.

It was important to be consistent with where everything was packed. This made it easier to recall where things were without digging through my whole bag. Plus if you ask the same person to grab a much needed snack out of your pack, they are familiar with where it was.

The tent was packed up, sleeping bag rolled up, equipment and clothes divvied up. My backpack and camera bag were set aside while my clothes bag was once again put in a pile in the middle of camp with everyone else’s belongings.


The Cloud Walkers and our head guide, Emanuel. Leaving Camp 1.

Day 2. From Mti Mkubwa Camp (9,023ft) to Shira 1 Camp (12,200ft). Elevation gain: 3,177ft.

We left camp with our bellies full, as we walked past the ranger’s station, we had to smile as we watched a monkey running around the grounds. This gave us a last glimpse of wildlife for a while.

We were still in Deet territory, walking thru cover of lush green trees. I wore a shirt with a light fleece. The weather went between comfortable and warm. We had a gradual climb for most of the day and then really began gaining elevation.

Elevation climb and lush surroundings.

Elevation climb and lush surroundings.

It didn’t take long at all. The vegetation went from lush and treelined to brown with only splashes of green. Since we weren’t under tree cover any longer, it was important to sunscreen up (don’t forget to reapply). It may seem pedestrian but in these situation, ears, nose and back of the hands are most susceptible to getting burned. Also the wind picked up, so keeping lips from chapping/burning was important, too.


Elevation in the desert plateau.

The trail left the forest and we followed the Shira Ridge into the high altitude desert plateau. Feels like we could see forever. This was the part of the hike where I was reminded to look around. Sometimes the best views are sometimes behind you.

Above the tree line, this was our view when we turned around.

Patrick, one of the hikers was experiencing trouble with the elevation. His pace  slowed down to allow him to rest. After lunch, there was a decision made for the group to split into two. I went with the first (faster paced) group. We were supplied walkie talkies to keep in contact. The walkies were used more for ribbing between the two “teams.” It actually provided some fun back and forth.

There was a point above the tree line as we took in the vista that provided a cell signal. Many of the hikers reached out to their loved ones, or left a message (because of the 8 hour time difference). It was December 31st and would be the last time they would speak to their loved ones in 2015. One of the best moments was when Rick, a driving force on the support staff, handed his phone off to our guide Emanuel to speak with his wife. Rick’s wife said she would come to Kilimanjaro if Emanuel would carry her up the mountain.  I could tell they were happy to connect, so far away but so close.

We continued along the ridge taking in the sights, it felt far from Africa. You could have told me we were in Utah or Wyoming. The sights were vast as the clouds surrounded us. It was still comfortable outside even with cloud cover. We looked over and finally saw a peek of the peak. It was our first chance to see Kilimanjaro during the hike.


There’s a Kilimanjaro behind those clouds, I promise.

Once again, the excitement of seeing the mountain (as we had the first night when we arrived) fueled us. We powered on led by the pace setter Cory.


Cory, leading the faster paced team towards camp.

As we arrived to Shira 1 Camp, the clouds parted, the sun was setting and provided a legitimate look at the mountain.  This hike was estimated between 5-6 hours on the tour company’s website. It took our faster paced group 8 hours (9am to 5pm).


First full sight of the mountain from Shira 1 Camp.


Ian, Kevin, Rick, Cory, George and Justin at Shira 1 Camp waiting on the second group.


Sky on fire as the sunsets on Mt. Kilimanjaro.


Pana selfie!

I ran around the campsite grabbing shots and pictures, a few time lapses. Our camp was right next to a river bed. Just a pretty camp site (it was one of my favorite camps of the trip). We all settled into camp, unpacked our gear at our tents. I looked forward to putting on my sneakers after a day on the trail just to give my feet a change of scenery.

The second group landed into camp as the sun was setting. They were about 45 minutes behind. We cleaned up and hit the mess tent for dinner. For the most part, we always had soup during either lunch or dinner or both. It became a game “guess the soup”. We all enjoyed the soup and usually had a second bowl. Dinner then was a protein and a starch. Straight forward but delicious (definitely far from our initial meal at the Londorossi Gate mentioned in the Day 1 blog).

It was dark, dinner was winding down and the medical staff started to examine Patrick’s condition. Through tests, oxygen level and heart rate monitoring, he wasn’t doing too well. A concern was the increase in altitude. We were at only at 12,200 feet and had 7,000 more feet to go to the summit. After consideration for his safety and the group’s pace, Patrick had to be brought off the mountain and back to a safe altitude (the hotel altitude was at 5,000ft) . This was no easy task. The nearest road to get to transportation was a 45 minute “flat” trail. Mona (our leader) told Emanuel (our guide) of the dire situation and he summoned about 15 of his guys (porters) for the task. At 9pm, they covered Patrick, strapped him to a bench and carried him to off to the “ambulance”. Karwin (our doctor on the hike) and Rick (Medic and Chief Motivator) went with the porters in case they were needed. Round trip took about two hours. Rick told the hikers back at camp that the trek was anything but a “flat” trail. It was extremely hilly and through water. These porters went above and beyond their job description. It was incredible to see these guys step up like that.

We all went to bed knowing that we would wake up with one less hiker in our pack. We also witnessed that the threat of altitude is real.

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  • keep writing!

  • This is just amazing Jeff! So glad you are sharing your story!
    Hope all is well with Patrick…


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