Climbing up to Shira Camps One and Two weren’t difficult. While there were several steep sections, the trail and terrain was congenial. Reaching Lava Tower on the other hand was more difficult. The effects of altitude became more pronounced as we ascended above 14,000 feet, The air became increasingly cold and damp and we had to scramble over rough rocky terrain. We had learned about Lava Tower when we watched the IMAX Kilimanjaro DVD back home and it didn’t look quite so daunting in person. I was exhausted and between the freezing drizzle and 15,000 foot altitude I wanted nothing more than to climb into my sleeping bag for the night. This was the most frigid night so far with temperatures dropping well below freezing.
Day five had us trekking down from Lava Tower, climbing up the Barranco Wall and crossing over to Karanga Valley. This was our most strenuous day thus far on the mountain and also the most beautiful. We walked into the clouds and through Senecio flower, lobelia and white mountain flowers. The landscape was like nothing I’d ever seen. At the base of the valley we crossed a stream and Barranco Wall stood looming 1000 feet overhead. We climbed up and over the wall without too much difficulty but it was very fatiguing and we had to cross over to and descend the next valley before our final climb up to Karanga Valley.
The views from Karanga Valley were absolutely stunning. We were above the clouds and through small gaps you could look down upon a town thousands of feet below as if from a plane. Directly across from us breaching the cloud cover was the peak of Mt. Meru.
The following day we ascended to Barafu Hut at 15,000 feet. It was from Barafu early the next morning where we would make our final push to the summit. I was nervous. The highest peak I had previously climbed was 14,050 feet. Was I fit enough? Tough enough? Determined enough? Were we both up to the task of climbing 4,300 feet at altitude in the morning? The only was to find out was to get up and do it.