We left Barafu Hut just before sunrise. A steep use trail wound up the scree and talus to the crater rim. As the sky lightened we could see the trail blending into the mountain above us and Tanzania stretching out beneath us. The hours passed quietly as we worked our way up the slope. Tanzanian guides usually aren’t in a hurry, they are often reminding us to go pole` pole` that is “slowly slowly”. About half way to the crater rim we were passed by a large group of climbers moving hard and fast.
Climbing any mountain is a strenuous activity. Climbing a mountain that demands you acclimate and hydrate to avoid cerebral and pulmonary edema and altitude sickness is a dangerous activity. We were encouraged to climb pole` pole` for our safety, to minimize the possibility of altitude sickness and to have a good time. Christy chatted with the people in the faster group a bit before they disappeared up the hill. They were about our age and from various places around the United States; Oregon, Georgia and Washington State. They were also planning on spending the night in the crater. We didn’t see them again until we were about 100 yards below the crater rim. The whole group of them were sitting huddled together obviously tired, eating and drinking. As we passed by several of them asked us to stop and join them for lunch and declining we wished them well and continued on our journey to the top.
Frigid air blew gusts of fine volcanic dust into our faces as we crested the crater rim. Before us lay the expansive crown of Kilimanjaro and to our left up and around the rim was Uhuru Peak. We paused for a few minutes against the rocks of Stella Point for a quick snack and some water then began the final leg of our upward trek. We reached the peak on October 6, 2007 at 1:30 PM, took a few celebratory photographs and paused to enjoy the views. We still had to descend the inner rim to the crater floor and our camp. Nobody in Africa was higher than us that night!
Although we acclimated the air was thin at Crater Camp and we moved slowly and carefully. The snows of Kilimanjaro extended outward from the front flaps of our tent. We watched the shadows cross the crater floor and the color of the light change from clear brilliant white to gold to utter darkness to be pierced by the hosts of heaven, the moon and stars. Inside the tent was no escape from the bitter dry cold. Water vapor from our breath formed a delicate layer of frost on the inside of the tent which came down as a little snow fall when you bushed up against it. In the euphoria from our climb and being a bit loopy from the altitude, Christy made up a little rhyme “my little snow storm” which we chanted until our faces hurt with laughter.
The “fast” group we had met earlier and passed as they sat eating and hydrating never made it to the summit. Their crew had to pack up their crater camp site and trek back to Barafu for the night.