Journey To The Top
Part two of My Journey!
By: Marcy Predmore
We left off up climbing at Karangu camp, altitude 4250 m (13,944 ft). It’s important to acclimatize to prepare for the summit.
Kristi and I are both feeling good, we come back to camp and Niko, our server has our hot water for cleaning. This was a funny story too. From day one we are paying attention to our hygiene but using wet wipes, and cleaning products we brought from home. So we turned down the bar soap that was offered us at the beginning of the trip. The guys could not figure out why we didn’t need soap.
So we settle into the dinning tent and have a hot meal prepared by Faustin. Andrew comes in to do our health check and he was very direct and to the point…”Have you been washing?” I think they all thought we had chosen not to wash ourselves for seven days!)
Our oxygen levels where good, mine had dropped below 90, but I had no breathing issues.
There is a lot of anxious emotions going on so we decide to call it a night and retire to our tent. This camp is spread out and on an incline due to being on the side of the mountain. So instead of fighting the wind, smell…we have a wonderful “rock” right behind our tent. It’s amazing what you are thankful for!
We are up at 6:00, and preparing for day 5, and summit night. We hike through moorlands today, it was one of my favorite days! We gain 600 m (1968 ft).
We reach Barafu, base camp around 12:30. This camp is extremely busy, tents and people everywhere. We sign in at the ranger’s station. We get to our camp, and because the terrain is so rocky, and wind is so strong we don’t have a dining tent here, so we share the cook tent with the guys, (actually we liked this a lot better, it was fun spending time with all of them). Our iPhones were a hit, we showed the pictures of our families, and our lives back home…they were very intrigued. I also had a video of elk in my yard and they could not watch it enough! We also showed them the Estes Park News, and again they looked at it cover to cover. There were very interested in how we live.
OK…it’s time to try to rest before the summit. Before we settle down, we both prepare our gear, I put everything in my sleeping bag with me so it will be warm. We settle into our bags and try to relax. Niko will get us up at 10 p.m. to prepare.
It’s a scramble at 10:00, both of us are “off,” scared, anxious and excited all rolled up into one! The wind is beyond description at this point, you can hardly stand up.
We get on the trail somewhere around 11:30, again much confusion.
Kristi’s sick with stomach problems. It soon becomes apparent that she is not going to be able to continue up. She’s very disappointed, as am I. We had planned on doing this together but had also agreed that if one of us had difficulties the other would continue.
So I continue on with Andrew, it’s now just the two of us. It’s so dark, windy, and cold…we come to a wall, there is a woman having a panic attack. So my heart rate accelerated rapidly! We begin to climb, I’m out of breath and can’t seem to calm myself…I realize after leaving Kristi I forgot to take my Diomox, but I’m afraid to tell Andrew for fear he’ll make me turn back. Remember, when a summit is in my sight its so hard to turn back! We make it to the top of the wall and there is another women violently ill, and being carried down by two porters. Again I can’t breathe due to anxiety, Andrew looks me in the face, because you could not hear each other due to the wind…he tells me I have done the hard part, and I’m OK. It’s so strange but the only thing I could think was to sing…”Jesus Loves Me,” my granddaughter and I have been singing this a lot lately. I also felt His presence and assurance!
Now only six hours to go…can I do this? We begin to pick up speed and momentum and as we pass a group of 14 climbers, I’m finding my groove, it feels so good! I have an insulated water hose, but only about one hour into the hike it froze…yes it was a bit cold! I look up and there are four head lamps straight above me, I can remember telling myself wow…I’m going straight up! How much longer….pole-pole!
We are at about 18,000 ft, and it’s so cold Andrew’s headlamp starts to flicker and dim, I can tell he has lost the trail. I think to myself, I’m on the side of a mountain with one person, if something happens to him what will I do? He says it’s too cold for his batteries so we change them out, we only make it a couple of steps and his light dims again…he says he can make it like it is, I have to trust him at this point!
We stop for a water and breathing break. I turn around and it is the most spectacular crest of a moon that I have ever seen! It made me think of my Dad, it’s the closest I’ll be to heaven until I get there. What a “gift” this was! We start again and crest the mountain, and can see the city lights of Arusha, Moshi, and the Kilimanjaro airport. It seems so close but yet so far. I can’t comprehend the altitude. Again I think of home and some of my other hikes to compare. I have to say I thought Estes Park wind was bad, Kilimanjaro can top it!
We make it to Stella Point at 5:05, Andrew is impressed and that makes me feel great, and gives me the adrenaline and confidence I need to get me to the summit! There is a gentleman at Stella that is not doing well, and it hits me this just isn’t any old hike. We set out, still no light, but I hear yelling in the distance my heart races with excitement, we are truly almost there!
We make Uhuru peak at 6:00! I am so excited, I just want to cry but Andrew reminds me my tears will freeze! Uhuru means “freedom” the Tanzanian people were liberated in 1961. I feel a freedom in my spirit that can’t be described. My heart is bursting with Thanksgiving! I have really summitted Mount Kilimanjaro!! You have to fight for a chance to get your photo with the sign, so we muscle our way in!
I have so much I want to do up there, photos, record messages, bury my insecurities, but it is so very cold, and windy. As I take pictures my hands are so cold they turn to rocks in seconds. I can not catch my breath due to the winds being so strong. Andrew has to hold onto me so I can stand up. Then I get my Rotary hat out and hang on so we can get photos, it makes me think of our Interact kids and representing them and my Rotary family on the top of Africa! We then wrestle the EP News out of my pack…I get to share my community from the summit! I also had my Ed’s Cantina shirt on but it’s a little too cold to unzip my jacket and take photos with a short sleeve shirt!
The view from the top is beyond description! I can’t quit smiling and saying “Thank You!” We get as many photos and videos as possible, I want to remember every second!
After 20 minutes or so, we are headed back down. We make it to Stella Point and the sun is out and it’s warming up. As we prepare to descend, we see so many hikers really struggling. They look pale and out of it but they continue up. I am being very cautious and slow, Andrew says “Hold on to me,” as he takes a trek pole and I take a trek pole, and we run and glaceed through at least a foot of ash and rock for about two miles…I would hike up this mountain any day if I didn’t have to come down. I have never been so scared…everyone is running down! There is no pole-pole going on.
We make it to upper base camp and run into a crew of rescuers. They tell us it is a very busy rescue day on the mountain and there has been a fatality. It really made me think how blessed I am. I learned later there were over 70 hang glider pilots prepared to take off the summit and many of them had to be rescued, they stayed up there a little too long. (We actually saw a hang glider take off from the mountain as we left Barafu).
Back to Barafu (base camp). My celebration is iced cold Coca Cola on a silver tray with silver glasses, lots of thumbs ups, and hugs all around! I get 1 1/2 hours to rest and pack and we are on the trail again for Mweka camp. The most disappointing thing was I was celebrating too much and did not have my camera out, so there are no photos of the victory celebration, what was I thinking? I wasn’t!
Another amazing occurrence happens…we have been trying to communicate with family for days, with no results. I check my phone and with tears of amazement I get four texts from family and friends that are praying and thinking of us!! What a Godcidence!
I am weary and Kristi still doesn’t feel well but we make it another five hours on the trail. I had no idea how hard the last 24 hours would be, nothing can really prepare you, you just do it! The guys are wanting to continue to feed us. We both are feeling like we cannot eat one more bite of this food. It’s raining slightly at Mweka, so it’s wet and a bit muddy, I’m SO glad we had perfect weather the whole time. We have dinner again for our last night in our home sweet tent!
On our last morning the crew sings for us and gives us a send off. A Kilimanjaro song, and Hakuna Matata song, the crew loved watching the video of themselves the whole way back to Moshi.
Day 7 we are on the trail by 8:30, the buzz on the trail is one of excitement, the porters are running and laughing, they know they are going home. We make it to the last ranger station at about 10:00, we sign out and I have to pinch myself to realize the journey that is behind us! I have to admit the one thing on our minds…is a real bathroom, and a hot shower!
We arrive at Bristol cottages, and what seemed some what primitive to us at the beginning is a welcome site on our return, even the bathroom looks different. We say good bye to the guys, it was very sad! We then clean up and head to the Bryson office to communicate with our family and friends. This was so exciting to share my news! Andrew takes us back to Bristol in a taxi, and he heads for home, my heart is so sad, this is someone who helped me achieve a life changing goal, and I will probably never see him again. We have been communicating weekly since our return home. I am anxious to make a “little” difference in their lives!
We have dinner at the Bristol restaurant, the only thing that sounds good to us is pizza, and of course I have to celebrate with a Kilimanjaro beer! I also decide to have a piece of chocolate cake, which turned out to not be a good idea. Their chocolate cake was a completely rock hard chocolate chip bread with chocolate sauce. I just enjoyed the pizza and beer!
Day 8, 9, and 10 we ventured further into Africa, with our guide Frank. We toured Lake Mynara, Ngoro Ngoro Crater, and Tarangerie Park. It was very anticlimactic for me after a hike on a mountain, but an amazing experience so see their wildlife. The Crater was the highlight. It used to be a mountain taller than Kilimanjaro and then it imploded. It is now a self contained world of it’s own. We stayed at a safari camp that was a paradise in the middle of Africa. We actually had beds, and hot water for showers! Frank our guide was great, there wasn’t a question he couldn’t answer. He has a big heart, when we had food left-over he always made sure the leftover food went to children in need.
Preparing for home. With a 30 plus hour flight ahead of us, we had a quiet day waiting for the last van ride through Moshi to the airport, I didn’t scream on my send off, but Kristi and I both had to grip the arm rests a few times. One last look at Mount Kilimanjaro. My heart is really torn, I am so excited to get home, and share with everyone, but now I have a connection with 10 young men, and a lifetime journey that I have accomplished! Thanks to Andrew and Justo, and eight other young men from Africa. I also have to say a “Thank you” to so many family and friends, I got so much encouragement and prayer support from all of you!
It’s hard to believe we have prepared for almost a year and now, it’s done. My life will forever be changed! It’s actually kind of an empty feeling. So now I just have to add another big adventure to my “dream board.” Stay tuned for the next one!
I will be sharing presentations in the community and would love to share my photos with you!
Thank you for sharing my journey one step at a time From the Top! Marcy