Saturday, 17 September 2011

Day 6: Kibo... We're coming

This day would take us to Kibo hut. It lies at 4750 metres above sea level and is known as a godforsaken place. It's a high altitude hut where people's summit attempts are fulfilled or shattered. We were all scared of Kibo and what it could possibly mean for us. The people who were stretchered down from it and the people at Horombo who warned us of it only confirmed our fears but our journey only led us in one direction... to it's front door...

For our climb to Kibo hut, we knew one thing for sure, the group was gonna be slow and so we conjured up a strategy. We would get all our water the night before, pack our gear wear our warmer clothes and so all that would be needed in the morning was breakfast.
However that was easier said then done as a combination of nerves and altitude meant that some of us nibbled a little and others nothing at all. It was going to be a long day.
Ishtiaq being incredibly slow due to his suffering at altitude started a least half an hour before the rest of the group. We all got ready, got in line, I was to set the pace today... "super pole pole" as we coined it. We kept in line and made baby steps onward continuously reminding reach other to drink water. This was a total team effort. After not too long, we passed Ishtiaq. However, the Irish passed us, the aged Japanese passed us, but we plodded on. We got to the saddle area and the weather changed somewhat.

It's more exposed as there is a change in the ecosystem to 'desert' from the savana of the previous day. We put on jackets and hats for the first time and continued to our lunch stop. Walking, drinking, drinking, walking but then suddenly, I sucked on my Camelbak tube and disaster, I was out of water! I had been through three litres in only half a day! Patrick, our chief guide assured us that we could refill at our lunch stop and so I took some water from Harune and Nissar and we continued to our lunch stop.
We were spewed across some rocks this time rather then the usual feeding stations. The place was crawling with mice but otherwise fine. Our cooks brought out soup, then the usual mix of chicken, boiled egg, and banana but this time added a bread and jam sandwich that had been battered and fried; sound crazy? It taste awesome! Some time later Ishtiaq arrived. After having a rest, Patrick came to speak with him. There was little point in him carrying on to Kibo as he would only have to turn around again as his condition was deteriorating. Though he protested or suggested that he be wheeled to Kibo, Patrick insisted on him walking to Horombo. Patrick ushered a porter to take Ishtiaqs duffle back down. It occurred to me that all the other bags were already enroute to Kibo and so Patrick had decided earlier to turn Ishtiaq around. It made sense as conditions only deteriorate at higher altitude and so it was more important to get Ishtiaq to a safe place... Horombo.

We refilled our water, loaded bags and continued to Kibo. The last stretch was tough going. It got steeper and though the hut came into sight a long way back, it never seemed to get any closer. Eventually we stepped foot in the high mountain base they call Kibo hut.

It, as with all the others, is not a single hut but a group of huts. Here there were two and a third was being built. The place was crawling with porters all huddled in various groups hawking the newly arrived climbers. Probably assessing our worth.
We signed in as usual and were shown the only dorm left. Our late arrival meant that the better accommodation has been taken. The hut was simple, very simple. We'd obviously been spoilt at Horombo. End to end lower and higher tier of bunks with not much space for anything else. We set the matresses out and waited for food. In the meantime, we ventured out to visit the famed Kibo toilets.

These toilets are special. We were warned about them but now it was time to experience them. There were five cubicles in all, three for climbers and two for porters. As I stepped in, one thing became immediately apparent: these were litterally the worst smelling toilets ever. I kid you not, I have a tough stomach and I was hurling in there. The cubicle consisted of nothing but an elongated hole in the ground. Once straddling the hole, all thoughts were answered. The toilet block is built over the end of a cliff, looking down, not only can you see your defacation splat on the rocks below, you can also see it join 30 years of climbers faeces... And that's the fun part! What isn't fun is the updraft of air that carries the stench of putrid crap from the cliffs below and it's that wind that gives this toilet block it's famed loathing. The boys made it fun to stand and watch the pitiful faces of people as they exited these torturous loos.

After all that excitement, it was dinner time. Soup and bread followed by spagetti bolognese. We struggled to stomach the food, not because it tasted bad. It was actually delicious, rather it was the altitude and our nerves. Very quickly after, we tucked into bed for a few hours as we were to awake at 11pm for our summit climb. We all seemed in pretty good health. I didnt sleep a wink though. A million thoughts were running through my head all about the climb. It was a long few hours...

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