My trick to stave off the altitude-induced morning headache (see Day 5 for details) has worked once again. I feel surprisingly buoyant this morning. Others in the group are not so chipper; their movements are sluggish, they complain of nausea, and have to be forced to eat their breakfast.
We have another clear morning and can see the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro above us once again – which is looking a little nearer and more achievable than yesterday. We can also see down to the plains below; the hot, dry savannah where elephants and lions roam.
Day 6 comprises a relatively short hike to Barafu Hut; you’ll probably reach camp by midday or shortly after.
The main purpose of Day 6 is not the hike, but the passage of another 24 hours above 4,000 metres altitude. Today is all about acclimatisation; it’s all in preparation for tonight’s attempt at the summit.
As for the hiking, it’s mostly a slow, steady trudge across a never-ending, gently rising slope.
The trail is smooth and obstacle free to begin with – and the conversation in our group is essentially non-existent at this point – so I pull a novel out of my daypack and read for awhile as we slowly make our way up the mountain.
Eventually the terrain becomes rocky and I have to put away my novel, but the 30 minutes I spent reading was an unexpected bonus – it kept my mind off the monotonous climbing.
For the past few days we have been passing and re-passing a 69-year-old blind lady who is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for charity. She has two full time assistants to help her with the ascent (she is wearing the blue jacket in the photograph above). How she managed to scale the Wall yesterday is beyond me.
Because she is much slower than everyone else she has had to leave camp early – she sets off in the dark each morning, usually one to two hours before the others – and arrives in camp much later than anyone else – she didn’t make it to Barranco Hut till 9pm, when most people were already asleep.
We can usually tell where she is on the trail by the rounds of applause and cheering she incites wherever she goes. Her tenacity and determination are an inspiration to all, and bring a tear to the eye of many a hiker.
Conditions deteriorate towards midday. It begins to snow shortly after our arrival at Barafu Hut.
Barafu Hut (4,600m)
Barafu Hut (4,600 metres elevation) is base camp. Several trails converge at this point and the campsite is an enormous sprawl of tents. Our guides tell us to go to bed at 3pm.
We’re up again at 6pm for dinner, but back in our sleeping bags by 7pm. Sleep comes surprisingly easily.
The attempt at the summit begins at midnight.