Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Kili Day 3: Easy Trails and Roads Not Taken

This was taken on Day 2 but it perfectly captures my desire to leave the dust and unrelenting sun of Shira Camp. We again were the first to leave camp. Leaving first means that as long as one hikes quickly, one can maintain the facade of "first discovery," that one is exploring a mountain "just as the first explorers must have done it." (Snark aside, I actually love that feeling of discovery).

When people ask about climbing Kili, this is a picture that often comes to my mind. Kili is bright, much drier than I expected, and the landscape above treeline feels a bit like I imagine Mars might. 

Things go better when I have protein available. This is not a lesson for the mountains but one for life.

Baraka was a wonderful guide. He knew when to push us, when to hold us back, but most importantly he helped facilitate a wonderful trip for my father, Walker, and I. 

It was on day three that we glimpsed the Western Breach, a route I had briefly considered taking. However, this otherwise fantastic guidebook described The Breach as a dangerous and technical route. Given the costs of this trip and the likelihood we'd never be back, my family and I decided to play it safe. Once on the mountain and with the route in front of us, we felt otherwise. Feeling stronger than we all had expected to feel, the three of us boldly proclaimed that we'd made a big mistake and that we should have "made a go of it." In hindsight, I think we could have crushed the WB but given the information we had before we left, I don't regret our decision to take the route with the highest rate of successful summits.  

The goal for the day was the Lava Tower. At 15,190', this was the highest I'd ever been. We spent 30 minutes eating lunch, avoiding hungry daring mice, and acclimatizing. Walker wanted to climb the tower and although I was definitely feeling the altitude, I wish I had gone up there. Baraka was not keen on us going up the tower. He had his method of getting clients to the top and Walker's zeal seemed to surprise our guide and possibly even make him nervous. I wasn't about to admit that the altitude made me feel a bit weak so I "deferred" to our guide.

Following the "climb high sleep low" rule of climbing, we left Lava Tower and made our way down to Barranco Camp. At this point, the porters who had taken a shortcut passed us at a breakneck pace. It made my knees hurt to see them all but run down the trail. Portering is a young man's endeavor. Shortly before camp we came across the Kili version of the Saguaro Cactus, a giant Groundsel. According to Baraka, it takes groundsels 75 years to grow an arm.

Barranco Camp was wonderful. With my father resting in his tent, and the other tourists and porters somewhat subdued, Walker and I walked to this promontory overlooking the Barranco Valley. We were joined by one of the crew members, a Masai chef acting as our server on this trip (work is harder to find in the low season so sometimes cooks will take a serving job). After a while, the three of us stood in the cold and faced a beautiful sunset down valley.

Day 3: Shira Camp (12,500') to Lava Tower (15,190') to Barranco Camp (13,044'). 6 miles

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