Frosty Sunrise at Barranco
A shower of frost greeted me at dawn's first light. It had gone below freezing during the night, and everything was crunchy. The morning was, as usual, crystal clear. We were in the shade of the Barranco valley, so it was still quite chilly. It is now our third day on the mountain,
By the time breakfast was served, the sun had crept down into our valley and things heated up dramatically. I quickly stripped from winter coverings down to a t-shirt. Our breakfast was presented to us outside in the open air, and it was delightful to be able to sit in warmth, with the upper part of Kilimanjaro looming over us.
This is a standard breakfast
Video: A Morning at Barranco
This video clip covers the morning of our third day (location: Barranco Camp). Also, our short acclimatization hike is covered. (2 minutes, 3 seconds)
The order of the day was laziness. A purposeful laziness, though. The idea is for your body to adjust to the altitude simply by spending time at that altitude. Even better than just lying around at a particular altitude is to climb higher than your camp, then turn around and come back down to camp for the night. The old adage 'climb high, sleep low' is in reference to precisely this
Mount Kilimanjaro from Barranco
Caroline soaks in the sun
Barranco campsite, annotated
Markus and Caroline at lookout
Trail on Barranco Wall
The idea was on-again, off-again, but eventually we decided to head up and do it [the acclimatization hike]. The altitude was making us all a bit lethargic. It is important in such situations to push past that and force yourself to do the things that will improve your state.
would not let us do our acclimatization hike on our own, so we were
assigned a couple of porter-guardians (in this case, Chebe and Michael).
In fact, in general on the mountain, going off anywhere by ourselves
was frowned upon. I'm not sure if this was based on some feeling
of responsibility for us, or whether the perception was that if
we did things on our own and it went badly that we would give them
bad tips or reviews, or what..... But it was a little bit annoying
being treated so child-like.
Climbing through the moorland
Anyway, the acclimatization hike climbed the steep hill behind our campsite. The climb started off bright and hot and, as we climbed, the trademark mid-day clouds started to form about the peak.
Michael and Chebe
Although some in our group were doubtful, we all made it up one full thousand feet (to 14,000). At this point I figured that this was sufficient, and we rested, then turned about to head back down. It was at that point that the heavens started to spit down little balls of ice. The afternoon precipitation had come, except this time it was heavier (and harder!). Quickly donning our outerwear, we scooted back down to the camp in record time. The hailstorm became quite strong, and little balls of it were bouncing off of everything. Our tents had by now been better staked, but even so were having a bit of difficulty under the heavy load.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Day 3 - Barranco Acclimatization Hike - click map to view
We were ushered into dinner (inside the big tent, this time, because of the hail), and while we were eating, the hail started to come down in an amazing quantities. It hissed and roared on the tent walls, and, with each passing minute, with a new and stronger force. I worried a little about how my poor Tarn 3 tent was faring in such conditions, but there was nothing for it but to wait. I was also concerned about how this bit of violent weather was affecting the Western Breach. I had told Chombo that we all had proper winter climbing gear (ice ax and crampons), but I saw no sign that he or his assistant guide had such gear, and I was worried that our desired summit route would be denied to us based on them having inadequate gear.
Video: An afternoon at Barranco
This video clip shows us at Barranco camp, resting, acclimatizing, and getting ready for the next day's climb. (1 minute, 5 seconds)
After the hail finally subsided, I poked my head out of the dinner tent to a campsite transformed -- melting white ice balls covered everything, and angry dark rivers of muddy runoff snaked through the campsite (fortunately missing all of our tents). I could hear some of the porters whooping and hollering. I think this hailstorm was, even for the Barranco camp at 13,000 feet, an unusual event. In amongst the Kiswahili being thrown about by our porters, I could hear calls of 'Barafu, Barafu', and this worried me, for to me that implied that the porters wanted us to abandon our western breach attempt and take an easier route to the east.
My fears were somewhat confirmed by Chombo, who, in his briefing that night, talked about the weather and about alternate climbing routes. I held my ground on this, saying that we would wait until things cleared and see how the mountain looks. I also reminded him that we were prepared with the proper gear for just this sort of thing.
Later on that evening we conversed with our Camp-neighbour Mike Persson. He was going up our same route, and he did not have crampons nor ice-ax, and his guide was still full-steam ahead (ie- they were still going up the western breach). I considered this to be useful armament in my potential battle as to what route we would ascend.
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