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Barranco Camp and Summit, Day 4
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 (hmm... does that intro sound familiar?).
Western Breach Route, from Barranco
The previous night's rumblings about taking the alternate way around the mountain seemed to have died off. Perhaps Chombo had conversed with fellow guides, or perhaps the sunny morning changed his mind. In any event, we seemed now to be back on track to climb via the western breach, which made me happy.

It was now our fourth day on the mountain. We had, by the numbers, quite a short day ahead of us. 2,200 feet of gain, and about 2.5 kilometres of distance. Destination: Lava Tower, which was a campsite perched at the base of a distinctive tower of volcanic rock at 15,200 feet.

Everyone was dealing with the altitude in their own way. Markus with his loss of appetite; Pu with his now-and-again sleepiness; But, overall, we were doing pretty well.
Chombo ready for today's climb
Starting out on hike to Lava Tower
Hike to Lava Tower
courtesy PChen
Upper Kirsten Glacier
Breach Wall closeup
The group hikes to Lava Tower
It was, as usual, sunny and warm as we started out from the Barranco campsite. The first part of our hike retraced our acclimatization hike of the day before. Once out of the Barranco valley, we could see far and wide to the volcanic plateau to the east and out south to the plains below the mountain. Before long, the clouds rolled in, and we were treated to impressive displays of clouds with ragged holes revealing bits and pieces of the summit above us.
courtesy CDoucet
The summit is disappearing!
Dramatic Clouds
Lava Tower and Arrow Glacier
After an initial steep climb, where we gained over half of the 2200 feet for the day, the trail leveled out, and we hiked through an almost completely barren landscape of gravelly ground with small boulders evenly strewn about. It reminded me quite a bit of the images taken by the mars rovers -- an effect enhanced by the fact that the clouds had fully rolled in and hidden the terrestrial features in the distance.
courtesy PChen
Marscape
Pu and Kili
Nearing Lava Tower
The altitude was really starting to make its presence felt now. I soon reached (and surpassed) my altitude record of 14,410 feet (reached at the summit of Mount Rainier 4 years earlier). I had a moderate 'temple-headache', and was starting to feel a general lethargy. The trail was barely going uphill at this point, and still it was difficult to move onwards. We were getting close, though -- occasionally we could see the faint outline of lava tower through the clouds.
courtesy PChen
High-altitude trail junction
Chombo and Caroline and Lava Tower
Pu is totally spent
Mid-afternoon, we arrived at Lava Tower -- but not quite. I discovered that there was a final steep raving to downclimb and reclimb before actually reaching the tower. Pu and Markus were moving especially slow here. Pu seemed on the verge of falling asleep, and so I volunteered (forcefully) to take his bag to the top. The final steep climb out of the ravine to the Lava Tower was done exceedingly slowly. In fact, Chombo goes on ahead and I stayed back with Markus and Pu. (If Chombo is going on ahead, then it means you are moving _really_ slowly).
Lava Tower Campsite
Video: Ascent to Lava Tower
This video clip covers the climb from the Barranco Camp to the Lava Tower Camp. (2 minutes, 6 seconds)
Analysis, Day 4 : Barranco to Lava Tower
  Start End Delta
Time 8:12 AM 12:36 PM 4h 24m
Altitude 13,000 feet 15,200 feet +2,200 feet
Distance 14.1 km 18.0 km +3.9 km

Average Speed (including all stops) 0.9 km/hr
Day 4 - Barranco to Lava Tower
Elevation Profile over Distance
Day 4 - Barranco to Lava Tower
Elevation Profile over Time
Day 4 - Barranco to Lava Tower Map
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Day 4: Barranco to Lava Tower - Interactive Track and Photo Map - click map to view
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