Saturday, September 10, 2016

Stage Five: Team Up in High Camp, In Position for Summit Attempt Tonight!

The team rose early and left Karanga Camp (13,100') at 8:30 am, hiked about 2000 feet up to their new Barafu High Camp at 15,200 feet-- holding position for tonight's summit push. I spoke to Randy and Alex who were snug in their tents in their new place, resting in the Barafu Camp. It was 1:30 pm Kili time and they planned to rest till dinner. As you can see from the picture of Barafu Camp from the mountaineering company's website, they are really in the middle of nowhere!
High Camp - Barafu Camp at 15,200
 Randy said everyone on the team made it safely to this High Camp.  He and Alex felt "phenomenal"; they thought today's 3 hour hike was fairly easy compared to other days and were trying to save energy for the big effort tonight. They were not dealing with any altitude issues, although they said you never know what's ahead since they still have to climb up to 19,000 feet.  But so far, so good.  Maybe Alex's stomach was his obstacle and he'll be spared the altitude problems! Randy has definitely had altitude symptoms during other climbs (this will be his 5th of the 7 highest summits if successful), but he's feeling better than ever. I think the team's conservative pace has helped his acclimatization, not to mention he climbed Elbrus, the tallest mountain in Europe, with Anders earlier this summer.

The Barr trio is also safe up at High Camp.  Randy said they were still doing awesome, just dealing with some very normal altitude issues, nothing of major concern. Dan and Caroline each had a headache, and Caroline also has a bad blister and a bit of sunburn.  But, according to Randy, those are all part of the deal at this point, and they were all still on target for a summit attempt.  As preparation for this trip, all the hikers have to get various shots and pack a boatload of medicines for potential concerns. Thankfully, they had the much needed Cipro for Alex. And they all also have a prescription called Diamox.  So if any of the team are bothered by some of the very typical symptoms of altitude sickness, such as nausea, headache, shortness of breath, or dizziness, they have the option to take Diamox to alleviate them.  In fact, some high altitude mountaineers take Diamox from the outset as a prophylactic to prevent these problems, but the general consensus seems to be to wait till those issues pop up and then use it.  So at this point, I imagine some of the team are discussing whether to take what can be quite the "miracle drug" for some.  By the way, rockstar Paula still has no headache and is going strong.  But even our Wonder Woman is facing a very, very challenging night and day ahead, so no one can predict what will happen. I'm optimistic though for the Delaware crew!

One important thing to note, even if the climbers control their altitude sickness issues (i.e. headaches and nausea), they will all certainly feel the altitude impact as they have to ascend 4000 feet into thinner and thinner air.  The summit push on Kilimanjaro will be grueling for all of them, and they will have to move slowly and use the breathing techniques and rest stop gait they've been practicing. Plus it's just such a long night and day for them.

They will get their wake up call at 10:45pm tonight, eat a little "breakfast", and don their high altitude, warmest clothes.  They were getting all those clothes ready today during their break time. Randy and Alex already were lounging in their long underwear and their clean summit socks. Anders, our oldest son who has already climbed 5 of the 7 summits, including Kilimanjaro, advised them to reserve a clean pair of socks for summit day.  So they did. Maybe when you are completely dirty and disgusting but you put on a clean pair of socks, you somehow feel stronger.

In any case, they will leave camp around midnight, and hope to be on the summit around 7AM.  It could be earlier, it could be later, and unexpected weather, extreme fatigue, or altitude issues could turn any of them around.  They will hike straight uphill, 4000 feet up, with their headlamps to guide the way.  If they make it to this glacial volcanic crater on the top of Africa, they will likely spend a little time up there high-fiving and taking photos, then descend back to their Barafu Camp at 15K, get some food, pack up their stuff, take off some of their heavier clothing, and, even though they will all be exhausted, descend another 5000 feet down to camp at 10,000.  Phew, it's exhausting even to write all that!  We are talking about anywhere from 11 to 14 hours or even more of effort in hard to breath conditions. They are all rockstars no matter what happens from here.

As a reminder, they are 7 hours ahead of us, so as I post this, at noon Eastern time, it is already 7pm for our intrepid climbers. That means they've already had their dinner and are hopefully trying to grab some sleep before their 10:45pm wake up.   Game time!!


vvoros said...

Anxious to hear how the night time climb went. We were all here ( well almost all were here ) tonight for dinner. Much time was spent talking about the climb. Jacob knew much about Mt Kilimanjaro and is anxious to talk to Aunt Paula about her trip. So are we all.

Susan kirwin said...

I'm so proud of my cousin Paula, Dan and Caroline for even attempting this climb! But as God watches over them, I know their determination will carry them through.