Kilimanjaro – Day 7/10 – Base camp day

I woke up around 3 am to send the rest of the Team Ubuntu on their way to reach for the top. I was feeling better myself but still knew that this day was out of reach for me. Wanted to though wake up to see the rest of the team off so we had breakfast and everyone got into their summit gear as it was the coldest night so far a few degrees below zero probably. I felt excited for them but also a bit worried how everything will go as I knew it was going to be a very tough day for them.

After the team head out towards the summit in pitch dark I went back to my tent and fell asleep again. I slept until around 6:30 am when the porters started to wake up and the sun began to shine so bright I could not sleep anymore. Since there is no shade it is really hot by the time it is shining directly to your tent!

The cook made me second breakfast so another bowl of oatmeal, my favourite, and a bit of coffee. After we ate the porters asked if I want to come with them a bit higher towards the summit to look at the views. I thought why not, I would not climb hundreds of meters just a bit higher, take a few photos and come back. Turned my sports watch on to monitor myself and altitude and off we went. Pole, pole, slowly, slowly!

My summit

Around 46 meters ascent and 700 meters I started feeling weird. My ear drums began to feel like they are about to burst, after that I started to feel dizzy and I felt like my orientation was getting a bit strange. I was afraid I might faint and fall over so said to the guide that I think this is my top, I will just sit here, take a few photos, wait for this to pass and walk back down.

It was such a scary feeling that I had no desire to pursue any further. I had found my summit (4785 meters) and got affirmation that I had made the right decision the day before deciding not to try and to reach the summit. Maybe, just maybe this was the thing my gut feeling was pounding in my head the other day. I would not have made it very far anyway!

View down to camp from ”my summit” 4785 meters! YAY!!! What a view above the clouds <3 Kibo huts in the middle where the path leads.

Relax and enjoy the views

So I went back to my tent and lied down a bit. I felt better fairly quickly and began to read a book. Having read the book a while I thought I would take a short walk up a cliff next to camp and took a photo down to our camp and towards the Kibo camp huts. Just climbing up there was an endeavours and felt exhausting, but the views were nice. I enjoyed just being there and looking at the view wondering how did I get here? And then wow, I’m here, I really made it all the way here.

After that relief that the ”worst” was over for me. No more headaches and tomorrow we would be heading down back to normal every day life with comfortable bed, toilet and hot shower, nice! (little did we know then… Covid-19 was lurking just around the corner and our lives would never be the same).

Sudden storm

It was completely still. Not a breath of wind and so hot that you could not be inside your tent, but we had to stay in the big mess tent. So I read for a while on my tablet and this tiny mouse kept me company coming and going from the tent getting food from the floor. I also talked to quite many of the porters as they came and went asking me how I am doing about their lives and how many children they had and so on.

It was nice to learn about their lives and family. Especially this talk with one young porter about 24 years paused me for a while. We spoke about domestic animals, then pets and I mentioned that we do not have any other animals, just a pet cat, to which he responded with a question ”But where do you get your milk then?”, realizing he meant that if we do not have cow, where does the milk come from.

I explained to him that we live in a city and we are not allowed to have any other animals so we buy milk from the shop. Such different worlds we live in, I actually envy his uncomplicated world. No office work, no huge traffic jams and concrete jungle around you going to work every day, only nature. Then nature showed it’s might and the weather turned nasty. We could feel the wind picking up and see the clouds moving in on our camp so I had to go to my tent and close all the zippers before it would pour in.

Storm clouds moving in from the side of the mountain

Managed to get to my tent before it started pouring and this time it was not rain, but hail. Closed all the zippers which I had just opened a bit earlier to get the air flowing as it was badly heated sauna. The storm did not last too long, but I can imagine the rest of the team being hit by this at the summit hoping they were not hit too bad as the hail would hurt!

Team Ubuntu arriving one, by one

It was about lunch time when we got info that Rob would be coming down soon. He was feeling bad having diarrhoea and temperature already before left and had decided to go as far as Gilmann’s point and then turn back. Our guide Mike came back already earlier to keep me company and be the ”base camp” guy with the satellite phone. So me and Mike climbed up to greet him and he was not feeling too good. His calves were killing him of all the up and down and probably due to loosing fluids earlier. I gave him some Magnesium and he managed to take a bit to drink, but head pretty much straight to bed which was definitely a good choice after that endeavour.

The rest of the team came back before dark and I kept looking at the hill side them coming down like little ants. It’s strange how distances here are completely scewed. It looks like they are just around that rock but they are still kilometer away…

Rest of Team Ubuntu approaching like ants in a queue still so far away although it looks close.

Everyone arrived back safe reaching the own summit Uhuru Peak. Some in better, some in worse condition, but walking on their own feet. They were so tired both physically and mentally that I felt a bit guilty that I had been enjoying the sunshine and reading a book all day talking to our porters.

I tried to help them the best I could as I had energy and they didn’t. Food, drink, CO2 monitoring. All good, three with a little low measurements. Me and Mike kept track on how they were doing and I was so proud of them. I truly think the team is amazing and we all did such a great job in helping each other to reach our dreams and goals.

It was clear it was going to be an early night for them all so after dinner everyone pretty much crashed to their tents (some had already slept a while before dinner!) . We were going to be begin our descent the next day around 10 am with destination Horombo camp. Rumour says they have ”normal” toilets and running (cold) water = shower! No wonder the power women of Team Ubuntu were VERY eager to get there as we were running out of wet wipes and Kibo camp is a dry camp so there is no rivers around but all water is carried there (hence conserve it the best you can = no washing).

Read my book again for a while as I was not that tired having taken two naps during the day already. Eventually I fell asleep. Luckily it was not as cold as it was the night before, but still had to have a hat on when sleeping!

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Kilimanjaro – Day 6/10 – Third cave to Kibo (base) camp

I woke up feeling OK, but not good. I could feel the headache in the back of my head a bit distant though and I felt a bit dizzy. I was hoping the headache would have been completely gone by the morning, like all the mornings before, but since that was not the case I knew it was going to be a tough day and I might not be going to the summit. So I changed my mental goal to Kibo for now. I thought if I can just get to Kibo camp I am happy and I have reached my target.

First few hours were still OK. I was managing my headache, drinking ridiculously a lot of water, breathing my lungs as full every time as I can and taking one step at a time. Still it was not enough. I felt worse by the step and looking at the scenery I started to ask myself questions like ”What are we doing here?”, ”What am I doing here?”. There is nothing here, no plants, no birds, no animals, NOTHING. Not even bloody rocks big enough to go pee behind!

We should not be here. This is not for humans. This is like walking on the moon…
Hah! A rock for an Alfresco visit spotted!

I could sense everyone was more quiet. It was getting harder and we were climbing higher all the time. Every single step you had to concentrate on breathing and speed being as steady as possible. There was no talking, just breathing, walking and a lot of time to think about things. Like for example if you will continue to the summit or stay at the base camp. Before we reached the next camp I had made up mine or rather the answer was given to me.

We had a break around 2 hour mark which was midway (about 2,5 kilometers) and the kitchen crew had bought some coffee, tea, cake and biscuits to us which was a really nice surprise. I put my legs up against a small rock as I felt like blood was not circulating after so many days on my feet. Fluids were gathering to my body as rings on my finger were not moving which is always a good indication of that. I felt a bit better during the break and confident that I can get to Kibo although the headache was there all the time, but still not so bad that I had to take any medicin. We were at about 4300 meters now.

No plants, no animals apart from Team Ubuntu

400 meters ascent sound like nothing especially if you have been to Norway for example where most mountains next to fjords are higher than that and you take an evening walk up them and back in less than few hours. Here in high altitude it’s not the same. You don’t rush up. This is not a high heart rate exercise. As a matter of fact on the way up my heart rate average was 115 which equals to normal walk and my max is 198-199 so there is quite a lot to go before I would be at max level.

Still I felt exhausted, tired and I could hardly keep going. I tried to keep the heart rate as steady as possible too all the time. By the time we got to about 600 meters before Kibo camp I felt the headache getting worse. I was prepared it would probably get so bad at some point that I would need to take Ibuprofen, so took half a tablet. I don’t really use Ibuprofen so usually small amount is enough. I felt like everyone was rushing a bit to get to camp and my head just kept pounding.

About 100 meters before camp I felt so sick and like I would throw up soon. My head was pounding so hard and felt so heavy that I went straight to my tent to lie down. I could not do anything I felt so bad so I just sat there and thought about how I feel now and how hard the day had been. I weighed the options of maybe going up as I would probably again feel better after a bit of sleep and staying still.

I thought I don’t want to go up there. I thought I have come all the way here, so I should go up there. I thought I am giving up not going up there. Would the others be disappointed if I didn’t go up there? I thought maybe I will be the only not going up. Will I be the only one giving up?

I thought about my children and how I missed them. I thought about my husband and how I just wanted to be close to him and talk to him. I thought about what would happen if I would take a bit more Ibuprofen, ignore the pain and just keep going. I thought about ignoring the pain, being stubborn, keeping on going and ending to hospital. Then I thought about my children again.

I cried, I cried a lot. So much I don’t remember the last time I have cried so much. Then I thought I don’t want to go up there. I felt I don’t want to go up there. I have never had such a strong gut feeling in my life and it told me not to go up there. So I decided I should listen to it and that I am not going to the summit.

I probably could have tried, I probably would have felt better later on and with Ibuprofen kept going, but I had found my answer. Then I went to the mess tent to have lunch and told everyone. Next day it turned out to be a wise decision.

The tent fabric was frozen stiff

I could not eat anything during lunch though I felt so bad, but had a mug of Milo anyway. We measured our HR and CO2 levels. My CO2 had dropped to 75% from the mornings 93% and my heart rate was higher again around 96. Just the CO2 level drop was clear enough hint that I should not go so went back to tent to sleep. I think that just the fact that the decision had been made eased my mind and I knew the stressing, pain, anxiety and wondering will I get there was over.

I knew I don’t have to worry anymore, I didn’t have to have the strength to carry on anymore so I can now relax and just stay here. Stay alive for one more day here at 4700 meters and then we can go down and home. Just one more day and during the day I will hopefully acclimatize and feel better by the morning.

After the nap I felt better and managed to eat some dinner. Had to take the other half of the ibuprofen also. Pretty soon after dinner everyone head to bed as all others were heading to summit at 4 am and some were not feeling too good either, but good enough to go. As I suspected I was the only one not going, but was already OK with my decision. I knew it was the right one. Besides I wanted to wake up also to see them off.

Team Ubuntu was really strong. The only thing bothering really was the tummy aches and the runs. Other than that CO2 was great and they felt good. I was happy that I was the only one feeling so bad. They were all good to go to the summit and I did not want to miss them going.

It was already really cold, below zero degrees maybe -2 or -3, but there was no snow at base camp. Our tents were frozen stiff because of some cold rain earlier and for the first time I had to have a bit more clothes on when sleeping.

I was relieved that the decision had been made and eager to see the others off and welcome them back the next day. Fell asleep in those thoughts looking forward to the next day at 4700 meters thinking, wow, am I really here?

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Training – W8/2020 Summit day and downhill

Second week was more trekking again up and down. We reached the highest altitude to everyone and also went almost 2000 meters down to get off the mountain. This last week was physically very demanding due to the altitude sickness symptoms, but also going downhill was in a way hard because we were going faster and it was completely different kind of movement again.

The last day was ridiculously long trek as we were told it would be 18 kilometers but it ended up being 22,63 kilometers downhill partly in rain, but we all got down, no injuries or bad aches/bruises/blisters.

To fourth camp (Kibo base camp) 6th day

  • Distance 9,57 kilometers
  • Average bpm 87 so getting higher all the time
  • From 3962 meters to 4711 meters, altitude gain 668
  • Speed 1,3km/h
Acclimatization walk

Not done at all. Everyone was getting ready for the summit.

Summit day (Kibo base camp) 7th day

I did not attempt to go to the summit. More about the reasons on my Kilimanjaro daily recap blog posts under section Kilimanjaro/Trekking in the coming days.

I did go for a walk in the morning when everyone else had left for the summit and walked 42 m higher up to 4785 which was my top. So approximately Mont Blanc ”top of Europe” so to speak 😉

To fifth camp, downhill (Horombo) 8th day

  • Distance 9,57 kilometers
  • Average HR 84 so a bit lower but still high
  • From 4697 meters to 3733 meters down hill, descent 925 meters
  • Speed 3,3 km/h

To Marangu gate, downhill, last day 9th day

  • Distance 22,63 kilometers
  • Average HR 80 which is probably still high due to the massive trek down
  • From 3733 meters to 2750 meters, descent 983 meters
  • Speed 3,7 km/h, max speed was 7,2 km/h
  • 6 hours and 8 minutes downhill! Harder than you would think!

For obvious reasons there was no other exercise that week since I was back home on Friday afternoon. I was eager to get back to normal training routines and go for a basic run as soon as possible though.

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