Headed back down
Thankfully I can report a happy ending to a mini crisis that was unfolding as I sent in my last blog. Matthew Smith who had a strong climb to the summit started feeling symptoms on the descent that we all now know are the start of altitude sickness. By the time we got back to base camp at noon it was full blown pulmonary edema. Thankfully the best treatment for this is to decend below 3000 m ASAP. We set off at 1PM to our next camp but a journey that should have taken 2. 5 hours took 4 and on arriving at a preliminary camp the decision was taken that Matthew was not going to be able to walk the rest of the way to our final camp, some 2 to 3 hours away.
Eric our lead guide arranged to have a rescue team brought up and Matthew was ceremoniously strapped onto a wheeled stretcher that went on the longest and most precarious of journies down the mountain. With 15 people pulling pushing lifting and shouting we eventually reached camp at 8 PM (a total of 19 hours trekking for the day!!) Luckily in camp there was an American doctor from New Mexico who had just climbed the mountain and had the necessary drugs to help Matthew along with some good old fashioned pure oxygen.
Matthew woke up Saturday feeling strong and ready to finish the climb. The last morning was a happy and sad occasion. After breakfast (more porridge) we packed our things away for the last time. A great tradition on these climbs is to pass on any clothing sleeping bags etc to the climb crew and looking at what some of the guys gave away I don't think there are any Everest expeditions planned in the near future!!
We then started our last trek down the mountain through the rainforest. The scenery was beautiful but sadly there were none of the monkeys to be seen that inhabit this part of Tanzania. The porters came bouncing past us with smiles on their faces at an even happier "Jambo" (Swahili for hello) than normal.
4 hours later as we rounded the last corner what site should great us but John T with a bucket full of ice cold beers. What a sight for sore eyes (both John and the beer). It seemed an age since John left us and frankly we all felt the group incomplete with his absence. After the customary photos etc we boarded our bus and drove back to Moshi through some superb scenery passing small broiler farms, cattle on the road side and lots of fertile ground with large coffee plantations. When you see this land you wonder what it would take to have Africa able to properly feed its people.
Our guides joined us for one last meal at the hotel and presented us with our certificates (which proudly state your age!!) and then left for the last time. The climbing season is nearly done with the rainy season on its way but these guys were hoping to squeeze in one more summit next week!!! Typically they would summit 3 to 4 times a month in the season (remembering that each summit takes a week!) We all fly home today to our various countries around the world but we all leave having enjoyed and endured one of the most exhilarating experiences of our lives.
We have been treated like Kings on the mountain. When we first arrived we were all a bit embarrassed to hear that a climbing team of 28 guides, porters, cooks, etc would take us up. I am sure many would say that was excessive but all 28 worked hard all week and it truly felt like a family of 36 at times. In a country where the typical agricultural wage is $2 USD per day the mountain provides a livelihood for tens of thousands of Tanzanians.
There are some things we won't miss including: freezing nights under canvas (especially Paulo and Jorge!); long drop toilets; runny porridge (for every breakfast!); the side effects of Diamox (a drug many climbers take to minimise the risk of pulmonary edema but is also a diuretic); no showers or shaving facilities (we all look like Grizzily Adams after one week); drinking water that tastes like swimming pool water (all drinking water comes from streams on the mountain so must be treated).
Well, I guess first get home to our loving families who have done so much to make this possible.
We do hope to maintain the momentum of the sponsorships over the next few weeks to make sure we exceed our target for the Alltech Sustainable Haiti Project. So, if you would still like to contribute please contact us. In Haiti right now every single dollar counts We did discuss possible future projects on the mountain but all we ageed on was next time must be warmer and a little less energetic!!
Thank you to everyone who helped us climb our mountain: our families, sponsors, colleagues at Alltech; and everyone who has sent words of encouragement. Trust me they have all had a huge impact on all of us.
Lastly, if our blog has gotten anyone interested in trying Kilimanjaro out for themselves, any of the climbers would be happy to discuss our experience on the mountain and how to get the most out of the climb. So please feel free to contact us.
Time to catch a plane. Who knows we might be lucky and fly over our mountain!!
by Patrick Charlton