I awoke early in the morning, just before dawn, so got up to wander a bit and watch the sun come up. When we arrived at the camp the night before, the first thing we noticed was that this camp was a junction for the other hike routes up to the summit. This meant there were dozens more hikers than we had seen at the camps previously, and the term “tent city” came to mind.
We were camped higher up on the ridge than almost any other group, which gave me a bird’s eye view of the whole area as I watched the day dawn. As the light brightened, an interesting weather phenomenon could be observed. Slight breezes were circulating over the spurs and draws, and it was drawing the cloud bank up and over the tents and ridges, and then being pushed back out and down by the countervailing current. From my vantage I watched this ebb and tide for about half an hour until Sam woke up and stood with me to watch. To add to the show, the sun was coming over the mountain, and starting to burn
the clouds off on the higher parts of the ridge. Finally, the sun and the air currents combined to push the clouds back down the mountain below our colorful nylon city.
The Barranca Wall. I should have been reading between the lines when I reviewed the climbing guide. It was a blast, one of the most unique parts of the trip, really enjoyed the challenge, and I don't see how more middle-aged, over confident and under prepared people such as myself from all over the world don't die on this thing every year! Steep enough that even the most loving adherent of the trekking pole is advised to put them away, so crowded that literally hundreds of people are trying to climb this thing, stay out of each other’s way and let the porters get by at the same time, I kept expecting to see someone's pack, hopefully without body attached, come tumbling back down the mountain. And yet, everyone made it up okay. Who says there are no miracles in this world? I could sit you at the camp every day and watch the line of a few hundred people ascend this thing, and every day you would witness a miracle. Truly amazing. The credit of course mostly lies with the guides who watch over and direct where to put each foot and hand. Still, God has to have a hand in protecting the vast number of the barely ready and foolhardy who do this thing by the thousands every year, hand over foot, panting all the way.
The rest of the hike was strenuous but anticlimactic after the wall, and after climbing down another steep gorge and back up out of it again, we arrived at camp and rested for the remainder of the day.
One point in that portion of the hike, right after climbing to the top of Barranca, was notable for its view. The summit of Kilimanjaro was closer than ever, and the sun was making a brief appearance, really highlighting the mountain. Surrounding this point was a solid cloud bank covering the plains and valleys below, the sun painting the whole scene with bright color.
It seemed at this point in the trip that the food was getting heartier, I think our cooks Benson and Robert were feeling sorry for us and fattening us up for the struggle ahead. Benson would make a perfect butler at home, very soft-spoken and punctual, always calling us together for the meal and greeting us with a low-spoken voice calling "helloooo", stretching the word out in a genteel drawl. We definitely appreciated it, as at this point we were camping at around 13,000 feet. The nights were getting colder, and all the warmth we could gain was appreciated.
Katanga camp was a windswept and pretty barren hillside, not much around except lichen-covered rocks and ravens, bigger versions of their cousin at home, waiting around to be fed from leftover and dropped scraps. Got a good long sleep, however, and this time in one of my nightly sojourns I saw the Southern Cross, and even got Sam out of bed to look at it twinkling in the sky. It was a good day.