Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day Six- Arrow Glacier to Crater Camp

Starting Point: Arrow Glacier, 16,500 ft. elevation
Ending Point: Crater Camp, 18,500 ft. elevation
Total Climbing Time: 6.5 hours

Today was the official start of our Western Breach ascent. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the Western Breach ascent "is in fact the most physically challenging trekking climb to the summit on Kibo Peak. The Western Breach ascends a three-thousand foot nearly vertical rock face from Arrow Glacier Hut to the Crater's rim, and it requires one to raise the legs high, like climbing very large stairs. Additionally, while ascending the Breach, one must use caution to ensure that the rocks being used to steady oneself are not loose or prone to being dislodged."

Yeah, so I only learned after my trip that several American climbers had died on this route back in January 2006 due to a tragic rock slide and that the route had been closed for some time. As one website states, "The danger lies not in the climb itself, it lies in the melting glaciers above the route. As the glaciers retreat they release previously bound up rocks."

Now I know why Herman wanted me to wear a helmet that day! (He had also mentioned that we needed to reach a certain point on the route before the sun got too strong and started to melt the snow and ice. No pressure or anything).

Another website stated, "This route is very steep and is recommended only for very fit and capable climbers, as exertion is necessary." I laughed when I read this description of the Western Breach ascent as I was not "very fit" when I climbed Kilimanjaro. I found this particular route to be quite tough and tiring and there were times when I just wanted to give up. During today's climb I had to be my own best cheerleader.

Approximately an hour later, around 5:30am, Herman is awake and is packing:

I'm actually quite happy around 6am and am ready to start the day's climb:

 The sun begins to rise, providing beautiful scenes:

Looking back down toward Arrow Glacier (our campsite last night):

Looking up toward our destination:

At 6:17am, the sun reaches a point where it creates a grand shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro:

A number of the rock formations on this mountain provided me with peace:

Rumisha starts to cut "stairs" in the snow with his ice axe:

You can see our morning's starting point (the arrow shaped rock formation in the bottom, center). This photo was taken at 7am:

Ezekiel! I love you, man!

This photo was brightened in order for you to see the terrain which we were climbing on. I continued to be in awe of the porters who scrambled up the mountain like monkeys!

Herman and I let our porters pass and then lead:

Looking back down...

The porters have lovely asses:

Here's comes the sun, do do do do (8:25am):

Looking back down. Our morning starting point is still visible (the arrow rock formation in the center):

Now it's nice and clear...

Less than an hour later, the clouds roll in...

The more elevation we gained, the more I asked for rest stops. A fellow climber who tackled the Western Breach stated that on this route "we are breathing about half the amount of oxygen we normally do; a person instantly transported here from sea level would black out on the spot." I could see that. 

Here I am during one of our rest stops:

We were enrobed in fog again. Looking down:

Looking up. Wait for me, Herman!

Surrounding views:

About an hour later, it was time for another rest. I wanted to sunbathe; Herman did not like my idea. I think he was scared that I was going to fall off the rocks.

We carry on, ice axe and all...

When this photo was taken, I was 8 minutes away from reaching the top of the Western Breach. I wanted to get a shot of our day's route, but I was met with fog. Lame.

We reached the top of the Western Breach at 12:29pm, six and a half hours later. I have never felt such a sense of accomplishment! Herman, Rumisha and I all gave each other High-5s. I sang a silly little "Hallelujah" chorus. Rumisha said that I was "strong." He made me smile. :)

I am one happy chica!

Rumisha tries to get in touch with Allan, the boss of our expedition company, to say that we made it.

Cheers! Kibo (one of the three volcanic cones comprising Mt. Kilimanjaro) is on my left. Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa, is on Kibo.

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