Following on from our arrival at Kibo Hut at 16.00 hrs some
soup and fruit and a maximum 3 hours of sleep ( in my case
a fitful one hour) the ''slow'' party set off at 23.30 with
the ''fast'' party starting at midnight. The climb of 1000m
is over a distance of 6k and is twice as steep as any other
section ( it is after all the section leading to the volcano
rim). Oxygen is at a premium and every step and breath is
an effort. The guides start singing to keep spirits up, ''Jambo,
Jambo sana'' - we try and join in. Further back someone is
singing ''Crowded House'' songs - must be hallucinating. After
approx 3 hours we are caught by the ''fast'' team and a deal
of reshuffling occurs.
Quite bizarrely we arrive at a cave approx half way up
and a guide gives us hot sweet tea - . must be hallucinating.
Gary and I have become a mini team as the faster people
move away and don't wait and the slower ones drop back,
its too cold to wait and we stop every 100m anyway.
I hit a patch of loose shale, having lost the path, and
the plot. I am running on the spot and breath and strength
are fading fast, Gary gives me a helping shove and I fall
onto the adjacent ledge. I am struggling but Gary seems
fine. ''Pole pole'' (slowly slowly) I continue in the lead.
I think back to a conversation with Andy a couple of days
ago - we chose to do this and it will be all over in a couple
of days. Guys at war never know when it will end. I think
of Lea and Oginia both with Lupus and think they had no
choice and they have Lupus for life - this ordeal will be
over for me in a few hours and I have the choice of stopping
at any time.
We see the 06.10am sun rise whilst some 100m below Gillman's
Point. 6.30am we arrive at Gillman's Point, its small and
dirty with about 12 people in various states of fatigue
and distress. Sarah is laid on the floor her head propped
on a rock trying to photograph the sign, people step over
her, everything is an effort, she tells me she is cold and
is not going to the summit and nor is Oginia. I know they
have made the right and very brave decision. My daypack
is off I take a couple of photos and walk over to Gary,
he looks awful, ''I'm not going on'', he says. My disbelief
shows, I turn and walk away, he is the stronger of us two
or so I thought. Head spinning I don't know what to do.
Switch off; take slow deep breaths; what does my soul say.
My head says no, my heart says yes. My soul gives me an
instinctive feeling, my logical brain agrees . I must attempt
the summit, to not attempt is to fail before I have started.
I turn round grim faced and catch Gary's eye ''I'm going
on'' ,he shouts, ''wait for me I reply.'' - What the hell
is going on!
We set off, I am very slow, but can keep going at this
pace. A guide takes my daypack and Gary goes on ahead. Washington
instructs the guide to help Julie. I am back on my own but
everybody is giving me a hug and telling me its 10 minutes
( Tanzanian 10 minutes usually mean half an hour , but I
don't care.) Washington takes my daypack and I arrive at
the summit at 8.20am. Pleased, but too tired to take photos.
Gary takes a picture of me and another of me and BB Bear,
Stella's child hood teddy bear who wanted to see Kenya again.
The weather is cold -10 with a force 10 giving a wind chill
off -30. Only my fingers are showing signs of cold. Washington
wants us all to start back and I walk away first but am
slowly passed by everybody. The return to Gillman's is slow
and the decent is not with out its problems and I am last
back with Greg, some 50 minutes after Gary and the main
We all made it to Gillman's Point, a fantastic achievement
which must be credited to the individuals , the team spirit,
our doctor, our tour rep. and especially to Elias and his
team of guides porters and cooks.