|Day 5 (Sept. 6, 2005): Moir Camp to Lava Tower Camp|
DIARY OF THE CLIMB
Three groups had camped last night at Moir camp, and today's hike was the first in which the trail became crowded with other trekkers and three times the number of porters. The hike went up a moderate ridge (perhaps 400' or 500' elevation) to take us out of the bowl that Moir camp lies in. After that, there were few sections of any sustained climb.
After a couple of hours, trekkers coming up from the Machame Route joined the trail that we were on. Less than a half mile later another trail split-off to our right (south). Porters on the Machame Route normally take this path over to the Barranco camp. Trekkers on the Machame Route have the choice of taking this more-direct path to Barranco camp, or swinging past the Lava Tower, a higher elevation to aid in their acclimatization, and then descending by another trail to Barranco. (If the trekkers on the Machame Route are ascending Kibo via the Western Breach, rather than by the more standard route through Barafu camp, then they would join the route that we were following for the rest of the trek.)
While we were hiking, Elias got a radio message that one of the Tusker clients in another group was sick this morning with AMS. He was going to be evacuated down the mountain to the ambulance Evacuation Route (that we passed on our hike to Moir). We later passed the man (in his early to mid-30's) and his guide, Siamon Minja, hiking down the mountain as we hiked up. The fellow was walking under his own power, which was good. Our group was still doing OK, as far as the effects of the altitude went. This morning, both Rick and Pauline had begun taking diamox as insurance against the possibility of AMS farther up the mountain. (I'm sure that Elias was pleased that we all were now taking the diamox. The guides want to do everything possible to get their clients to the top of Kilimanjaro, and to have a successful experience. The last thing they want is for a client to get sick, if it can be avoided. If taking the diamox enables a higher fraction of their clients to get to the top, they are all for it.)
Because it had been noisy last night at Moir camp from the other two groups staying there, Elias coordinated with them that our group would stay at the Lower Lava Tower Camp, in order to have it to ourselves. The Lower camp site is about 1/2 mile short of Lava Tower itself.
We arrived at camp before noon. As usual, the camp was already set-up for us when we arrived, and we had lunch about a half hour later. For lunch we had fried banana fritters, fried jelly sandwiches, and a vegetable soup.
Elias said that they would take us over to the Lava Tower about 3 pm, as an additional hike if we wanted to go. While we were having lunch and relaxing afterward, there was a steady stream of trekkers walking past our camp from the more heavily traveled Machame route. I was glad that we had chosen the relatively less traveled Lemosho Route for our Kili climb.
Kevin had been having heart burn and digestive troubles the last couple of days, which seem to be getting worse. Rick was getting back to normal, but said that his appetite was still not strong. The rest of us seemed to be feeling well.
At 3 pm, Charles took us on the trip over to the Lava Tower. Once we
were at the base of this large volcanic plug, he asked us if we would like
to climb to the top. I was excited to get to try this climb. I had read
many people's trip diaries on the internet describing the climb as
moderately difficult. (But a description like that is pretty subjective. What
seems easy to an experienced rock climber may be frightening to someone
with much less experience.) I was anxious to see if I would be able to do
it, or if it would seem intimidating from "exposure" (that is, a risk of
falling off a ledge and killing oneself, for example).
Elias recorded our oximeter stats before dinner. My blood oxygen dropped to 80%, down from 88% this morning. I was now taking the recommended 125 mg of diamox twice a day, so I hoped that this would keep me healthy as we continued our climb upward.
That night, the temperature outside dropped to 15o F. I was very cold in my tent, and put on another layer of clothes during the night. Since we were camping at 14,950', I was worried about how cold it might get in two nights, when we would camp at 18,800', just below the summit.
That night in my tent it seemed that the porters stayed up talking later than usual. I was pretty tired; not quite sleeping, but not really lucid. About 11 pm I woke up and the camp was really loud with shouting, people running around, and the sound of clanging pans coming from the cooking tent.
Once I was actually awake, I could tell that Elias was at Kevin and Ellen's tent, and that Kevin was in very bad shape. He had gotten much sicker through the evening, and had been throwing up. His body temperature had dropped to 96, and he was obviously chilled to the bone. Elias gave him some hot water and honey, which brought his temperature up, but he was still quite ill. At the time we had no idea what was going on with him, although it was surely not altitude sickness. However, he had become too sick to continue on the trek. The next day, he would leave the group, walk down to the evacuation route, and be taken down the mountain. This was big blow to all of our group. We felt terrible that Kevin was too sick to continue, but the decision for him to go down seemed pretty clear.
For months after our trip, Kevin continued to suffer some ill effects. As it turned out, Kevin had an emergency appendectomy when he was back in the United States four months after our trip. The doctors say that it is pretty certain that he had a ruptured appendix on Kilimanjaro that night. The proper diagnosis was not made until he landed in an Emergency Room and then went into surgery near Christmas time. It is incredibly fortunate that he survived this medical emergency.
© Copyright 2005. Michael E. Coltrin, Albuquerque, NM. All rights reserved.