Four - The Summit Bid
Day Four- Kibo
We always knew that day four was to be the
longest day on the mountain and, in all
aspects, the most difficult both mentally
and physically. We now had to attempt the
summit, return to Kibo, and then move down
to Horumbo before night fall.
A challenge for even the hardiest of trekkers!
After arriving at Kibo, the previous day,
with very little time left to warm up our
food rations before the suns warmth left
with the setting sun, we had at least some
indication of how cold the night was going
Time was yet again not on our side. Any
ascent on the summit must now be started
the early hours of the morning, between
twelve midnight and three o'clock. At this
time the snow and loose rocks would be frozen,
enabling firm foot holes to be made, and
since Jon was using a wheelchair, every
advantage in our favour had to be taken.
Knowing that each section of the Mountain
had, so far, taken twice the normal trekking
time, we opted for a Midnight start, giving
full respsect to the fact that four people
had died on the Mountain in recent weeks!
Given our time allocation by TANAPA and
the previous days of continuous 'hard slog'
on the mountain meant that the team would
now only have about four hours sleep before
a 11.30pm call to move out at midnight on
the summit attempt. Two members of the team
had already shown signs of suffering from
effects of the altitude. It was to such
an extent that the decision was made to
utilize their presence at Kibo to look after
the teams equipment and act as a support
party for the main teams return.
decision would also mean that the remainder
of the team attempting the summit could
now travel, as previously planned, light
without packs and not having the extra worry
of the safety of eqiupment left behind.
This would help to ease the debilitating
effects of the accumalative exhaustion that
was setting in and the lack of oxygen that
now seemed to be effecting most of the party
in one way or another.
Midnight seemed to come at the blink of
an eye and in the cold light of the head
torches the team finally assembled. With
only a few camera flashes to mark the final
stages of this world record attempt, the
Project 98 team slowly left the dim lights
of Kibo to continue the steady climb higher
towards the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The final stages of the mountain from Kibo
now presents all climbers with slopes of
50 degrees plus. In the dark, step by step,
or in Jon's case, hand by hand as he put
every ounce of his body strength into propelling
the wheelchair, the team could only guess
at their progress. One by one, team members
were now showing signs of severe exhaustion,
caused through the three previous days of
continual hard slog and lack of rest or
sleep to be able to recover enough.
accumulative effects of the tremendous work
load that had been asked of us over the
last few days was now reaping its toll.
The un-seasonable rain that had dogged our
start had fallen as heavy snow on the summit
and the snow line was much further down
than normal making the going even harder.
Finally it became apparent that a decision
had to be made, especially with the knowledge
that only days before two people had died
on the mountain and the fact we
all had family at home, safety had to be
a paramount factor. It was decided that
the summit was, given our imposed time sanction,
out of reach for this expedition and reluctantly
the team started the slow and final decent
to Kibo comforted only by the fact that
we had achieved a world first with Jon having
'climbed' higher than anyone has been before
in a wheelchair!
The early descent did, however, have its
blessings. For the first time in days there
were a few spare hours to catch up on much
needed sleep, even the roof falling in would
not have disturbed those few precious hours
of sleep before dawn and the descent to
Horombo. With every 'step' we gained the
relief of lower altitude and the benefits
of what can only be described as sweet,
fresh, oxygenated air.
The trek from Kibo to Horumbo although hard
and long was, to the team, nothing compared
to the previous days and before we knew
it, we were settling into our final night
on Mt. Kilimanjaro, The roof of Africa.