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Project '98.

To the Roof of Africa on wheels.

Day 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 to become.
Time was yet again not on our side. Any ascent on the summit must now be started in
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.

This 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.

The 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.