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Chara: "That was a pretty nice hike."

by Rob Simpson / Boston Bruins
"A pretty nice hike." Click the pic to join Zee on the trail.

Trekking with Zdeno – Day 4
Three hours of sleep on night 3 and a relatively flat day ahead: Things were looking up.

It was time to cross the “saddle”, the seven-mile plateau-like ridge between Mawenzi and our ultimate destination, Kibo, the volcano that sat within the snow-capped summit of Kilimanjaro.

Ten minutes into the day-four hike we had wound out of the Mawenzi bowl, crossed a small ridge, and just like that, it was as if the previous night’s camp didn’t exist. It was gone; the isolated landscape had disappeared from sight. We looked back at Mawenzi with a fond appreciation, and then looked ahead at Kibo with anticipation.

As discussed at the previous night’s dinner in the mess tent, that night-three camp was our last “normal” campsite.

We had enjoyed the routine each day of waking up, eating breakfast and discussing the day ahead, venturing out, reaching a camp, settling in, relaxing, exploring, eating dinner, and then turning in when the sun went down. That would all change on night number four. There would be no “night” four.

The trek across took us exactly five hours, gradually leaving Mawenzi in our past and drawing Kibo imminently into our future.

“That was a pretty nice hike,” Chara stated. “Nothing too hard, it was almost relaxing as we get used to the climate and altitude. I tried not to think of the summit too much but it was tough because you’re staring right up at it.”

We arrived at what our guide Aloyce called the School Camp, “base camp”, again off the beaten track at 15,400 feet. We were the only trekking party at the site. Instead of putting us with potentially a half dozen other trekking groups at the Kibo Hut on the main trail to the West, Aloyce allowed us some privacy and an exclusive view of the surroundings.

Our climb to the summit would first involve working diagonally westward and up, to join the main trail above Kibo Hut, and then to finish like most everyone else, at Gilman’s Point (18,650 feet) straight up the mountain.

First class accommodations. With a view!

We had a few hours of daylight left before a brief rest. The plan was to try to get a little bit of sleep starting at 7 before gathering outside again at 11 pm for a snack, and then leaving for the summit at midnight.

During the remaining daylight, being the man with the never found bag (airlines), my fellow trekkers offered up some layers for me to wear including a few extra band-aids, and an extra pair of socks. It was cold already at this altitude.

When night fell, it would drop substantially, and then of course, upon reaching the summit, it would be below zero. We wore anything from three to five layers on top and bottom. I wore three pairs of socks, not so much for cold, but for blisters.

We enjoyed one last mountain sunset, with the view down to where we had come from over the last three days, a view back to Mawenzi across the saddle, and a view down through the clouds to some far away village lights on the East African plain.

By dark, we had packed up the materials we wouldn’t be taking up, and left them aside for the porters to carry to the next campsite. We wore two or three layers to “bed” and laid the rest next to us for easy dressing in the dark. We had our headlamps next to us. It was seven. After squirming around for what seemed like four hours, I asked Brender what time it was, expecting and hoping to hear something close to 11 o’clock.

“Five to nine,” he said, much to my disappointment. Two more hours to kill, and I surprised myself by actually getting a half-hour of sleep.

Coming day-5: Gilman’s Point, Uhuru Peak, altitude symptoms and fatigue.

Rob Simpson was the Bruins rink-side reporter and host of “Rubber Biscuit” on NESN for three seasons.

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