Directly from my diary:
We woke up at 6am. Breakfast was at 6:30 and we were to leave at 7:30 am. We actually left around 7:45 am.
This was our last day on the mountain and we had several hours of downhill
hiking to reach the bottom.
I was suddenly and for the first time the strongest of the group. Both Renate and Amy had feet problems, mostly because their hard boots had injured their feet. Amy gave her bag to Alphonce. Peter wanted to take mine but I refused, offering to take his instead. I was in high spirits and feeling strong.
I spent my time down the mountain texting friends, taking pictures of the fauna and flora I was too tired to take pictures of on the way up, and meeting new people.
We passed the German group and they passed us several times.
I had met the Irish group earlier that morning at breakfast and asked them how they all did. They all enthusiastically confirmed a successful summit. Later after returning to the base of the mountain I checked the registration log and found that they all had indeed reached Uhuru Peak.
The first time we passed the Germans I warm-heartedly asked them how they did and got a mixed “mmmm” reaction with some making the so-so sign with their hands. I agreed the hike was miserable but congratulated them, not sure how many actually succeeded.
Much later I walked with two of them near the end of the path and was told that out of a total of fifteen, eleven had reached Gilman’s Point and only five reached Uhuru. The ten all had altitude problems. It turned out that their group doctor, a specialist in altitude, had told them not to take Diamox unless they felt sick, and were told to stop when they felt better.
The group were colleagues in an IT company that does development projects in Tanzania. Part of their pre-trip regime was hiking 2800 meter mountains. Another was spending time in a special center where one can exercise in a room that simulates high altitude by taking away the oxygen from the room. Amy and I theorized about the reasons behind their high failure rate. Not taking Diamox could have been a problem. Another might have been group morale. I wonder if the group pushed too hard in the beginning of the summit hike so that some people just couldn’t keep up. That might have resulted in the first few dropping out, which might have started lowering group morale, resulting in a large number turning back after Gilman’s Point.
In our group, the slowest (me) was in front and the strongest (Renate) behind. This meant that we were moving at my pace. And each time Amy and my morale started to go down Renate would call from behind: “You’re doing it girls! You’ve almost made it! You’re doing a great job!” And Amy and I would push on.
At the summit Renate came to me to shake my hand and congratulated me for making it. I shook my head to her hand shake and hugged her instead, crying a bit on her shoulder. She kept telling me what a great job I had done and that nw I knew I could do anything. I replied in a very whiny voice, “But it was so hard!”, to which she replied, “Yup. But you still did it! You can do anything you put your mind to!” I owe that woman something serious.
Back to the way down:
I also spoke with a couple of Canadians who would be going to Egypt after Tanzania and gave them advice on tons of stuff to do while there. The man apparently found summiting very difficult, he told me. He said he was the guy sitting down every five minutes. He summited at 7:45 am, 15 minutes after us. He was probably at the summit as we left. I have absolutely no idea who was up there with us. I only remember a couple of Japanese guys taking each others’ pictures. The others are a blur. There were many other people there at the same time. Probably 15 to 20. Who they were, what they looked like is not a question I can answer.
On the way down, we took pictures of a chameleon, the Colobus monkeys, trees, flowers, and a grasshopper. I really was enjoying my new-found health. Heck, I was descending without the trekking poles even! AND I only peed once the whole trek down when we stopped at Mandara.
At around 3pm we reached the base of the mountain. I felt so happy and proud. Amy and I registered in the book and I started flipping through this year’s log to see if any Egyptian women had been up. none. Only one Egyptian named John Mado had gone up the same route earlier that year.
Peter promised he’d check the computer databases to find out if any Egyptian women ever summited. We were later to hear that at least four Egyptian women had indeed summited to Uhuru Peak in the past two years.
The log showed at 3:15pm that 63 people had descended from Marangu route the same day (August 16). Among them, 41 had successfully reached Uhuru Peak, with Amy, Renate, and I among them.
Renate signed the log book and we went to have lunch. Renate and Amy both
had gear they could give away to the porters and cooks. it was spread out on a sheet. And then the celebrations began. There was singing and dancing and passing out of certificates. The guys got their tips divided out by Peter. Peter also chose who would choose different clothing items. He himself got Amy’s hiking boots (his were worn with holes in them) and the chief cook, assistant cook, dishwasher and others were also chosen, each coming and shaking our hands at the end. And it was off to the hotel where we had hot water issues but eventually we all showered and were as good as new if not for the aches and pains and crust under the nose from the frozen snot of summit night.