After leaving Mawenzi Tarn we made our way to Kibo Camp, at 4,700 meters. This was a long trek and felt like we were walking on mars. The vegetation was arid and desert-like – there were no trees in sight. Although we could see Kibo Camp, it never seemed to get any closer. It was mostly flat-ground and sandy, but it felt like with every step forward you went three steps back. After what felt like hours of walking, we finally arrived at Kibo Camp. Unknowingly the walk from Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Hut was almost practice for what lied ahead. I was finding it difficult to breathe because of the altitude.
Despite this, I was determined to make it no matter how slow I walked! Once we got to Kibo Camp, we had a small bite to eat and then were briefed on what to expect that night. Dinner was served early as we had to be up by 10pm to make the ascent to Uhuru Peak (5,895m). Most of the climbers didn’t get much sleep in the short time, but I managed to sleep pretty well. Probably the best sleep I had on the mountain so far. We were woken up at 10pm and the atmosphere was a mixture of excitement and nerves, as we had tea and snacks to fuel up. We were put into three groups for our last stretch of climb to the summit of Africa. We were assigned one experienced guide for every other climber and they would be with us every step of the way. I walked with Karin and Dr Joseph, a doctor at the local Marangu Hospital that we are supporting with solar panels.
The next few hours were a strange experience because I never felt so tired – the altitude started to get the best of me. I found it really hard to breathe and got really bad chest pain. I pushed through for a while but I was unable to keep up and my guide insisted that I go back down. I had tried to breathe based on my steps but it didn’t seem to be working. I know that it was for the best that I went back down but I was really disappointed and cried most of the way down to camp. They had told me that because the altitude was affecting me so early it would have gotten much worse for me further up. I am extremely thankful because my situation could have been much worse. I woke up the next morning feeling really disappointed in myself and it felt like a failure. Even though I know that the mountain decides, I had really set my mind to getting to Uhuru Peak. I was really emotional in the morning and found it really hard to talk about my experience without tearing up.
As the other climbers started to trickle down, I was excited for them for their achievements but I found it really hard to show it and I wasn’t feeling particularly social. I realized that I wasn’t the only climber that didn’t make it and the small group of us were the first to make our way down to Horombo Camp. We were assigned a guide and the four of us started the 8km walk to the camp. The walk really gave me time to process everything that had just happened. It was also so beautiful because the landscape went from lunar to alpine and I really enjoyed being able to move down faster. Finally, we arrived at Horombo Camp and the exhaustion really started to set in!
Everyone’s experience seemed to be different but I found out that quite a few of the climbers got sick too. I was so excited to talk to Fred, also from the Sauti Kuu Foundation, and found out how the climb was for him. He told me that he was really sick going up but he made it to Uhuru Peak. His exact words “I did it for Sauti Kuu”! I am so proud of him and seeing how far he has come on this journey. This trip has really been once in a lifetime and I am so glad I had the opportunity to go. I still am feeling so many emotions that I am finding really hard to put down on paper. I think I still need time to process it all. As the trip comes to an end, I am feeling extremely overwhelmed and I don’t really know how to handle my emotions right now.
– Akinyi Obama-Manners, 23/10-21