Day 6 (Sept. 7, 2005): Lava Tower Camp to Arrow Glacier Camp


Trip Participants
Selecting the Route
Guide/Trekking Company
Training for the Climb
Gear List

Travel to Tanzania
Pre-Climb Orientation
Day 1: to Forest Camp
Day 2: to Shira 1 Camp
Day 3: to Moir Camp
Day 4: rest day at Moir
Day 5: to Lava Tower
Day 6: to Arrow Glacier
Day 7: Western Breach
Day 8: Summit day
Day 9: Descent

Safari After the Climb

Hiking  Distances
GPS Coordinates
Contact Information

Daily Climbing Summary

Start:  Lava Tower (lower) camp 14,950' elevation
Finish: Arrow Glacier camp 15,970' elevation
Distance: 1.5 miles  
Time on trail: 2 hours  
GPS Data Latitude Longitude
Lava Tower (lower) camp S 3o 03.928' E 37o 19.242'
Lava Tower S 3o 04.062' E 37o 19.654'
Arrow Glacier camp S 3o 04.359' E 37o 20.162'

Today we moved from our camp below Lava Tower to the Arrow Glacier camp. This was only a 1.5 mile climb, taking about 2 hours. It seemed like we were moving up the mountain at a snail's pace. But the whole point is spending time at the high altitudes to give our bodies time to adjust (acclimatize) before trying for the summit at 19,340'. I knew in advance that we would follow this schedule, so I never had second thoughts. Everything that we had experienced on the mountain so far showed that the plan was working. So far, none of us had suffered from the altitude. (Although Kevin was very ill, his troubles didn't stem from the elevation.)

Before we left camp, Kevin started his painful hike down the mountain to the rescue route. Charles accompanied him, and we would not see either of them for the rest of the trek. Three porters carrying gear also followed them down. Although Charles and Kevin would both ride off the mountain in the rescue vehicle, the porters would walk all the way down and get a ride back to Moshi by some other route. Kevin was in obvious pain, and he had a very hard 3 or 4 hour walk ahead of him. Elias was able to keep in radio contact with Charles as they made their way.

On our hike to Arrow Glacier, Elias set a slow pace. The trail was very steep, and was quite a workout. I appreciated every time the group would stop (usually so that Elias could talk with Bosco, who joined us today, or to check on Pauline, who was making slower progress up the slope). For the first time on the whole trek, my legs got very tired on this climb. I began to feel the elevation; not so much by being out of breath (Elias kept us on such a slow pace that my breathing could keep up), but at times my heart felt like it would jump through my chest it was beating so hard.

Arrow Glacier camp already had two or three groups (including ours) that were set-up when we arrived. It turned out that four groups (groups of 6, 6, 4, and 1 clients) would be climbing the Western Breach from Arrow Glacier. At least some of the groups would leave at midnight, making the climb up the Western Breach in the dark, climbing to the summit some time after dawn, then descending to Millennium or Mweka camp in a very long day. At least one other group was planning to leave at dawn, on the same schedule as our group. We would climb the Western Breach in the daylight, then camp within the volcanic crater, just below Uhuru Peak. We would climb the final 500' to the summit the next morning, and then begin our descent.

A group of six trekkers (with another climbing company) had come up the Umbwe Route. This route is notorious for its reputation for being too steep, and climbing the mountain at much too fast a rate to be healthy. Most commercial companies (including Tusker) don't even offer the Umbwe Route because it is considered so dangerous (from the risk of climbers developing AMS, cerebral edema, or pulmonary edema). In fact, four of the climbers in their group were having respiratory troubles and other symptoms of altitude sickness. It was a sobering reminder that there were risks associated with this mountain. I knew that we had chosen well when we picked both our climbing route and Tusker Trail for our Kilimanjaro climb.

The camp was a cold and windy place. However, I had been expecting worse from all of the web trip reports that I had read. Most of the time at Arrow Glacier the camp was socked-in with cloud cover. However, toward sunset the clouds cleared for a while, and we got some beautiful views of the Western Breach.

That evening my blood oxygen level had actually gone up, to 88%; everyone else's numbers were about the same. Elias also checked our lungs with a stethoscope to make sure that there was no fluid build-up (a sign of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, HAPE). The four of us all checked-out OK, so it looked like we were good to go for the morning.

For dinner we had a potato / leek soup, and a shell pasta with a bean / tomato sauce (everyone but Ellen skipped the sauce). My appetite hadn't been too good for the last several days, but I was still feeling well. I could tell that I had lost quite a bit of weight on the trek. I hadn't thought about bringing along a belt for my hiking pants; I had never needed one before. The pants were now falling off from my weight loss, and I held them up with the stomach strap on my day pack while we were hiking.

It got down to 15o F that night. It was cold, but not any worse than the night before. Pauline had brought along quite a few hand-warmer packets. She gave Ellen and I all of the extras that she could spare. I used mine in my sleeping bag, putting them between two layers of socks. They helped quite a bit. That night I used the fleece liner that came with my sleeping bag for the first time. That, and another layer of long johns, helped me make it through the night in better shape.

I had read a lot of Kilimanjaro trip diaries in which people reported that they didn't get any sleep at Arrow Glacier. Most said that they were very worried about the tough climb up the Western Breach that lay in front of them. But looking back on our six days on the mountain so far, I realized that everything we had encountered had been well within our abilities. I love to hike, and had been having the time of my life while on the trail. Although some stretches had been very steep, Elias always kept us at such a slow, steady pace, that we really were having no problems. I expected that the route up the Western Breach would be "just more of the same," as far as challenges go. It would be a long day; he told us it would take at least seven hours to get to the crater rim. However, I knew that the scenery would be the most spectacular I would experience in my lifetime. I was excited and looking forward to the day; in fact, I had been looking forward to September 8 and the Western Breach for six months. I slept very well that night (except, of course, getting up to pee a half dozen times).



Copyright 2005. Michael E. Coltrin, Albuquerque, NM. All rights reserved.