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Friday, September 4, 2009

On Track

Leaving from Barranco Camp on Day 4 required scaling the Barranco wall (pictured above, you can just make out the path above our heads). This was by far the coolest day in terms of terrain. We had to scramble, literally, which I love, pulling ourselves up and over the 'wall'.

As I stopped once in a while to survey my surroundings, I tried to ignore the porters (with the aforementioned 25kg loads balanced precariously on their heads) passing by me, both hands in pockets repeating the now infamous Swahili phrase "Pole pole" which means "Slowly, slowly". We were told this is a form of encouragement, a reminder to take it easy, but sometimes I can't help but wonder what they might really be thinking...

We reached the ridge (4200m) in about an hour and the ironman T-shirt Troy was wearing with "Pain is only a state of mind" emblazened on the back seemed fitting. Today, as it happens is also the day of the Penticton Ironman, in which we had a number of friends competing and we thought of them often, drawing parallels between their journey and ours.

From the wall, we carried on to Karanga Camp, but didn't stop there. By this point, the decision had been made to shave a day off the climb. Our guide, Daniel, was determined to get us to the summit on a clear day as we had shared with him our past bad luck with cloudy summit days. He was constantly 'reading' the weather and decided that we were on track for a clear summit morning if we carried on. Who were we to argue?

From Karanga Camp, we carried on, I meanUP, to Barafu Camp at 4600m. As we went up, we passed a group who had summited earlier in the day who were on their way down. I asked eagerly and innocently "So....How was it?". Mistake. The man was quick to pipe in sarcastically "Piece of cake" while the first woman, looking worse for wear, said "He's lying". A second woman, as if shooting daggers at her guide added "Wear everything you own". From behind me, I could barely make out the last woman adding her two cents "Bring tissue!".

Walking through clouds (a good sign for a clear morning), we reached the base camp and prepared for the summit ascent. With our tent secured (?) on a ledge, tied around rocks on all sides, our clothes carefully planned out, new batteries put in headlamps and camera batteries secured in wool socks so as not to freeze on the way up, we climbed in early to catch some rest before the planned 1am ascent to the summit.

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