Kilimanjaro Day 4
Today we have a short but steep ascent up grassy slopes rewarded by a superb view of the Kenyan plains to the north. Only a 5 mile walk, we leave vegetation behind shortly before reaching our next camp at Mawenzi Tarn Hut directly below the towering cliffs of Mawenzi peak. Most of today’s walk is rather cold and very windy. We arrive to our camp, now at
14,141 feet, to the sounds of a helicopter swarming above the clouds.
It now becomes pretty real that altitude sickness is a serious thing, as we see that a woman at our camp is laid out on the ground waiting for the helicopter to make its way. She is a rather fit looking woman, like someone on the cover of Runner’s World magazine. You’d never think someone so fit would be getting rescued, but it seems altitude sickness does not discriminate. Please note that in order to get rescued by a chopper, you need to have global rescue travel insurance that covers helicopter rescue. Most travel insurance companies do not cover this type of rescue. Read the fine print. I hate to admit it but unfortunately I did not read the fine print and it turns out the insurance that I thought covered it, did not. Fortunately I did not need it but best believe I will get it next time. We hear World Nomad's has a great one! If you don’t have helicopter insurance as part of your plan, then you have 2 options, pay approximately $3,500 USD to get a helicopter (provided weather is good and chopper is available) or be carried down the mountain by what looks like a rickety iron gurney, down a very, very bumpy, cold mountain, carried by porters.
Before dinner we take an acclimatization walk. An acclimatization walk is a walk you take in in order to prevent altitude sickness (AMS) by getting your body used to being at a higher elevation. Acclimatization is crucial for anyone trekking in the mountains, especially above 8,000 feet.
After dinner, I head back to my tiny house, aka my tent, and it begins to rain arduously. It appears to be a mix of rain and snow, and water starts to come into a small part of my tent near my feet. I put on all of my feet layers and everything is OK. This is by far the coldest of all of the nights. Minutes later, a blustery wind picks up. It begins to produce ear-splitting violent sounds, picture hundreds of zombies banging pots and pans on the roof of an aluminum house. I imagined my face now looked like Van Gogh's painting, The Scream. I think to myself if it continues to snow and pour like this, I don’t think we will even make it to base camp. OK, I have to think positive, so I tell myself to stop thinking this! I remain awake most of the night, and between the feeling of being cold, and the amount of noise from the wind, snow, and rain, I don’t think I got more than 2 hours of sleep.