Tuesday 12th October
Airport day arrives. Getting ready for International travel, the first such trip since Jen was in New York ,wearing a mask, in March 2019.
Extra time is the trick here. Bruce and Beenzi say good bye and Jen gets ready for over 26 hours of airports and transfers.
Got all the kit - just need to get it in the bag now!
Cheers Guys see you on the other side.
Well I'm off....
Armed with a spanking new PCR test result - Jen boards in PE headed to Joburg. Joburg comes with a long wait for her Ethiopian Airlines Flight which leaves at nearly midnight for Addis.
Wednesday 13the October
Addis has a medium layover, then a smaller Ethiopian Airline flight arrives to whisk her way her to Kilimanjaro Airport outside Arusha in Tanzania on the Moshi Road. Entirely passengered by foreign tourists, the plane headed south west. Some careful seat planning allows here to see Kili from the plane - accompanied by some excited squealing to the amusement of the other tourists aboard.
Her carefully selected Tour company Trust Tours and Safari Company uplift her from the airport and deliver her to a quaint little hotel just outside the hubbub of downtown Arusha. Mvuli Hotel is small, currently under utilised with very pleasant staff. Rooms are comfortable and the pool provides some refuge from the tropical heat.
Knackered from the arduous trip - Jen opts to unpack and grab some R&R for the remainer of the afternoon.
Thursday 14th October
Happy Julius Nyerere Day! It's a public holiday. Not that this makes an ounce of difference to a tourist. Jen hikes a ride with the ever so helpful Hotel Owner into town, to see the hot spots and tourist traps of Arusha.
Making friends and conversation with the folks in the market, Jen is reminded of days spent in Victoria Falls. A place of quiet, where tourists usually throng - ready to come back to life as the world starts to open up again.
She was collected up again and brought back to the hotel for a kit inspection and introduction to her walking partner Bella. Bella is from Portugal, but has spent some time in SA. Their original 3rd was an American guy, who is no longer joining them.
Kit inspection is an important past of the process - mostly getting your weight down to the 15 kg the porters are permitted to carry plus what you are prepared to take in your day pack (plus water weight). So extra shirts, pants and fluffy slippers are turfed out. Snacks are sacrificed for extra warmth. The other vital part of kit inspection is to ensure that you have the required Mountain Warm Clothing. Jenni passes this with flying colours. This is thanks to her great friends at Merrell, who have provided invaluable help to Jen - most especially with her excellent boots (which she has barely taken off since getting them) but also with her layering. Her Summitting Jacket is a top of the line Columbia Hiking jacket kindly sponsored by her extra special friend Margaret Hirsch. Keeping her toasty in the sub zero temperatures she will be facing from the third day. Her main inner liner came courtesy of Prof Pamela Naidoo at The Heart and Stroke Foundation, where Jenni is an ambassador and who her funds raised are contributed to.
Friday 15th October
First actual day on the mountain
Leaving Arusha for Londorassi with Bella and the Crew
After a breakfast in the Hotel - Jenni meets up with Bella and together they head out towards Londorassi Gate. Approx 4 hour drive to the start point of the Lomosho route.
It is an 8 day, 7 night trail - chosen for its more suitable acclimatisation to the altitude, which offers an improved opportunity of summiting.
Sitting at 2360m above sea level, it is already a stark contrast to Jens usual sea level living. Hiking up to Mti Mkubwa will take 4-5 hours through the rainforest for the 6km. Arriving at 2900m. Cell signal is all but lost.
Saturday 16th October
Information becomes sparse while en route and before any further catch up the only text received back home is 3400m - this arrives at 11.48 SA time (they are 1 hour ahead). This tracks with projected times as the camp - Shira 1 sits at 3500m. But 100m climb at theses altitudes is still a big ask. The full 8km should take about 6-7 hours and includes a 600m ascent. Jens pack usually weighs about 8-9kg and she would be feeling every gram.
Sunday 17th October
Information is impossible - one would think that you were in the middle of nowhere. Whilst not expecting to chat to Jen constantly, the team at home spend a nervous Sunday pottering around PE. Jen would be doing a 700m climb over 11km through the heath. This would take about 7-8 hours. Shira 1 Camp to Moir Hut
Monday 18th October
2nd biggest day on the hill. She is in the Alpine Desert now and apart from summit day, this taxing, 2 part day will test Jens fortitude the most. Made of sterner stuff Jen will see off the initial 425m ascent over 7km in 5-6 hours from Moir Hut to Lava Tower. Then rest up for the 650m DESCENT over 3km in 3 hours to Barranco Camp.
Day 4 DONE
CONTACT - The guys at home are elated to report that WhatsApp does in fact work again. Pictures come in slowly, voice notes are listened to and it is well apparent that Jen, is in EXCELLENT spirits. Her porter Jackson has helped Jen every step of the way. Holding her hand probably the whole way too. Clambering over rocks that she would not have made it over at Robberg - Plett 7 months ago at sea-level. She is conquering them at 4600m.
Pasta and zugu for a tired bod.
Tuesday 19th October
Brrr been sleeping for 3 nights in my Sala pets and jacket. Mmmmmmmmm Soooo warm. -7 degrees
An "Easier Day" - "easy my butt" Barranco to Karanga takes 5h16 for the 7km, "flat" climb. Spirits are high and Jen reports she is strong. a few more photos and she has kissed the kissing wall and owned owned Barranco.
The main event - The Summiting, will start in earnest Wednesday night.
Wednesday is a 4km - 5hr - nearly 700m climb from 8.00am mountain time. The afternoon is down time, maybe a small acclimatisation hike. - quote from
"We leave Karanga and hit the junction which connects with the Mweka Trail. We continue up to the rocky section to Barafu Hut. At this point, you have completed the Southern Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. Here we make camp, rest, and enjoy an early dinner to prepare for the summit day. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo are viewable from this position."
EARLY DINNER AND REST IS BROKEN AT 11pm Wednesday MIDNIGHT AND THEN THIS - THURSDAYAM
Day 7: Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak
Elevation: 15,331 ft to 19,341 ft
Distance: 5 km/3 miles
Hiking Time: 7-8 hours
Habitat: Arctic Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp
Elevation: 19,341 ft to 10,065 ft
Distance: 12 km/7 miles
Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
Habitat: Rain Forest Very early in the morning (around midnight),
we begin our push to the summit. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. The wind and cold at this elevation and time of day can be extreme. We ascend in the darkness for several hours while taking frequent, but short, breaks. Near Stella Point (18,900 ft), you will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see coming over Mawenzi Peak. Finally, we arrive at Uhuru Peak- the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa. From the summit, we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site, stopping at Barafu for lunch. The trail is very rocky and can be quite hard on the knees; trekking poles are helpful. Mweka Camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon. Later in the evening, we enjoy our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep."
BIG BIG Couple days coming up - good luck Jen
Wednesday 20th October
Good Morning from Karanga Camp, and welcome to Day 6.
Karanga Camp is here.
Slept well and ready for a big day today. Were planning to sleep at Barafu camp, but after some consideration, Jen asked if we could consider Kosovo Camp. This camp is further down the trail... this would give an advantage in the final push tomorrow (midnight TONIGHT).
The 4km to Barafu will take about 5hours to ascend the 680m, then further on to Kosovo through the Alpine Desert.
Tomorrow (tonight) is hiking through Arctic conditions. Tonight is full moon - this is why Jen chose this date initially. Snow is predicted, temperatures down to -6 (Loving the Jacket) with a light wind. So all systems go - but we are reminded that the weather can change dramatically.
Thursday 21st October
SHE MADE IT !!!
After walking all night, clear night under the full moon. -15 degrees Jen achieved her goal and summitted Kilimanjaro. Communications are still limited, but Jen sent through voicenotes to Bruce and Beenzi at 7.00am this morning and said that she was "sitting on the top of Kilimanjaro"
A truly epic feat for Jen.
2 total hip replacements,
a cardiac patient bearing the scars of multiple heart attacks followed by several strokes and
currently under treatment for breast cancer - she has risen to the challenge she set for herself, the moment Covid restrictions would allow.
We are all amazed and truly proud of her.
She will now start the 2800m descent to camp back in the rainforest tonight - a long day.
3pm SAST - 4pm Mountain Time
Jen is slowly getting there - She has reached Millennium Camp after 2 hours trek down from Barafu, where they stopped for a bit to eat and small respite from the rigours of the descent.
Now on her way to Mweka Camp for a well deserved rest. Still 3 hours out, but the terrain eases up just a little. Just as well, as her knee is letting her know exactly how much it has been used in the past 6 days.
Friday 22nd October
Londorosi Gate 2100m - 7k - Mti Mkubwa 2650m - 2h55m
8am we meet our #adventureteam were treated to my fav song as a wish of good luck and left Arusha for Londorosi Gate. It took 4hrs. This was a brill time for Bela and I to start to get to know each other, as well as to start to get to know Jackson our Head Guide and Happyson our Assistant Guide. We made some new friends at a Moshi gas station, who we meet all along the route to the top, all as excited as us to get started.
Once we'd entered the forest area, we had another 20min drive to Londorosi Gate arriving at 12pm. The very important weighing of the bags took an hour 30 - we chatted with our new friends, eating our packed lunch.
We'd been "promised" a sunny afternoon, however, the weather will do whatever it wants and just before we started at 2.45pm we were treated to a crazy rainfall - luckily the only rain until day 7. Heart and Stroke Foundation, you have no idea how grateful I am for my jacket, this was only the very beginning and the 1st if literally 💯 x I would need it.
I started off at Londorosi Gate all shiny and new - like my first day at school! But this hike started my excessively large personal Collection of "Volcano Dust".
I then realised how crazy important and INCREDIBLE my Merrell Boots and Balega Socks were going to be!!!
Walking thru forest was amazing. Great atmosphere with the other groups, loads of laughs and great spirit. The 7k "pole pole" took 2hour55.
Seeing our new room for the next 8 days, sizing up my bed, "Washy", tea and popcorn, finally dinner - it really was a crazy start to an incredible adventure.
Bedtime was 8.30 - I was FINISHED.
Felt, AMAZING, peaceful, strong. My health stats were good.
As I am one to do, I had a giant "fruttle" thinking this is going to have to stop the higher up I go😅
500 tinkles - thank you Diamox - finally lites out 9pm.
Slept like a baby!
Mti Mkubwa 2650m - 7k - Shira 1 - 3610m - 5h34m
I was up at 5.30 thank you Diamox😅 I'd slept really well, I was surprised at how cold it was already +- 2° at 5.30. The camp was very quiet, stunning sounds of the forest and loads of Blue Monkeys playing, minding there own business.
The pattern for each day is very similar a hearty breakie of pancakes (my staple mountain diet😜) fruit and eggs. We left Mti Mkubwa at 8.30, continued thru the rain forest, weather AMAZING...
The incline had started to increase but not enough to stop the bantering and when you new BFF says we have to hug a Cedar Tree, of course you hug a Cedar Tree.
We walked a solid 2h had a small break and then...
The rainforest abruptly ends and you are in the Moorlands heading UP, UP, UP towards and into the clouds - I wasn't expecting this, it was really very beautiful but very tough. Made it to the top of Elephant Pass at 3400m through a series of hectic ups and downs - no more Mr Nice Guy 😅. Then as we started the descent to Shira 2 we saw her - covered in clouds, but for the first time I could feel the power of this incredible Mountain.
It took 5h35m to cover the 7k "pole pole" was drilled into us and actually once I had a rhythm I was very comfortable with the pace.
Once at the camp we had an hour timeout; I'd been a little anxious having not been able to send the boys any messages from midday the day before, I knew that they'd be happy for some info. This was not to be... Foolishly I'd thought that whilst comms would be limited we'd have some data access everyday🙈
If possible spirits where higher than before, whilst the terrain was tough, it was really a stunning hike.
It was now very cold 0° at 6.30pm, but we were treated to a well deserved Rice, stew and veg.
The moon was starting to get fuller as the 20th got closer, the sky was clear and scattered with millions of stars - possibly my fav camp.
My stats still very good O² 91% and resting heart rate 90%.
With the air thinner I was less inclined to"fruttle". Lites out 8.45 for a 6am start.
Shira 1 3610m - 10k - Shira 2 - 3850 - 4hr
The morning was fresh but no way cold. We had an easier hike that Day 2, the vegetation changing from Moorland to Alpine Desert.
The midmorning temp got up to 30°! Midday the wind picked up with a nasty bite. It was also very deceiving as inspite of the cold the Sun was out, the glare intense. When we got to camp I had a slight headache. We had an hour nap and at 4.30pm went for an altitude acclimatization hike up to 4018m for 1h40. This did the trick, after which no headache.
As soon as the sun set, it got very very cold. Nite sky was clear clear -2°.
Silly story, I'd been cold in my sleeping bag on the 1st two nites - I had all my SUMMIT gear packed separately only for SUMMIT Nite - all the really warm stuff!!!
On nite 3, I decided that this was stupid and dragged out the warm gear - I wasn't cold at nite again🤣
Early nite, for the 1st real big challenge - up to Lava Tower down to Barranco Camp!
Shira 2 3850m - Lava Tower 4600m - 7k - 4h54
Lava Tower 4600m - Barranco Camp 3900m - 3K - 3h25
I had mentally and physically trained and prepped for Day 4 - and it paid off💪
I knew it was going to be long and hard.
The elements were cruel - UV11, there was no escaping the Sun. It was very cool as soon as you stopped hiking. Wind burn was a certainty.
However, spirits HIGH we set off to conquer the harsh terrain. "Pole Pole" in rhythm to my MP3, my target the first 2hrs, gain the distance!
Any exposed skin burnt within minutes and I could feel the dehydrated cracks on my lips - zambuck, zambuck, zambuck! Reapplying Sun block was essential, but felt like rubbing your face straight in the volcanic sand.
I'd bought the right amount of liquid and energy snacks - drinking on the move was now impossible because of altitude, so I counted 15 steps sip, 15 steps sip, listening to all the words of all the songs Johnny Clegg ever wrote for the final 3 hours.
I had a huge sense of achievement reaching Lava Tower 💪
Bela and I were both strong, enjoyed lunch, managed to stay at 4650m for more than an hour, which was great acclimatization.
Time to go down to Barranco Camp home for the nite...
My knees are not great and I was concerned about the descent after the SUMMIT, but I'd no way prepped for the drop off to Barranco😅 Happyson literally held my hand as I clambered down a drop of over 600m in 3k. The final 1k to Barranco is very very pretty and oddly scary with the "prehistoric" looking Giant Groundsels.
A great great day - no signs of any sicky😜
Tomorrow "The Great Barranco Wall" 💪
We started a lovely morning with an official intro to our #adventureteam Our expedition comprised on 13 men - Jackson Head Guide, Happyson Assistant Guide, Chef and 10 Porters. It felt like an excessive number for the 2 of us, but I was really grateful for the support physical and emotionally on several occasions.
Our meals were incredible, nutritious and huge.
Time to tackle The Great Barranco Walk 😜 again I was will prepped for this, I'd researched as much as I could, been given invaluable advise - it was an amazing experience! Tough but successful💪. Again I have Jackson to thank, he didn't let go of my hand for a minute.
The hike from Barranco Wall to Karanga Camp was another series of surprise downs, that were taking its toll on my knees🙈
Happyson was given the job of "JP" Jenni Patrol🤣 and with blind faith, when Happyson says just jump... you just jump😅 doooowwwwn - my personal fav I nicknamed "the gorge" which looked and felt like climbing a direct vertical down the face of the Victoria Falls.
Finally a gentle hike up to Karanga Camp for our final "normal" nite.
Day 6 begins the start of a very very long "SUMMIT Day".
Writing down my adventure for the SUMMIT has been wickedly exciting; reviewing the stats - I am honestly very proud of myself 😅 it was without doubt the hardest thing I've ever done, but...
🅸 🅳🅸🅳 🅸🆃 !
so here goes...
7½ MONTHS & TODAY'S THE DAY • • •
FROM THE BIG START - Wednesday 8.30am after breakie, leaving Karanga Camp to Thursday nite 7.24pm arriving at Mweka Camp • • •
It took - 34h37 • of which...
• 22hrs was total hiking time
• I had a totes of 2½h lite nap time
• my lowest O² was 71% - ave 78%
• I burnt 6509 calories over 35½h
• ave heart rate was 125bmp while hiking
• 5½ ltr water
• 21½k ± total distance
8.30am - 12pm
Karanga Camp 3995m - Barafu 4673m - 4k - 3h31
There was loads of excitement for ALL the hikers this morning. 5 of the routes at this point have all joined and everyone is on their way to the SUMMIT over the next 36h. All the guides take strict control over our pace, in prep for the SUMMIT as the ascent gradient and altitude increase - 4 peeps have had to be taken off the Mountain by now, but I have absolutely no sign of altitude sickness, I'm incredibly strong and respectfully nervous.
There are hundreds of tents when we arrive at Barafu Base Camp - hikers who have left for the SUMMIT at midnite and those like us leaving tonight.
12.20pm - 13.25pm
Barafu 4673m - Kosovo 4900m - 1k - 1h4
Research and always KNOW YOUR ROUTE!!!
I am so so grateful that we had moved our Base Camp to Kosovo Camp. I had an idea this would be a good idea before i left home and had spoken to Jackson about it on Day 2. Setting up Base Camp at Kosovo is not the norm, but I would recommend it to EVERYONE! This means that the 1st very very difficult 1h of the SUMMIT start is done in daylite and not at midnite.
Once at Kosovo, we had a big late lunch, I grabbed a 30 min power nap - unfortunately cloud covered the Mountain, so we had no view for inspiration - maybe this was just as well 😜 whilst focus I was the right amount of nervous. We had an early dins (eating as wisely and at much as poss, the energy was essential). I ⅔ changed into SUMMIT gear, it was now really cold -4° .....
I managed to grab an hours sleep. Eric woke me at 10.30pm for tea and biscuits - I was way too excited to eat...
11.38pm we were on our way...
11.38pm - 6.55am +-5k = 7h17
Kosovo Camp 4900m - UHURU PEAK
Kosovo 4900m - Stella Point 5756m - 6h30
We got a good start, so so glad to do this at nite - I think the unmoving view of the Crest would be soul destroying in daylite. We had great rhythm, it was very very "pole pole", Jackson controlling every second. Our % gain of ground was sooooo small 10 steps I think barely gained 1½metres.
We had a 6 minute tea break after 2 hours, Jackson keeping us moving to ward off the cold and potential altitude complications. Next official stop would be just past Stella Point.
Although I didn't look at it a lot, the Full Moon was as beautiful as I'd wished it to be. Even though the sky was bright, using a headlamp for me was essential. On and on and on, slowly, slowly moving to the Crest...
Every 10/20 steps Bela and I would stop, put our heads on our Trekking Poles for about 20seconds, later convinced that we fell asleep during these times - often walking with eye closing, closing, closing...
Then still in the dark of nite and the freezing, freezing -12° of pre-dawn Happyson says "Jenni 50 steps to the top edge of the Crater - Stella Point".
Yahoo - we took heed of the warnings not to stop at Stella Point, but pushed a 150m further towards Uhuru, where Jackson produced some more of his AMAZING Ginger Tea. I'd eaten small bits of Bar-One, some jelly babies and shortbread biscuits - taken 2 energy gels... Anything to keep my energy going.
Stella Point 5756m - Uhuru Peak 5895m - 47min
Tired beyond explanation, we "enjoyed" the kinder ascent gradient to Uhuru - grateful for every encouraging word from Summiteers on their way down.
With 40 long minutes down (at the time I was uncertain how long we'd be moving or the time of day and I thought I'd taken 1½h to get to the Peak from Stella Point), then I saw it... THE SIGN just a few more minutes - the excitement in the air was INCREDIBLE. The Mountain had so much energy and all the pain was for now forgotten. Everyone had a "something" they wanted to do at the Top and for a few minutes, as complete strangers we were bonded by heart and overwhelming emotion.
I managed to voicenote home "I'm sitting on the Top of Kilimanjaro and I can see a new Tomorrow".
Jackson was happy to give us 15 minutes on "The Roof of Africa" now it was time to descent to lower altitude as fast as possible.
7.10am - 9.55am - 2h45
Uhuru Peak 5895m - +-5k - Kosovo 4900m 2h45
Uhuru to Stella was easy, running on excitement... Sharing words of encouragement to the incredibly tired ascending hikers.
We took the pics at Stella Point, that we hadn't done on the way up - I managed to "restart" a group of 10 very fatigued and disillusioned hikers, who were about to give up and turn back...
And now the biggest challenge - I knew the descent was going to be difficult and technical. My knees aren't great and whilst I'd eaten my snacks and drunk 3l of water, I had zero energy. This coupled with a 4k 750m drop off in thick, thick sand, broken rock and sharp volcanic shale - it was going to take courage...
"Dig Deep", "Find your Spirit", "I am strong, I can do this" - all mantras I'd used during Ultra races in the past. YOH!!! Unlike the ascent, going down was done in giant steps of about a metre, where I would sink half way up my calf each step - the impact was HARD!
THE MIND TAKES OVER THE BODY
1½h into the descent, I "popped" my right knee - the pain was unbearable, I was exhausted, we'd been going down down down - we could see the camp but it just never got closer!!!
My final step, a jarring step into a rock covered in shale - I sat in the sand and cried... I had no idea how I was going to get off the Mountain! Happyson had been in contact with Base Camp advising them that I had a problem and then - and this is where it is so so important to have an AMAZING TEAM that you TRUST ...
"Jenni, look over there" 45min down at 5100m "My Porters" were waiting for me, with LOVE, ENCOURAGEMENT and all the HELP they could offer, to get me the final 30min back to Base Camp.
This INCREDIBLE sight of My Team gave me ALL the energy I needed to get to them.
THE TOTAL TIME
From Kosovo Camp - To Kosovo Camp - ±10k - 9h55m
WHAT TO DO NEXT
With at least another 6+h of crazy descent still to go, Jackson had the worst job of informing me that I had 2 options...
Heli-vac or infamous "Mountain Ambulance" off the Mountain...
I felt like I had FAILED!!! "Jackson, am ill; do I have Mountain Sickness"...
NO - I had a sore knee!!! Mind over Body - I asked for an hour, went and bound up both knees, changed from Summit Gear into normal Hiking Gear and told my team I wasn't being "taken"off My Mountain and we started DOWN...
1.07pm - 7.24pm - 6h17
Kosovo 4900m - Mweka 3100m ±6½k
• Kosovo Camp - Barafu Camp ±40m
• Barafu Camp - Millenium Camp ± 2h
• Millennium Camp - Mweka Camp ±3h40
Jackson and Happyson never left my side. I had such an incredible sense of achievement when I finally arrived at Mweka Camp and I am so grateful to these two gents for believing that I would be able to complete this section under my own steam.