We may be on the top of Africa, but we feel like we are on top of the world
We have done it!!!
At 13h45 today the Old Mutual Barefoot Kilimanjaro Team summited and stood barefoot on the top of Africa. After setting off this morning in sub-zero temperatures, the team realised that today would challenge each and everyone of us. It would be a day that would make any previous day look very ordinary. The gradient and loose volcanic scree continued relentlessly for 4 and a half hours from Kibo Huts (4700m) to Gilman’s point (5681).
On the way up we had a couple disheartening encounters with climbers that had failed to summit and were visibly delirious and vomiting. This was an eye opener as we had not for one second factored in that one our our team members would suffer the same fate. On the flip side we a few very positive interactions with summiteers who were gob-smacked at the sight of the barefoot team – as they were well aware of the task at hand.
Coming over the crater rim at Gilman’s we were totally blown away with the awe inspiring sight of the vast snow covered crater with the southern ice field glaciers in full view in the distance. The climb and altitude clearly took it’s toll on the appetites of the team as most of the packed lunches remained mostly untouched. After a quick bite for some, we set of toward Stella Point. The pace was most definatley squarely in the “poley-poley” range (Swahili for Slowly Slowly) Even at this pace each step was a challenge and there was a lot of heavy breathing around and not as much banter.
Coming around a bend we faced with a daunting and yet exciting terrain – snow and ice. There had been a two-foot dump of snow a few days prior that we had not seen from base camp. Although there were sections where hikers had trodden a path through the snow, there were other areas where the barefooters had to negotiate their own route over the snow and ice. Arriving at Stella point we were rewarded with even more spectacular views of glaciers on either side of us.
At this point many of the team were digging deep as the air was noticibly thinner and each step took a Herculean effort. Taunting us about two kilometres further along the rim was the sight of Uhuru Peak – our ultimate goal. The weather started coming in and an icy wind seemed to cut through the layers. The mystical feel of the swirling clouds only added to the almost spiritual experience of being on top of Africa. The upside to our unorthodox strategy of attempting a summit at this time meant that we, as a team, had the summit and the mountain to ourselves.
As the iconic Uhuru Peak sign edged closer and closer, the moral of the team lifted and the hardships of the past five days started fading. We reached the peak as one very emotional tribe knowing that we had achieved what we had set out to do. The entire barefoot team had summited – sore – but with no serious injury. We were also a very proud team knowing that the integrity of the trip was rock solid and no corners were ever cut.