Thursday, 4 September 2014

Tanzania and Mount Meru - Altitude, Exertion and Exhileration

August 13th 2014 saw the Collingwoods and Colleys start the Mount Meru climb in Tanzania.  We were superbly guided and aided by The African Walking Company who were exceptionally good.

We walked through a variety of climate zones on our ascent, including the famous fig-tree arch:

The Famous Fig Tree Arch on Mount Meru Trail

I will write elsewhere in more detail about the whole trip, but in essence we climbed 9000 feet over two and a bit days, trudging constantly uphill with increasing gradient for about 12 miles.  Summit day started at midnight, setting off in moonlight and head torches at 1am climbing the last 3500 feet on loose ash scree and rock.

It was very hard.  There I said it.  I was struggling with Altitude Sickness from the previous day and was losing my battle with breathlessness, splitting headache, exhaustion and awful nausea.  As was Bella who also suffered horribly.  Needless to say we had all contents of our stomachs and bile reserves violently removed from our bodies at regular intervals whilst climbing.  Singularly, the hardest thing I have ever done.

However, having said that, there are two things that made it worthwhile.  The first is knowing that we all achieved it.  The second is the view at sunrise to the east.

I defy anyone to see what we did, even exhausted, and not be moved to tears at the most beautiful and welcome sight of the day dawning against the silhouette of Kilimanjaro; the last stars still hanging over it.

These photos were taken by Liz and Rob whose photographic skills I am grateful for sharing:

Sunrise over Kilimanjaro from Mount Meru
Sunrise from Mount Meru looking east to Kilimanjaro
The views from the top were incredible.  We were so very high above the clouds, and when a gap appeared, you could see some the plains stretching off in tiny detail 100 km off into the distance.

View from Mount Meru after Sunrise

Mount Meru Volcanic Ash-cone

The descent was long (another 8 hours down to Miriakamba Hut) and wobbly on the knees, but the Altitude Sickness started to recede and was replaced by a silent pride.

Josephine & Coll Descending Mount Meru

I must personally thank Coll as well as Florence and Simon from the African Walking Company.  I simply would not have been able to summit without them.

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