Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 5

As soon as we began the climb up the wall, I noticed that it was slippery.  So did others.  Apparently, it got cold enough that certain parts of the wall becomes icy.  Unfortunately the sun does not shine on the Barranco Wall until a lot later so we had to take our steps carefully and slowly as we trekked along.  In some areas, we had to use both hands to clamor up or steady ourselves.  It also got pretty cramped at times with porters trying to pass us.  Our guides did their best to keep everyone together but there were times when the group ended up getting separated.

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It was another cold morning of December 30, 2015 on Kilimanjaro as we got ready to make our way to the Barranco Wall.  There was a mix of excitement and anxiousness in the air as everyone ate their breakfast and sipped their tea or coffee in the mess tent.  Not knowing what to expect other than that it would be a climb where we’d actually pack away our hiking poles because one would actually require both hands — I was a little nervous myself in terms of whether or not I would be able to tackle this climb.  The day was supposed to be relatively short with us only hiking for approximately 5km to Karanga camp.

Lots of hustling early in the morning as groups prepare to pack up and head up the Barranco Wall.  You can see people in the distance going up the Barranco Wall. Lots of hustling early in the morning as groups prepare to pack up and head up the Barranco Wall.  You can see people in the distance going up the Barranco Wall. Watching people climb the Barranco Wall slowly... Watching people climb the Barranco Wall slowly… Waking up to another clear sky and great view, but a little close to other tents. Waking up to another clear sky and great view, but a little close to other tents. Successfully made it past the kissing or hugging rock.  Happy times! Successfully made it past the kissing or hugging rock.  Happy times!

As soon as we began the climb up the wall, I noticed that it was slippery.  So did others.  Apparently, it got cold enough that certain parts of the wall becomes icy.  Unfortunately the sun does not shine on the Barranco Wall until a lot later so we had to take our steps carefully and slowly as we trekked along.  In some areas, we had to use both hands to clamor up or steady ourselves.  It also got pretty cramped at times with porters trying to pass us.  Our guides did their best to keep everyone together but there were times when the group ended up getting separated.

It was inevitable because there were just so many people hiking up the Barranco Wall.  In particular was this bulge along the trail that the guides referred to as the “Kissing or Hugging rock”.  In order to continue along the trail, you had to literally wrap yourself around the rock and step around it.

What was really impressive was seeing the porters hike around the kissing / hugging rock or even finding a direct route up without dealing with it.  The guides were amazing as well.  There were so many points when we’d end up with a traffic jam so the guides from many different groups were all communicating with one another trying to smooth out the traffic on the wall.

The view from the Barranco wall is stunning as we look down towards the rain forest canopy. The view from the Barranco wall is stunning as we look down towards the rain forest canopy. After a strenuous climb, we all take a break and try to drink more water. After a strenuous climb, we all take a break and try to drink more water.

Just before we reached an area where the trail widened enough for my group to take a short break, we came across an elderly couple who were hiking Kilimanjaro.  It was so inspirational to see them.  Yes, they needed additional help and attention, and they were slowing everyone down but I thought it was a brilliant sight to see the two of them striving to tackle Kilimanjaro for New Years Day 2016, just like the rest of us.

Ideally, that is one of my aspirations in life.  I’d like to still be able to hike mountains when I am in my 80s.  Assuming I make it to that age of course, and I base that off of the average lifespan of a Canadian male.

It continues to amaze me as I watch other hikers and the porters in particular walk up the Barranco wall without any poles while carrying so much. It continues to amaze me as I watch other hikers and the porters in particular walk up the Barranco wall without any poles while carrying so much. One of those ascents up the wall that are literally straight up. One of those ascents up the wall that are literally straight up. More grand views along the ascent. More grand views along the ascent.

Some more clamoring and scrambling with all four limbs were required as we continued up the Barranco Wall.  A few people in my group struggled with the Barranco Wall.  Though I initially had my doubts on whether I might’ve had trouble — I found that my training prior to my trip actually prepared me quite well but it was one of the more physically intense parts of the trek regardless of altitude.

At this point, altitude was not affecting many of us.  Today funny enough, was considered a “rest” day or extra acclimatization day — with the shorter distance that we would cover today.  Nonetheless, we were pretty tired from the climb up the wall and were pretty happy to finally get over that part and take a break at the top.

We finally made it up the wall and happily take a break.  Good time for snacks! We finally made it up the wall and happily take a break.  Good time for snacks!

Peering down from the top of the wall, porters continue to trek upwards. Peering down from the top of the wall, porters continue to trek upwards.

While everyone was sitting down resting, I spent some time peering down the wall where we came from while enjoying some shared snacks.  It was quite inspiring to see everyone continuing to hike up (trekkers and porters).  I wonder what the largest number of people ever on the wall has ever been?

As we moved on after our break, the trail began taking a descent and just as expected — the clouds began moving in.  Back on went the rain gear!

The trail leads through an interesting area with a peculiar pattern but as we got closer, it was simply erosion taking place. The trail leads through an interesting area with a peculiar pattern but as we got closer, it was simply erosion taking place.

As we're getting closer to Karanga camp where we will stay for the night, we must descend into the valley.  Some really interesting-looking flora and lichen. As we’re getting closer to Karanga camp where we will stay for the night, we must descend into the valley.  Some really interesting-looking flora and lichen.

The descent became really steep at certain points as we made our way into the valley.  Trekking poles are very helpful at this point.  Although there was a lot of green and flora as we made our way down, I didn’t see many senecio trees but rather a very different environment.  Even the yellows and greens were different.  Oddly enough, the greens reminded me of different parts of California and the various climates I had encountered on a family road trip many years ago.

I often find descents to be unnerving so I’d much prefer going up than down — others are concerned about their knees or perhaps have ailments that they may need to pay attention to.  I’ve found that although I have improved with my sense of balance and ability to descend mountains — it is still unnerving to trek down a steep trail.

The final climb up to Karanga camp.  This was a long slog up. The final climb up to Karanga camp.  This was a long slog up.

Fortunately for me (but not so fortunate for others), eventually we had to start our long hike back up out of the valley.  It was a beautiful sight with the clouds passing over us.

We very very slowly made our way up and out of the valley to the ranger’s hut for registration into Karanga camp.  Of course, by that point we began to experience some rain.  At this point, we were pretty accustomed to this weather behaviour on Kilimanjaro.  Everyone was just happy to get some time to rest.  Tomorrow would be a big day leading up to the summit night.

Check out Trek Day 6 and 7 on Kilimanjaro!

Author: Ehren Cheung

An explorer of life and data. Reluctantly philosophical. A seeker of the ultimate cookie. Another tree-friendly soul with an affinity for hiking and sketching.

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