Karanga Camp (4040 m) to Barafu Camp (4640 m), 3.4 km, elevation 600 m, 2 hrs 35 min. Total trip distance so far: 37.6 km, total elevation 3777 m, total hiking time 21 hrs 40 min.
This day was short and easy. The extra day gave us more time to acclimatize, plus with a nice short day we would hopefully be somewhat fresh for the summit attempt that would start around 11 pm. We headed back up the same path we did for our acclimatization walk the previous evening. We went very pole pole and discovered that the pace I had set for our little walk the previous evening was very close to the what August set for this day.
We hiked steadily up the hill towards the top of the ridge. We started at the boundary of the Moorlands and Alpine Desert Zones. While vegetation was sparse there were lots of clumps of grass. We quickly ascended out of the Moorlands and the vegetation almost completely disappeared, leaving us to hike among the dust and the angular lava rocks.
We continued to hike up at a very easy pole pole pace. It took 1 1/2 hours to get to the ridge, a distance of only about 2 km. The rocks at the ridge were broken into flat pointed rocks. Geologically, the outcrop at the ridge was a different rock type from the majority of the mountain. The rock was laminar with distinctive bedding planes and broke along nice cleavage lines. This was more characteristic of shale, a sedimentary rock laid down in a near shore environment, rather than the knobbly volcanic rock of the rest of the mountain.
Hikers have taken advantage of the flat rocks to erect small towers of rocks at the top of the ridge.
We stopped for a break at the rocky outcrop. This allowed me to catch up with the group as I had spent much of the day walking with the mother of the Penguin People we met yesterday. While we were stopped, we could just make out Barafu Camp in the distance atop a rocky ridge. Barafu is the Swahili word for ice.
The walk to Barafu Camp took us down a long dusty path. The cliff we had to hike had nice switchbacks and was nothing like Barranco Wall but was higher than what it appeared to be from a distance.
It was a short walk up the ridge to Barafu Camp. We arrived at camp at about 11:35 am. While the guides where checking us in to the camp, we surveyed the outhouse built over the side of the cliff.
We had to hike downhill a ways to our tents, losing elevation we would need for the summit hike that was coming later in the evening. Arriving early we had lunch and attempted to nap and prepare for the evening’s adventure. Since the temperature was going to be below freezing, we were told that we would have to blow the water back down the hoses of our water bladders after each sip of water. Ironically, Siobhan had difficulty doing the blow back when we practiced but during the summit hike she was the only one to successfully keep her pipe from freezing.
After a few encouraging words at dinner, we went to our tents at 7 pm to attempt to sleep. Not sure how much sleep anyone actually got, but 11 pm “knock knock tea” came very quickly. Now it was time to hike to the summit!