TransRockies Quest 888 (Quest #8)
5 months (May to September 2013)
9 trail running, mountain biking, road running and road biking
Completing over 888 race kilometres
The Kibosho Lodge was a great place to spend the night before
the push to the top. It is only 200m from the Umbwe gate, the start
of our attempt. With all the changes to the trip, Lau had dropped
the number of porters from nine to six. Also, instead of going
ahead of us, they would head up Mweka, the descent route and wait
for us at the Millennium Hut. With this change Lau decided to leave
at 9.00am instead of 6.00am. Good move.
After a great breakfast we got ready and headed to the start
line. We had hoped to get away by 9.00am but after signing Park
Entry Forms and Personnel Risk Waivers for this particular route,
Lau, Kidori and I finally got away at 9.15am. It was hard to
believe we were starting on a 24 hour, 53 kms, 19,341 feet
adventure to the top of Africa.
There are five ecological zones to the top of the mountain. The
cultivated, tropical, moorland, desert and arctic. We quickly made
our way through the cultivated and tropical zones. The path was
good and we could power walk most of the way. We arrived at the
Umbwe camp after 3 hours. This is the camp site for Day 1 on the
five day trips. The next zone, moorland zone was amazing. Bright
green moss, skinny trees and old mans beard hanging from the
branches. We spotted a Colobus monkey high up in a tree. Lau told
me that these primates have four fingers and the name Colobus means
"cripple". The moorland zone had a lot more challenging terrain.
There was one section that was proper rock climbing, nothing too
difficult, but definitely not trekking.
Soon the trees and shrubs disappeared and we entered the desert
zone. After six hours of trekking we arrived at Barranco Camp, Day
2 on the five day trip. There I met Rich and Tracey from Sheffield,
England. They were having a great time and so far had been handling
the altitude well. This camp is at 13,000 feet and the highest I
had been before was Moose Mountain at 8,000 feet. The temperature
was dropping so we changed into our cold weather gear. Lau said
that we had a 7 hour hike to make it to the summit. Events would
prove that this was not the case.
We plodded through the desert zone and entered the arctic zone
as darkness started to fall at around 6.00pm. We pulled out our
head lights and geared up for the long climb ahead. The terrain was
getting tougher and tougher and by the time we reached the Arrow
Glacier Camp (16,400 feet) we were looking for a cup of tea. Lau
went to three tents to see if he could get any. One guide asked if
he had a "stolen permit" as we didn't have any tents. Lau said no,
that we were trying to climb the mountain in 24 hours for the
children's charity Right To Play. They didn't let him in. From one
large tent I heard a british accent. I knocked on the door and said
Inside were Andrew and Ashley. Andrew is a Surveyor and Ashley a
Project Engineer. They both work in London and had done this climb
a number of times before. Ashley asked why I was doing this and
after I told him about Marathon Quest 250 he said I was "barking
mad". Fair comment. They told us we would make the Crater Camp in
about 4 hours and the summit was about an hour from there. Sounds
good. After a plate of chicken pilaf and a cup of tea we said
goodbye and head out into the freezing night.
We were definitely in the arctic zone. Snow and ice skirted the
trail and the temperature had dropped to -15C. I had a great
headlight, Lau's was weak and Kidori didn't have one. The trail
started to get more and more technical and it seemed that Lau was
having a hard time finding the route. I didn't have a head ache or
nausea but my breathing was getting faster and faster. I was using
the 4iiiis Sportiiiis to keep track of my heart rate and was
surprised it never got higher than 120 beats per minute.
The climbing went on and on. Tricky rock faces covered in ice
and snow. At one point I was stuck on a steep scree slope, Kidori
on one side and Lau on the other. This was getting ridiculous. I
was just happy that it was dark and I couldn't see more than 10
feet in front of me. I think if it was daylight it would have
scared the pants right off me. We had been climbing six hours since
we left the Arrow Glacier Camp. It was 3.00am and I was stuck
17,500 feet up Kilimanjaro. At another point I was resting and as I
took off my CamelBak off my camera slipped off the belt and started
to roll down the mountain. Instantly Kidori was after it. To be
honest I thought it was gone but a few minutes later he appeared
out of the darkness with the camera in his hand.
To be continued………….
Song of the Day
"Climbing up on Solsbury Hill, I could see the city light"
Peter Gabriel, Solsbury Hill
Sharing a plate of chicken pilaf and a cup of tea
with brits Ashley and Andrew at the Arrow Glacier Camp (16,400