It’s day 4 of our 8 day climb. Today we head up to the Lava Tower at 15,200ft for an acclimatization hike, before heading down to Barranco Camp to spend the night. We’re up early to get a head start on everyone else headed this way today (as this is where the Lemosho Route meets up with the Machame Route).
I love that you can see the shadow of Kilimanjaro in the clouds below us as the sun rises higher.
As we begin the hike towards Lava Tower, we come across buffalo tracks. All the way up here! I can’t believe they climb this high, but I guess they are looking for minerals in the rocks they can’t get at lower altitudes.
It’s a long, steady hike up hill. I see another Lobelia, the last of the green we’ll see until camp tonight.
Most of the porters are luckier than us today. They don’t need to acclimatize, so skip Lava Tower altogether and take the shorter route directly to our next campsite. A few groups will camp at Lava Tower, but most of us will continue on.
In the picture above, you can see the trail up to Lava Tower, which is the larger of the two rock pilings on the right side of the photo.
We stop for a quick break before continuing on. Even our guides seem happy for the rest. And of course, I can never get enough of these views.
We make good time to Lava Tower, about 3 hours. We stop to eat our boxed lunches when we get there, and Innocent insists on snapping a photo of us (probably retribution for all the times I snap photos of him).
Amy is both disappointed and relieved we don’t climb to the actual top of the tower (apparently it’s too dangerous, though I see people coming down as we arrive) and I’m mostly bummed. The pictures I could have taken from there!
About 15 minutes into our meal, our guides walk by asking if we’re ready to go (as they clearly already are). Amy and I are both so surprised that we drop our uneaten lunches in our bags and pack up. As we start to descend, I wonder what the rush is. I thought we were supposed to spend an hour here, acclimatizing. I slow things down a bit by taking lots of pictures.
The route is pretty steep and the path is full of loose rock and dirt which cause us to sort of slide-step down the mountain. We make quick work of going down, and I’m a bit worried about falling, as well as annoyed at having to leave lunch so quickly. Fortunately my poles help keep me upright, though there are a few touch and go moments. As we get closer to our camp, we start to see trees again.
Barranco Camp is probably the most lovely place we sleep on the entire climb. We’re on what appears to be a ledge high above the clouds, tucked under the somewhat daunting Barranco Wall, which we’ll tackle tomorrow. And of course, there’s always amazing views of Kilimanjaro.
A quick side note about our tent situation. Amy and I sleep on the outsides of the tent, with our gear bags in the middle and our day packs at our feet. Every evening when we arrive at camp, one of us will get into the tent, change out of our sweaty, wet clothes, and set up our side of our sleeping area. Then we usually lay out our clothes to dry on our sleeping bags and gear bags. It works quite well for us, and ends up being rather cozy.
After dinner, Innocent comes in to talk to us about skipping Karangu Camp the next day and heading all the way to base camp. I’m pretty sure my jaw hit the floor. Is he serious? We chose this route to do it in 8 days (7 to summit, 1 down) because we thought it would be the best for us to have success, now he wants to shorten it? He tells us that the weather is really good right now and if we summit earlier, we could possibly have less wind. Obviously this appealing, and I can tell Amy is very excited at this prospect. After talking it over, we agree we’ll go to base camp the following day, but I tell everyone that I reserve the right to not attempt the summit tomorrow night if I’m too exhausted from hiking during the day. It’s been a long day today, too, and I’m still a bit frustrated with how it went considering our short stop at Lava Tower, but the sun is setting and it’s too beautiful not to enjoy, so I resolve to take the day as it comes and hope everything works out for the best.