We awoke in the morning to a damp day. Mist continued and a light drizzle accompanied it. This morning we would climb up the Barranco wall which we had been told would be more like scrambling than walking. Setting off after another hot filling breakfast we trekked, up through the moor like vegetation.
After about 45 minutes the scrambling began. Remembering that we were carrying 10 kg packs and the wet ground, things began to become a little challenging. Despite the more difficult conditions well laden porters began to pass us and disappear into the mist carrying large rucksacks and packs on their heads so as to allow only a single free hand to climb with. I don’t think there was a single member of the party who was not impressed.
At several points we had the rock to our left and a drop to our right. Then we came to a section where we had to turn face on to the cliff and walk sideways due to the narrowness of the path.
P/ Don’t look down Chwis.
C/ Polie, has anyone thought how difficult it is to walk face on with a snout like this!
W/ Turn your head sideways Chris and put your chest to the wall.
C/ And I’m wet. I’m not happy! Do you have any idea what scrambling is like when you have short legs like mine?
P/ We are nearly at the flat bit Chwis.
It took about 2 hours to reach the top of the wall. It was only later that we learned that people had fallen and died on the wall over the years. Some of these had been porters who are often not dressed appropriately for the climb wearing training shoes over wet rock. For many the clothing they have could be greatly improved to give them a measure of safety. But that takes money.
Once up the wall we were at about 4100 m and would spend the rest of the day walking around the mountain to Katanga Camp, a camp in a moonscape at 3995 m or 13,100 feet. Altitude sickness was becoming a companion in the camp as some amongst us showed mild signs but the steady route and longer periods at certain heights were helping acclimatisation. There are more direct routes up to the summit but these give the increasing altitude more opportunity to affect climbers. Katanga is a wild place with no shelter from the elements and the possibility of a big drop in temperature at night. We didn’t want to be going to the toilet tent at 1pm here!
C/ I’m going for a lay down. I’m sure my legs are shorter than when I started. I’ve worn them down.
P/ Chwis, that nice porter carwheid you on his shoulder for the last hour.
W/ We all did well today boys. It was not nice. I’m afraid that we might not get our clothes dry tonight. Keep your dry clothes in the dry bags for tomorrow.
C/ How much more Wic?
W/ Nearly there Chris, two days.
C/ This is my worst nightmare.
P/ Chwis, it’s not so bad. Tomorwhow will be steady walk with a gentle climb thwough Barafu camp and onto High Camp. A climb of 600 m over 6 hours.
C/ 6 Hours! My legs will be worn away.
W/ Chwis, you’re two days away from planting your flag on the summit. Think on that.
P/ And thwee days from a beer.
C/ Now your talking.
So the day started to close. Darkness came quickly and the temperature dropped. Little did we know what was to come.