Kilimanjaro, my last great mountain: Part Four

Rocky Mountain Senecio (Ragwort)

Kilimanjaro Senecio

You really have to be a botanist to understand this one.  How can a plant that looks like the ill-conceived offspring of a palm tree and a pineapple be cousin to our sweet little yellow mountain flower?  The flora of Kilimanjaro raise wonder to a whole new level.

I’m in the throes of acclimatization.  We came up fairly quickly to Moir Camp at 4160 m.  Today we have to climb another 400 m to Lava Tower, eat lunch there, then descend to Baranco Camp at 3950 m.

Crossroads

A neighbour of mine was unable to make it to Lava Tower and gave up on his attempt to climb the mountain.  I think a fair number of people quit at this point because the air contains very little oxygen.

I’m slow, even for Kili.  My pace puts a long time between breakfast and lunch, and I’m running out of gas on the seemingly endless uphill climb. With nothing very interesting on the slope in front of me, my mind is beginning to listen to sore knees, aching muscles and desperate lungs.  But I have a secret weapon: decades of mountaineering experience.  I’ve been this tired before and kept going.  I know, in the marrow of my bones, that if I just take the next step I will get to the top.  And I can always take one more step.  My body drifts into a resigned funk.

I finally stagger up to the mess tent, a bright yellow vision in a world of cloud and mist below the spectral shape of Lava Tower.  While we eat lunch it begins to rain.  Again!

Lava Tower

The descent to Baranco is steep and wet, the trail doubling for a stream.

Descent through the senecios, Ernest behind me.

The descent seems endless, almost 600 m of mountain nastiness, with no view, no chance to stop and rest in the cold.  Only the vegetation can take my mind off the miserable conditions.

Lobelia

Unknown

Eventually we climb to a high ridge and join other groups that have come up the Machame route.

En route to Baranco Camp

Camp seems crowded tonight, but the rain keeps everyone inside, and there is no socializing.  I’m tired from the day’s exertions and from lack of sleep, and for the first time I have no appetite.  Kili is proving to be a challenge.

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