Itinerary: 8-Day Lemosho via Western Breach and Crater Camp
Thu (Kili Day 5):
It was freezing cold (literally 31 F) in the morning but quiet. When I got out of the tent, I discovered that the toilet tent had collapsed. It was still dark so I just went behind a rock ledge (away from Lava Tower :)) and quickly got back in the tent to stay warm in my sleeping bag. My face felt strange as I lied there waiting for dawn. When it was finally time to get up, I checked in my little mirror to find that my eyes were almost swollen shut and the face was also swollen. I had developed peripheral edema of the face overnight. Hands and feet were fine. My hands often swell during workouts (in Austin). Seems to run in the family. I expected the swelling on my face to subside once I was up and about. And it did, but it felt weird. We were not in a rush today as it
was the shortest climbing day of the entire itinerary. We were only going to gain 1K' in altitude and walk less than 2 miles to Arrow Glacier camp. We had already climbed on that route partly as part of our acclimatization yesterday. This was kind of a rest day to save our energy for the big day tomorrow on the Western Breach.
I got out of the tent when it was light and saw how dusty everything had got. All that wind last night had swirled up the readily available dust in the dry surroundings and deposited it generously on every surface. I also found out what all the commotion had been about. The porters had not tethered down their tent with rocks like ours were done, but just used pegs and it collapsed on them when the strong winds blew for so long. So they had come out but eventually decided to sleep under it, leaving it like a covering sheet since it was not practical to put up the tent again in those windy conditions. I was reminded of our camping fiasco in the Death Valley in California when our tent had collapsed in the 70+ mph winds on the person that shall remain unnamed and who had chosen to keep sleeping under it while some other unnamed persons had laughed heartlessly at the situation from inside the safety of the SUV. That had been funny but I did not think this (at ~15K' elevation and freezing temps) could have been. LV's tent apparently had some zipper problem so an outer flap was flapping away and she got dust in the tent. Nature also called her and so she had to get out in those conditions. Nature has always left me alone at night, whether I am home in my bed or out in a tent. Some people would call me lucky. I call it methodically training one's body to behave and not be annoying.
I noticed the difficulty of stuffing my sleeping bag in its compression sack today, both because the effort made me very breathless and also because my thumbs and fingers had developed cracks due to the cold and dry air of Kili despite the vaseline and the gloves. So any pressure on them caused pain. But inch by inch, I managed to stuff it in slowly. Putting on the boots and gaiters was another long breathless project. We left camp at around 10A today and arrived at Arrow Glacier camp before noon. I have absolutely no memory of this day - the climb or the campsite - as if I was not there. I suspect that it was because fog had rolled in as we were climbing, so there were no views to take in or things to observe or remember. And you had no bearing of where you were or what was around.
Since this was a day of relaxation with spare time on everybody's hands, we had planned to take a group photo with everyone. By now, I could remember the names of most of the porters correctly. I was hoping that with the group photo, I would be able to remember them all. Unfortunately, with weather like this, the photo plan had to be shelved.
I remember sitting in the dining tent and shaking a lot with cold from time to time despite all the layers I was wearing. I wasn't feeling cold from the outside (no goosebumps, e.g.) but from inside, if that is possible or makes any sense. Though it would have been cozier, I did not want to lie down in my sleeping bag because I wanted to sleep well before tomorrow's climb and a daytime nap could have jeopardised that. This - damp and cold - is the worst kind of weather for me. My body physically seems to utterly dislike it and can endure 10-20 degrees colder weather much better if it's dry and sunny. It was windy and the temperature was in the mid-50s, not really *that* cold at all to make me shake the way I was shaking inside the tent. But it is what it is. What a pity that the weather completely masked all views today. Visibility was not even a hundred feet. It drizzled all evening. Everybody stayed inside their tents. The porters were probably catching up on their sleep after last night's excitement and tent collapse. We were just a little up from Lava Tower today, almost at the base of the Western Breach. The clear views we had seen yesterday would have been seen from even closer at this camp. Alas, it was not to be.
I was happy that there was always hot soup for dinner. All the soups were always so delicious. I used to have multiple helpings of that. For food, there used to be some kind of pasta (spaghetti or something) or rice with veggies and also one or more cooked vegetables, the latter often a bit too strong for my taste in the gravy/seasoning - perhaps some sauce that came out of a bottle or something with a lot of tomato in it. There also used to be some fried side dish which rarely held any appeal for me. I ate lots of fruit and salad things with enthusiasm. They were always on the menu. I think LV had a harder time with her food despite not being a vegetarian. I had told Detasa about being ovo-lacto vegetarian and they did good with me. LV was lactose intolerant, was not vegetarian but did not eat or like any meats other than chicken and seafood, I think. I don't know if she told Detasa about her no-nos. Sea-food was perhaps hard to provide but they probably could've got her chicken every day. I only saw her eat a chicken piece once and some bacon one day for breakfast. She could not eat porridge at breakfast (which I relished) or some soups because they had milk (it had to be powdered milk). On top of it, she did not like onions! She would literally pick out pieces of onions from various things including some delicious soups, and often give up. I don't know if Semeni (the cook) knew how to make food without onions. I'm sure he could have, given some fancy things he produced. LV hung out in the kitchen tent often enough to let him know and I could've easily survived a week or a month without onions. But she just ate more of whatever she could. Ari and Mhina, whoever showed up for meals, stopped eating a full meal with us now and used to just pick a thing or two from the offerings to give us company for some time and then have their proper meal in the kitchen tent.
We had not gone on any acclimatization hike today probably because of the weather though it was on the original plan. It was a gloomy day, mostly made so by the dense fog and total lack of sun. There had been no steps on the trail today either and my theory about my previous performance evaluation held up. I was panting even more now while climbing but that did not cause me to feel that I was doing poorly to have doubts about tackling the Western Breach. Mhina had seen me shaking while I was sitting in the dining tent and suggested I sleep with some hot water bottles in the sleeping bag. So Adam mwana filled one of my screw top bottles and another one belonging to someone with hot water and gave them to me to snuggle with. I had never been cold in my sleeping bag thus far and did not think I needed the hot water bottles. But I felt this was hardly an issue over which any resistance needed to be offered if it made anyone feel better to give them to me.
I wondered how Big Adam managed. Big Adam was a tall porter. We referred to him thus to distinguish him from Adam mwana who was not that tall. Big Adam was the washer guy. Used to wash all pots and pans at every camp. With cold water, naturally. He always appeared so cheerful. If I had the temperament to be cheerful like that, I am sure 5 minutes of dipping my hands in cold water there would've wiped every trace of a smile for a long time to come. We wished we had some rubber gloves for Big Adam. I could've easily brought a pair along if I had thought about it.
Tomorrow was the big day, supposedly the hardest of all. The day when we would climb up the Western Breach. Mhina talked to us about the climb after dinner when he checked our health status (we both continued to feel good and remained free of any AMS symptoms or other pains). We were to leave before sunrise tomorrow so everyone wrapped up early and retired for the night. The temperature had dropped to the mid-30s by the time darkness fell and there were already signs of frost on the tents. My tent was on a slight gradient, and some time during the night when I woke up, I found that one of the hot water bottles had escaped and ended up at the foot end of my sleeping bag which was about a foot downhill from my actual feet. I was not going to get breathless trying to retrieve it. We were at 15.9K' here and even the act of sitting up from the horizontal position and reaching for things around the tent used to increase my breathing rate. I was somewhat amused at how my reluctance to get the bottle pretty much told me what the bigger concern was at this point - the need for warmth or the need for oxygen. So I hung on to all my oxygen and let the bottle be.
Part 6 to be continued...Edited: 30 November 2013, 03:50