September 21, 2012

Barafu – Summit base camp

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The landscape from Karanga to Barafu was very barren and other worldly. It was challenging because it was quite steep and I was struggling to stay awake as the sleep deprivation was catching up with me.  When we arrived in Barafu camp I decided to sleep rather than eat lunch because I was worried about climbing while feeling so exhausted. I managed to sleep for 45 mins.  My team members seemed pretty worried about me. We all had a nap after lunch and packed for the trek to the summit. I managed another hour of sleep which was great.

 

Barafu camp is an interesting place as it is the base camp for most attempts to climb to the summit so there were lots of tents and hikers. We read two tragic stories that were confirmed by our guide (Patrick). The first was about a hiker who was using an outhouse and fell through the floor and then down the cliff to her death. The second was about a man who was using an outhouse and was blown over the side of the cliff by a gust of wind. For some reason most of the outhouses are situated on the edge of drops and so we were careful in choosing which one to use.

 

Before dinner we read about the hike to the summit which we all found sobering as it made the previous days of hiking sound like a piece of cake. The mood in the food tent was sombre. I was feeling some nausea which was likely part altitude and part nerves and did not eat very much.  We went to bed at around 8 pm. and set our alarms for 11 p.m. By 10 p.m. I had not slept and was struggling with my breathing. Every time I started to fall asleep I would have difficulty breathing and would wake up. (I have gained some understanding about peoples’ struggles with insomnia). I started to feel very frustrated and almost delirious and decided that I would talk with Patrick to see if I should not attempt the climb. Several people die every year from pulmonary edema and I did not want to be one of them. This was one of the lowest moments of the trip as I saw my chance of reaching the top slipping away and worried that I was letting people down.  I decided that in order to be able to climb, I needed some sleep and I somehow managed to will myself to sleep for 30 minutes. I awoke feeling surprisingly refreshed and after talking with Patrick decided to do the climb.

 

After having some tea and plain cookies we gathered in a circle, held hands, shared silence and words of inspiration from Gizaw and started walking towards the summit. To be continued …

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