Kilimanjaro trek day three – Mawenzi Camp
Same routine. Woke at 6:30AM, dressed, packed, ate breakfast, and we were off. I took some sunrise photos too! I couldn’t quite get a direct view of the sun rising, but is was still beautiful. And Kibo was all lit up while everything else remained dark awhile longer. Since we started, the Kenyan plains have been blurred by a hazy cloud layer. I think the guys were prepped for my morning punctuality. They were packed and off running very quickly. Though everything was also covered in a thin layer of frost, so maybe they were just cold and trying to get moving.
When I unzipped my tent door, it did not move at all, seemingly defying gravity, with the stiffness of frost. Everyone was wearing big, thick coats and hats this morning. The temperature wasn’t that uncomfortable to me, so I only added a hat and gloves to my regular hiking apparel. There is a quite large Russian group among our floating tourist village. They are very loud late into the night, and their head guy hikes with a huge flag and emblazoned YouTube channel where, I presume, he will feed the video footage from the GoPro attached to his chest. They do not interact with anyone outside their group.
We were the second group to hit the trail. The pattern more obvious now. The porters’s tents go down first, and the moment someone has their 20 kilos, they take off. Then in waves, off go tents, future supplies, and whatever else becomes packable, all filing out of camp. Literally reducing the present body count by 50%, since about 3/4 of our entire camp population are the porters. Urio told me that the guide to tourist ratio is 1:1, 2:2-4, 3:5-7, 4:8-11, and so on. That way if any one person has to turn around, there is still a guide remaining to keep trekking the team up. Reflecting back on Oldonyo Lengai, that practice seems very smart. But it sure creates a huge quantity of porters for each individual tourist.
As expected, even with ample “pole, pole,” we arrived at the next camp just after 10AM. Joshua had a bucket of hot water waiting for me. It was really nice! Then Urio and I went on an acclimation hike up on of Mawenzi’s ridges. Unbeknownst to me, hiking on Mawenzi did not mean hiking to its summit. That was outlawed back in 2009, or something. Urio did let me go up until we reached true outcrop so I could look at the rocks. Urio was very interested to talk about the geology with me.
Mount Kilimanjaro is pretty geologically interesting. It is one of the largest free-standing mountains in the world, formed by the culmination of three volcanoes merging together. Less than a million years ago, Shira volcano formed from massive amounts of pressure build-up in the East African rifting. Eventually it ceased erupting and collapsed, forming the main bulk of the Kilimanjaro mountain. Mawenzi volcano immediately began to form within the massive caldera left behind from Shira. About 460,000 years ago, Kibo peak began forming through a series of eruptions west of Mawenzi. Kibo continued to erupt and rise to its present height of 5900 meters. A later eruption ~100,000 years later produced all the black shiny obsidian-esqe lava rock that covers much of the mountain surface today. Continued activity led to the formation of several small cones on the mountain flanks, and about 200 years ago the formation of Reusch Crater inside the main Kibo summit. Kilimanjaro is considered formant today (I can verify that indicative sulfurous smell when I reached Kibo’s summit).
When we arrived at camp, there were already people there, taking an acclimation day. Urio and I passed one group from Britain on their own acclimation hike as we checked out the rocks. Many groups take two days here to acclimate. Even with the acclimation hike I was back at camp by 11:30AM. I will have ample time to rest, so we will continue to Kibo Camp tomorrow.
Mawenzi Tarn Hut (camp)
4315 meter amsl
4 km from Kikelelwa Camp
2.5 km acclimation hike on Mawenzi
Today I learned that Urio’s full name is actually Penieli Samuel Urio, but he goes by Urio because it is shorter. I am also growing quite restless. I have walked around the whole camp several times, climbed up a few rocks to see views and take photos, I talked with Jeff and Patty, and still I spent much time alone in my tent again. At least the sun came back out, my tent is warm and cozy now. I also met some of the people from the British group who arrived yesterday: Phoebe and Graham, plus Robinn, their British guide. They all seem quite nice. Robinn works in conjunction with a Tanzanian guide. He was very concerned at my pace up the mountain and my plan to skip an acclimation day. Almost all of our camp will move to Kibo tomorrow. I estimate it at 50 tourists and ~150 crew members. A crazy ratio. It makes me wonder how many porters are required per hiker to summit Mount Everest. Heck, just to hike to the first camp! This is a crazy ratio to me. I earnestly think I may try to return to Tanzania for a second summit, but without all the excess, and definitely much faster. Maybe via the Lemosho Route or something on the west side of the mountain.
Urio and I had our nightly recap and talked strategy for tomorrow. I also showed him many of my safari photos. We also talked logistics for me ending a day early, since I would have to stay an extra night in Moshi.