Barranco Hut to Barafu Hut (4600m)
The coldest morning yet. Our tent has frost on the inside. Out come the snow gloves and the balaclavas as we try to get warm, shuffling around, waiting patiently for the sun to emerge from just behind the Barranco wall. Finally the sun hits the upper slopes of the valley. It seems to take an eternity for it to slide down to where we stand. Once more, as the sun hits us the change is immediate - off comes the winter gear, out come the t-shirts. By now, our source of bottled water has run out so we opt for some spring water from the valley. We borrow a water filter with a pump from a German couple and set about trying to filter a few litres. We get 1.5 litres and get bored so we just go with the horrible tasting water purification tablets for the rest of the bottles. We end up being the last to leave the camp, setting off at 9am.
Off we go across numerous small streams to get ready for our scramble up the almost vertical Barranco Wall. We are joined at the foot of the wall by Graham's porter who informs us that Charles (guide) and Graham had set off that morning for the peak along the treacherous Arrow glacier. We'll find out how they got on when we arrive at Barafu to switch guides. The Wall itself presented its difficulties, namely that overhanging rocks are easily overlooked when you are concentrating on keeping your footing. Of course, like a big eejit, I get a bit too carried away with where my feet are going and so when I plough straight into an overhang I nearly fall down about 30 meters almost prematurely reaching the end of my trip. 'Is there a doctor in the house?' quips Charles sarcastically. Luckily the damage isn't too bad - just a lump the size of an egg on the top of my head - so we continue. After about an hour and a quarter we emerge above the valley and take a well deserved rest.
The normal Machame route crosses the southern slopes via the Karranga Valley and the last water point, but because we have to meet Graham early so Muudui can bring him down to Mweka camp we end up taking the route taken by the American company: 'Mountain Madness'. Yes folks, we must be bloody mad. The Karranga route may be 18km long, taking 9 hours but the Mountain Madness route takes us up a shale slope, down a shale slope, up a shale slope, down a shale slope, up a cliff, down a slope, up a cliff and then, just when we think we're there, Muudui remembers that there's just one more ravine to cross... By now the landscape is desolate with no vegetation apart from about three flowers that really shouldn't be here (a bit like ourselves, isn't that right Graham?). 4 and a half hours after we set off we arrive at Barafu camp. Barafu is translated by Muudi as 'place of snow', and although it isn't snowing, it is absolutely freezing. It's a small camp situated on a narrow flat area and many fatal accidents have been recorded at the camp over the years, simply because people didn't acquaint themselves with this very narrow ridge with two glaciated valleys to fall into on either side.
Graham is waiting for us at the camp. Towards the back of the camp we hear a familiar shout: "Mai brathaaaaaaas!" Charles (guide) looks none the worse for wear. Graham looks tired but is beaming, having conquered the mountain. It was an almighty struggle, according to Charles (guide), but they made it to the top in the end in spite of headaches, vomiting and fatigue on Graham's part. This gives us some hope as does the fact that we reached Barafu at all. We always said from day one that if we can acclimatize and reach Barafu then surely we can put up with anything. It's amazing the false sense of security you can get. We really have no idea at this stage how much harder the trip is about to become.
To the east we can see the Saddle and Mawenzi (5149m). As we are among the first to arrive we have to wait for the porters to arrive to set up tents and cook supper. We opt to have supper inside the tent this time as the wind is icy cold. We make preparations for our departure at midnight. We put all of our clothes around us inside our sleeping bags to stop them freezing and settle down to try and sleep. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. Eventually at around 9pm I nod off for about two hours but after 11pm I just can't sleep. Charles (guide) comes in to wake us at 11:30pm to find we're already awake. We get dressed inside our sleeping bags as there is now ice inside the tent and all over the outside of our sleeping bags. We drink a flask of tea and eat a packet of biscuits and then we climb out of the tent in search of our destiny.
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'Here Comes The Sun'
End Of The Filtered Water
Climbing The Barranco Wall
Up, Down, Up, Down, Up
The Ants Were Very Adept At Carrying The Weaker Climbers
Walking On The Moon
A Change Of Clothes Every Two Minutes
Barafu Hut (4600m)