Kilimanjaro Climb: Machame Route – Day 4

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Barranco Camp (3950m) to Barafu Camp (4550m)

First off, apologies for not getting this posted sooner, but real life has prohibited me from doing updates as often as I would like over the past week or two. I’m hoping things will return to normal this week.

The theme for Day 4 is “Up!” as that’s what you’ll be doing all day. Climbing up. There are a series of long, continues climbs throughout the day, beginning with the Barranco Wall (seen in the picture above) which will be the focus of your first hour to hour and a half for the day. You’ll break camp after breakfast and after a short walk across the valley, you’ll begin tackling the wall, which is about 1500 feet tall. There is a fairly well defined path up the Wall, but you’ll still find yourself doing some non-technical rock climbing/scarmbling at times. When you glance over your shoulder, you’ll aslo have some amazing views, but it is also a long way down. It’s best to just keep focused on the trail and continuing the cimb to the top. This is one of the tougher parts of the climb prior to Summit Day.

After you top out on the Barranco Wall you’ll follow the path down a short descent into the Karanga Valley and the trail will wind about in a much easier fashion for a time. You’ll still have to watch the rock scree and mind your balance on the descent, as you will begin to encounter some icy rocks and slick surfaces. The going is fairly easy for an hour or so until you’ll run into another tough, challenging climb that is very vertical. While it’s not as long, nor as challenging, as the Barranco Wall, it is pretty much straight up the side of the mountain, and it’s certainly no walk in the park. At the top, you’ll break for lunch however, and the break, along with the hot meal and tea will help to re-engergize the legs.

After lunch, it’s another long, slow, steady climb to Barafu Camp. The trail up is fairly bleak and desolate, as you’re well into the alpine desert once more, with little to see except for rocks and dry soil. Glancing up will give you a nice view of the summit, and you’ll also have amazing views of both Kibo and Mawenzi peaks. The glaciers are also in full view and it’s important to sneak a peek at the scenery from time to time, as you’ll mostly be focused on putting one foot in front of the other, and following your guides up the trail.

The rest of the afternoon is a bit of a slow, challenging slog up the side of Kilimanjaro. You won’t encounter the steep, vertical walls that you faced eariler in the day, but the trail will continue to climb for the next few hours, with little relief. Shortly before you reach Barafu Camp you’ll have to scramble up and over more rocks and boulders before finally reaching the end of the march for the day.

Barafu is quite barren and rocky and is the last camp before your summit push, and while there is little to see around the camp itself, the views of the summit and the area around the mountain can be quite stunning. You won’t get too much time to enjoy them however, as you’ll have an early dinner, and then off to the tent for some much earned rest before departing at mid-night for the summit.

For me, Day 4 was the day that my lack of sleep finally caught up with me. The night before I probably had 20-30 minutes of light dozing, so at this point of the climb I was probably going on about 8 total hours of sleep in about six or seven days, dating back to when I left the States. Despite that, when I left the tent that morning, I felt strong and ready to go. Surprisingly so in fact. However, by the time we topped out on the Barranco Wall, I could tell that my energy levels were not where they needed to be. The second long climb, just before lunch, took it’s toll on me as well, but lunch and the hour long break helped to get my legs back under me, but once again, I could tell that I wasn’t bouncing back the way I had on the other days so far.

The final straw was the long, slow, afternoon climb. It was quite a challenge for me to continue up the mountain, and by the time I reached Barafu Camp, I knew that I wasn’t going to be going up to the summit. That afternoon exhaustion set in and I’d never felt so weary as I did when I finally reached camp. I was running on reserves, and all I wanted to do was climb into my tent and sleep. Unfortunately, sleep was the one thing I couldn’t do. Even as exhausted as I was, I couldn’t sleep. Over dinner, I discussed the way I was feeling with the guides, and while they encouraged me to continue the climb, I knew that it was in my best interest to not push myself further. Getting to the top was only part of the equation, getting back down ws not going to be easy either, and I had a full week of safari ahead of me too, and running myself ragged or getting sick was not an option. I was certainly disappointed in the way I felt, but deep down inside, I knew it was the right choice.

While I was exhausted, that didn’t mean that I wasn’t aware of the beauty of our surroundings. The views were spectacular and the summit looked amazing. We were also treated to a strong snow storm for an hour or two, that was a nice change of pace from the damp mist and rain from the lower portions of the climb. The wind was quite strong and ruffled the tents, and while it was cold, it wasn’t uncomfortably so. The gear I had brought along served it’s purpose quite well, and were it not for the lack of sleep, I’d have been looking forward to the summit.

Kraig Becker

7 thoughts on “Kilimanjaro Climb: Machame Route – Day 4”

  1. I haven’t decided yet. Right now I’m leaning towards Nepal/Tibet or Peru/Argentina. Both sound amazing and I’m sure I’ll change my mind several times before I go. 🙂

    What I really need is to find a new gig that lets me travel and write about it, but so far no one is knocking on my door to give me that opportunity. 😉

  2. I’ve been threatening my wife with Everest. Of course, I have no plans to go, but it makes every other trip suggestion sound reasonable by comparison. Sneaky, eh?

    Well, if you find that dream job and need a highly paid remote assistant, let me know 🙂

  3. That is sneaky! I’ll have to remember that. Should I ever meet a woman! 😉

    Everest isn’t so far fetched if you’re not actually going to climb it. A trek up to Everest Base Camp is pretty affordable, and would likely be part of a trip to Nepal that I would take. Either there or the Annapurna Circuit.

    I’ll keep you in mind when National Geographic comes knocking on my door.

  4. Looks like you did exceptionally well even with about 8 hours of sleep over that many days. Boy, can I relate to that.

  5. I slept very well once I returned to about 10,000 feet. But up until then, yes, it was tough.

    I’m hoping the next time I venture up to altitude I’ll have better results, and perhaps I’ll take a little more time for acclimatization.

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