Kilimanjaro - Day 3 (Sept. 16, 2005)

Overview Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7

Begin hike (8:30 am) at 3840m/12,600 ft.
High point (2 pm) at 4630m/15,400 ft. (Lava Tower)
End hike (4 pm) at 3860m/12,700 ft. arriving at Barranco Camp

A brief glimpse of Kibo and breakfast

Shira Camp with Shira Needles in the background

Getting started

Having ascended monotonously for 2 days without losing any of it, we started Day 3 with the knowledge that a. we would be climbing to an altitude we've never climbed to before and b. we'd be losing almost all of the elevation that we would gain during the day. Maiko told us about the option of taking the "porter shortcut" at 4200m where the road bifurcates and heads downward to the Great Barranco Valley and on to our campsite. The other option is to get some acclimatization and climb up to Lava Tower Hut (4600m) - an additional 400m that we'd have to relinquish right away. That would keep to the saying "climb high, sleep low" as a natural aid to acclimatization. We've read on some reports that people even climb up to the top of Lava Tower. By the end of the day, all these considerations were totally forgotten. Forgotten too, albeit momentarily, was our eventual goal - Uhuru peak. We had no idea that the magnificent spectacle of the Great Barranco Valley on our rapid descent from the Lava Tower, would completely overwhelm us in the misty afternoon.

Video of barren landscape en route from Shira to Lava Tower and applying sunblock.



In the morning, Gil seemed to have reached a decision regarding the Western Breach and it was time to divide the team. 4 members of the party, a guide (Prosper), a cook and 2 porters to go with Gil and the remaining 9 to stay with us. If Gil were to return to Arusha on Day 5, he will have to make the summit attempt tonight from Arrow Glacier. This meant that he will have to speed up and get going. We said goodbyes and good wishes and went our separate ways. No vegetation was to be seen anywhere as we were truly in rocky desert terrain with massive boulders. Unlike the previous day, we were heading towards the direction of Kibo (finally!). 



Walking among the boulders as seen by the camera.




After a long walk through boulder fields, we spied the Lemosho route coming from the west to join us eventually at the 4200m junction. We stopped for lunch near the junction and then continued climbing up to Lava Tower. 

Merging with the Lemosho route...Lava Tower peeks over the ridge



Video of landscape nearing the Lava Tower area



At the 4200m. junction point of the Lemosho/Machame routes

The trail leads to Lava tower...Private camp site on the right

Lava Tower is a large piece of rock that is the size of a multi storied office complex. There was a private campsite just before the tower and a public one just below it. We enjoyed a brief rest below the tower, well conscious of it being the highest we'd ever climbed to on foot. Directly above us was the three fingered figure of a glacial formation. 

Views from the Lava Tower area


At the junction with the Lemosho route.




At the Lava Tower looking towards Arrow Glacier and around.



The trail leading up towards Arrow Glacier and the Western Breach...we turned right and down

Having reached the high point of the day, it was time to lose all the altitude gained today. The alternative Western Breach route would have led Gil upward toward Arrow Glacier. As can be seen from the diagram below, the traditional Machame route now joins the Umbwe route by descending from the Lava Tower towards Barranco Hut. The next 2 days would involve proceeding from Barranco Hut to Karanga and then on to Barafu Hut, which would be the last campsite before summit.

The topographic map below with the Lava Tower, Western Breach, Barranco hut, Karanga River and Barafu Hut clearly marked.

The descent from Lava Tower began as a steep and irregular trail. It was still mostly rocky and we kept looking back towards the side view of the Lava Tower. The steep winding trail can be seen clearly between the 2 giant rocks below...

Looking back after descending down the winding trail between the giant rocks

After continuing on for a half hour, we spotted a green object in the distance that stood out amongst the barren landscape. 

It was the Senecea. Maiko merely smiled and said "There's a lot more". And soon they were everywhere.

And they are joined by an exotic looking green bird with a long tail that kept darting from lobelia to lobelia sucking the honey. Maiko called it the "Kilimanjaro crown bird" (no such bird in any reference book!), but the bird books call it "Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sun Bird". 

The lobelia trees remind us of the Joshua trees in southern California - making odd human-like shapes. 

The appearance of fog increases the dramatic effect of the landscape. We are truly in the "Great" Barranco Valley. 


Walking among the Lobelias and Seneceas.




We take our own time soaking in the sights and it is 5 pm. by the time we reach Barranco Camp. The fog lifts briefly to reveal a sheer mountain wall several thousand feet high which we will have to scale next. But that is tomorrow. Now, it is time to take the weight of our backs and legs and contemplate the magnificence of the afternoon just spent.

The Diamox Question

Maiko advised us during the day to stop taking Diamox. We were still taking 125 mg a day that was recommended by those who recommend taking Diamox. He was not very clear about the reason but only vaguely spoke about nausea and sickness. We could not make sense of this as these were the conditions that Diamox was supposed to prevent.

At the campsite, we met and briefly chatted with Deepak, a doctor from Southern California who was in a group with several doctors. He mentioned that half his group took Diamox and the other half didn't. Those who didn't were all sick and nauseous while those who did had no problems at all.

Overview Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7