No words can really describe today, but because blogs need words I better try! If you are just dipping into this blog for the first time please skip back to at least last Wednesday and read them (or skim them at least) so that they make more sense.
Last night one of the boys was awake in the night - he was calling for Al so Stu and I decided that we has done our share of late night poorly boys and went back to sleep! Traveller's diarrhoea struck again! According to Al, being woken by a boy holding shitty pants and waving at one is not the best alarm call! What a night for it to happen - but at least he was one of our stronger boys. And our start time had been pushed back to 2am so we had an extra couple of hours sleep. At 'breakfast' at 1.30am he looked pale but determined.
It was well below freezing when we left at 2.10am. One boy had misplaced his head torch - he thought he might have put it down (!) while using the long drop!
Within 15 minutes we discovered that one boy had only one bottle of water which was half full. How many times had we told them that they needed 3 litres of water? Another boy was wearing sunglasses - at 2am in the morning in sun zero temperatures!
Half an hour in the boy with the squits from last night was really struggling. I was convinced that he was going to go down as he looked so weak. Al was pretty certain that he was going down too. That would mark the end of my summit attempt as he would need to be accompanied by a teacher. I couldn't bring myself to go and see if he was ok as I knew that my desperation would show and I didn't want to add to any feelings of guilt or add to the pressure.
It was dark, cold and the 'path' was scree - as Al had said the day before (although not to the boys) it was like walking up the down escalator for 6 long hours! Our poorly boy rallied! The summit porters, Al and Stu were helping him out. Al and Stu were amazing - up and down the line of walkers checking that they were all ok. We discovered a boy who hadn't brought his warm gloves with him. His hands were frozen - he was less than grateful when the porters and Al tried to get my spare gloves onto him.
We stopped for 10 minutes every hour. No sitting down (in case someone fell asleep), snacks to be consumed, and rapidly freezing water to be drunk. Then we'd plod on again. The pace seemed incredibly slow, but on the few occasions I upped my speed to move along the line (either up or down) the effort of walking at 'normal' speed left me breathless. Other boys were starting to suffer. They were monitored closely and encouraged to continue - supported by the summit guides. I began to think that I might actually be able to summit. The thought that I would do this monotonous trek and not get to the top was depressing in the extreme.
The Sun started to rise at around 6am - which made the walk more interesting from a scenery point of view (we could see Mt Mawenzi) but we could also see how much climb we still had to go. One of the porters asked if I was ok - I assured him I was, 'Dada (sister) is a strong lady!' was his reply - I told him I was just a stubborn woman! I shall miss being called 'Dada!'
By the time we reached Stella Point we had 2 boys who were really suffering. It is about 45-60 mins from here to Uhuru Peak, but at Stella Point we were given hot, sweet, black tea (urgh!) and a chance to regroup. It would be possible for boys who didn't want to carry on to go back from here and for me to still summit (as we'd probably only be half an hour behind them). I was thrilled.
I took some time to enjoy the stunning scenery - photos to follow - they are on my camera, before we all proceeded to Uhuru Peak. Only 250m of climb left! We were seeing people returning from the Peak with a spring in their step. This would be us soon!
And then we were actually there! Two years (almost) in the planning! Shit weasel and I signed up for this trip on our first day in our new job at our current school - before we knew each other at all - in September 2017. I am gutted that he wasn't on the top of Africa with me today, but I couldn't be prouder of the boys. They were, collectively, amazing! Supporting each other, celebrating with each other, sharing Haribos with me! I shed a few tears, ok, quite a lot of tears, as we did group and individual photos.
Then we had to come down! Going down 1200m in about 4 miles of scree is hair raising in the extreme! At one point I very nearly had a hissy fit, but one of the porters took my arm and guided me down!
Back at Baranfu Camp we had an hour to pack up and rest before lunch. This would be our final meal with Stu. He had joined us to travel up the mountain as summit leader and he will be staying at one of the campsites to accompany other groups up the mountain. I left him with a big packet of beef jerky and our grateful thanks. He was a real asset to our group.
After lunch we had a 2 hour trek or Millenium Point Camp. I eventually got my second cup of coffee of they day - only 15+ hrs after the first! And I washed my hair with travel soap and water that had frozen on the way up to the summit - that's not something you do every day! I'm not sure how effective it was, and I could have waited for a shower tomorrow evening - but after a week of no showers it felt very refreshing.
Early nights all around tonight I think!