On the roof of Africa
Everyone made it to the summit. Amid the exhaustion, there were lots of smiles, hugs, and congratulations as people arrived atop Africa's highest peak.
Considering the altitude--more than 3½ miles high--the climbers weren't showing much physical exultation, except for one of the Tanzanian guides, Alan Phillemon, who was running around the summit.
Peter Blomquist filed this report from 10,000 feet:
"Woke up about 5:30. Frickin' cold outside. And for the first time this climb, there was no Starbucks served.
"By 5:35, everyone was chilled to the bone. After a breakfast, so to speak, of oatmeal and hot water or tea, we were on the road.
"About an hour and a half later, at around 8:30, the first group reached the summit, which is a flat expanse probably about three football fields long. At the end of a little rise lies a sign that says 'Uhuru Peak'--Uhuru means freedom in Swahili--'5895 meters, the highest point in Africa.' That translates into 19,340 feet.
"The group stayed on top for almost an hour and a half, as the group all gradually made it to the top. When that happened, we took a lot of pictures of the 19 of us and our guides, all on the top of Africa. It was a very, very happy moment. The wind was blowing a bit so it was cool.
"Then came what was probably today's main challenge: descending 9,000 feet to our final camp here on the mountain, which is called Mweka Camp. The first couple of thousand feet of descent were on loose scree, sort of skiing down the mountain.
"After lunch, we pounded on down another 5,000 feet to this camp to hot water and to wash hands, faces, and in some cases, hair, for the first time in seven or eight days.
"We just finished a wonderful dinner with fresh tilapia, which is a fish common to East Africa, fresh vegetables, potatoes, and rice; very well received.
"I think we are all feeling high on the oxygen level here at 10,000 feet, which of course is a very different reaction than five or six days ago, when we were camping on the Shira Plateau and worrying about altitude. But now after four nights above 12,500, including last night at 18,500, this seems like easy street.
"It's coming on 8 here, we are finished with dinner. I think we're all pretty exhausted, We'll get up fairly early tomorrow and go out the final three or four hours to the Mweka Gate into Kilimanjaro National Park.
"We'll be collected there by four-wheel drives and taken to a hotel, called the Dik-Dik. Following that, some of us will return home, and the rest will head on to safari. So the day was successful in that all 19 members of the team reached the top of Kilimanjaro.
"The day was long and exhausting for most of us. And we're looking forward to sleep soon."
Some post-summit messages from several climbers: