Outside Online: Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

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February 24
In the summit crater

After the hardest day's climb, everyone reached the summit crater. Tonight, they're camped just 800 feet below the summit, next to a glacier.

At 18,500 feet, the weather can be pleasant--if the sun is shining and there's shelter from the wind. But if clouds and wind move in, it can be piercingly cold, said Peter Blomquist.

Headaches have been common because of the altitude. Appetites have diminished, a few have had nausea, and some are simply exhausted because of the difficult climb through the Western Breach.

Early tomorrow morning, they'll hike about an hour and a half to the summit, then hike down to the relative warmth and rich air of 10,000 feet.

Blomquist filed this report:

"We are perched at about 18,500 feet, on the floor of the summit crater. It was an arduous day by any measurement.

"We started up from Arrow Glacier Camp and proceeded up relentlessly, through scree and then various rock formations. Some five hours later for the lead group, we rest-stepped through the final few feet of the Western Breach until we arrived here on the summit floor.

"It's like a moonscape with glaciers here. We'll camp tonight on soft volcanic soil--maybe the first night on the entire climb on level, non-rocky ground. There are a number of glaciers up here. We're camping next to a glacier, which stretches up about a hundred feet over our campsite.

"The glaciers here are carved by wind and sun into a wide variety of shapes. Great icicles hang from the top of the glacier, which is also the source for our water this evening.

"The afternoon sun helps melt the outside edge of the glacier wall, and a trickle of water falls to the volcanic soil below. A couple of the porters dug a hole right where the glacier meets the soil. Crystal-clear glacier water puddles in the hole. The porters scoop this up for our evening water.

"Our whole team has made it here. Some in good shape, some in not-so-good shape. But we're all here, promising a superb opportunity for 100 percent summit success tomorrow.

"We'll arise about 6 a.m. tomorrow and should be on top by 8:30 a.m., when hugs and cheers will be in plentiful supply. Our route will take us up over snowfields and onto the top of Africa."

Some more messages that climbers asked to be posted:

  • To Mother: As promised, Father made it back to Tanzania, I love you, your son, James.
  • To Valerie, Megan, Fido: Summit in two days, then shower. Kevin.
  • Greetings from the top of Africa. Mom, (garbled) Grandma, Dave, Lee, Lori, Rob, Shanie, Kelsey, Shelby, and Nick. All nineteen climbers to the top. Very successful climb. From Wes.

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