Outside Online: Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

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February 21
A Fischer Camp memorial

At a little after 7 in the evening Kilimanjaro time, the climbers are sitting in the mess tent above 12,000 feet, having just finished dinner, resting from the climb into ever-thinning air.

The high altitude is having an effect, causing headaches and nausea among some. But tonight Peter Blomquist reported that many rebounded, thanks to some food, water, and a bit of rest.

The climbers are obviously in good spirits, with laughter bubbling in the background during some quick conversations via satellite phone.

Laurel Johnston talked about the campfire songs the night before:

"We had a really wonderful experience last night. Some of the Tanzanian porters and some of us here sat around the campfire and sang songs. We traded songs, actually. For every one Swahili song, we would sing an American song. Sometimes we had difficulty remembering the words of Jim Croce and the Beatles, Bette Midler and James Taylor. We sang to them Amazing Grace, and they sang back to us Amazing Grace in Swahili. At this point, we need a lot of grace to get up to the summit."

One of the climbers, Bill Pope of Seattle, gave this report:

"Fischer Camp, Camp 3. A relatively easy hike today, only 1,000 feet elevation gain. So everything at 12,000 feet is a waver. We woke up to frost this morning at Camp 2, but the temperature rose rapidly once the sun came up over Kilimanjaro. We had probably the best views of the mountain we're going to get before we summit.

"The hike today was through high-desert scrub, a little like Nevada or eastern Washington. The group is doing pretty well, though some are having difficulty adjusting to the elevation. We must force ourselves to take it slowly, slowly--pole, pole, in Swahili.

"This camp, formerly Shira 2, is now Fischer Camp, was dedicated today by Wes Krause, Scott Fischer's longtime climbing and business partner, and marked by a permanent plaque and Tibetan prayer flags. Except for Wes and Peter Blomquist and some of the other Tanzanians, none of us really knew Scott.

"Sitting here gazing out over the Shira Plateau, looking out at this huge mountain, we are struck by what Scott accomplished, the natural places he loved, and how he inspired others to love them too. The plaque, which is cemented into a rock near Fischer Camp, reads, 'Fischer Camp. Perhaps I shall be a new mountain so that you shall always have a home.' That was by Nancy Wood. And it's marked, 'Scott Fischer. 1955-1996.'"

Fischer led the Climb for CARE last year, but died a few months later during a climb on Mount Everest. Peter Blomquist, who was on that climb last year, shared some memories:

"Last year, as we all know, Scott was leader of this expedition; he was full of energy and enthusiasm and passion for climbing this mountain. We all felt that considerably.

My images I have of him from last year's climb: I think he wore his Red Hook Stout T-shirt most every day of the climb, about four cameras hanging off his shoulder, and trying to help the folks in the rear push on forward to make their way through the day--I think that was real characteristic of Scott. Then up in the summit crater floor, when Lilian Sarti, a Guatemalan woman on the climb last year, was getting a little bit hypothermic, Scott said, "Move over," came into the tent, slept with Lilian and Vivian Poer, and shared his warmth with them.

"It was sort of a somber, reflective half an hour as we had this little memorial for Scott."

Tomorrow, the climbers expect to hit the trail at 8 a.m. The six-hour hike will take them across the flank of Kilimanjaro, adding another 2,000 feet in altitude. They're heading for the Lava Tower, the remains of a long-ago volcano that has long had its exterior walls eroded away, leaving a volcanic core sticking upward a few hundred feet.

The climbers have been fortunate with the weather so far, but Blomquist expects that as they head westward, clouds and precipitation will move in.

A few messages that climbers asked to be posted:

  • Love to Alexis, Rebecca, and Daniel, Cheryl, Paul, and Bert. Go Seahawks. Bill Pope.
  • Lolo, Tracy, Mom: Kili is huge and harder than I expected. An arduous ascent begins tomorrow from 12,500 feet to 14,500 feet at the Lava Tower. Love to all, Laurel.
  • Dear Gees, I miss you like crazy. Love, Mom.
  • To Allen and Tompkins families: All is well, cold is gone, nosebleed's gone, at 13,000 feet and can see the summit. Truly an incredible life experience. I miss everyone. I love you, Rick.
  • To Jennifer and Josh: We are only 7,000 feet from the top of the mountain. It's really cold at night. I'll bring lots of pictures and presents. Tell Nana that I'm using lots of sunscreen. Love you, Aunt Charysse.
  • Schroder (garbled): This is one big mountain. The beauty, peacefulness, and remoteness is very powerful. Regards, Dan.
  • To Maria: Muchos besos grande. From Roberto.
  • To Jan, Julie, and Adam: We are at 12,500 feet. Day 3. So far, so good. The mountain is awesome. Thinking about you as I climb to the roof of Africa. Love, Dan.

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