Into the snows of Kilimanjaro
The climbers arrived today at the Lava Tower Camp, at 14,400 feet--about the height of Mount Rainier in Washington state.
The climbers are in good shape, though most are feeling a little put out by the altitude, but seem to recover with some rest and refreshments.
Four of the group climbed to the top of the Lava Tower, which is at about 15,000 feet, where Christi Masengill French-pressed some Starbucks coffee, and they toasted the mountain.
One of the guides on the climb, Wes Krause, gave this report:
"We're having so much fun, it's kind of hard to narrow it down.
"We spent last night at Fischer's Camp, and then with an early start this morning under pretty clear skies we ascended a couple of thousand feet up to the Lava Tower camp. We rolled in here early afternoon, which was earlier than any of us expected, so it really shows that people are doing well.
"Had a little snowstorm in the afternoon, but the sky cleared again before dark, and it's quite nice outside right now.
"Tomorrow, we'll leave this camp here at just over 14,000 feet and we'll do an ascent up past the Lava Tower, ascend another 1,500 feet above Lava Tower and camp at just over 15,000 feet at Arrow Glacier Camp. We'll get there probably midday and once in the camp, we expect similar weather in the afternoon with intermittent clouds and cold weather and maybe a bit more precipitation.
"In the afternoon, we'll probably take a short hike up to the beginning of the route just to get people familiar with what the biggest ascent day is going to be like.
"And the following day, we wake up at Arrow Glacier, early breakfast, just as the sun's coming up, and then we'll take off for what is probably the most challenging day--certainly the steepest--and it goes up then into the thinnest atmosphere above 18,000 feet. And we don't anticipate any problems at this point.
"People are doing well. At night after Arrow Glacier, we'll be camped in the summit crater, right up there in the throne of Mr. Muumba himself, which translates from Kiswahili into 'God.' The following morning, it's a short ascent to the summit, a thousand feet, and then the long descent back down to the forest, where we'll be warm and well-fed."
Today, the climbers left all the greenery behind. They camped last night at 12,500 feet, at the upper reaches of the heath zone, where there are lots of strange, quite tall plants. At midday today, they ascended above all those. Today's camp lies in the rock and ice zone, where some lichen grow on rocks. But tomorrow, they'll be hiking amid bare rock and glacier ice.
Climbers passed along more messages for friends and family: