Day 6 - Barafu to the Top
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Sat Jan 19th (including late night Fri)  

Start Barafu Camp 11:20 pm Fri 4600m 15,088 ft
Arrive Stella Point 4:33 am Sat 5700m 18,696 ft
Leave Stella Point 4:55 am 5700m 18,696
Arrive Uhuru Peak 5:50 am 5896m 19,338 ft
Leave Uhuru Peak (1st time) 6:50 am 5896m 19,338 ft
End Horombo Camp 3:05 pm 3780m 12,340 ft
Distance 19 km 11.7 mi

This was the day we had prepared for for so long. It was to be the best of days and the worst of days as well.


 I took a bit to get to sleep and I must have been in very deep sleep when one of the guides came around saying time to get up - only 10:20pm.  I eventually rolled out and put on what I had prepared the night before and got ready.  The temp was in the 20's in the tent. They gave us tea and biscuits and hurried us off. 

I think we were the first group to start up on this route. We broke into 2 groups - Tom, Kristin and I in the fast group with Joseph and Wilfred as our guides and with Daron, Dick and Julie in the slower group with Fredrick and Eric as guides.  It was an absolutely clear starry sky but the sliver of a moon had already set so we all used our headlamps.  I was very grateful for my LED type for the long battery life.

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Dick, Julie, Kristin - early 'breakfast'

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Jim, Joseph, Kristin (back)
Wilfred, Tom (front)
celebrating at Stella Point


We went at a very, very slow and steady pace, which covered a surprising amount of ground and was sustainable, It was sort of a step - breath - step - breath sort of pace.  It would seem slow motion if done at normal altitude but was essential up here. After a while, I started sort of counting the step - with actually a 4 step per count cadence, just to keep my mind occupied while we trudged up the long slope.  The groups quickly separated and we never saw the slower ones until the top.  We were the only lights moving on this route for a while but eventually we saw a trail of flashlights trailing all down the hill below us. It was very steep and we quickly began walking mostly on crusty snow. This was actually better than the loose scree or gravel we might have had otherwise. Part way up, I looked around in time to spot a magnificent shooting star race across the sky, but none of the rest saw it.  Someone from another group commented on it up at the top later.

 Eventually a pair of the lights below us caught up to us and passed us - a climber and his guide.  We were pleased when an hour later we passed him sitting beside the trail, hardly able to move. We never saw him again. We weren't passed by anyone else until we stopped for 20 minutes at Stella Point. This was supposed to take 6 hrs - 5 to Stella Pt and 1 on to Uhuru Peak.  I thought we still had an hour to go but that was judging by the clock as we could not see far, when suddenly Tom was shouting and hugging us saying we were at Stella Point - the first overlook to the crater and sort of a "top" if that is as far as you get.  It is at 18,670ft and we got there at 4:33am -a little over 5 hours.


We rested and took IR and flash pics for 20 minutes and then started on to Uhuru, the real top. There were other people on the trail ahead of us now as several trails converge here. We slowly but excitedly trudged to the peak and got there at 5:50am, still before sunrise.  Kristin was very cold and she and Tom were all for taking a few pictures and going down, but I would not leave without sunrise pics from the top of Africa and then waiting for enough light to get good shots of the crater and the glaciers. 

Shortly after we got there, while still dark, Tom challenged the guides to a pushup contest.  They did about 10 but Tom got to 30 - a real feat - with pictures to prove it.

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Tom doing 30 pushups at Uhuru

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Glacier from Uhuru

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Sunrise from Uhuru

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Wilfred, Joseph, Tom, Jim, Kristin at the Top!

There is a large signboard on top - saying this is Uhuru Peak and giving the altitude.   It is the obligatory picture sight for everyone that gets there. We took pictures of all of us in front of the sign.  I also took a picture of the bird and note from Virginia and Emily in front of the big sign.

Then we started down and about half way to Stella Point we met Dick and Julie, so I accompanied them back up to the top to get pictures while Tom and Kristen continued down because Kristin’s fingers were really cold.  We walked to the top - Julie seemed in better shape than Dick. We did not stay long, just enough to take the pictures,  and started down. 

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Jim, Julie, Daron at the Top!


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Tom, Daron, Frederick nearing the top

Again about half way to Stella Point, we met Tom and Frederick with Daron in tow. Daron had gotten sick on the way up and could hardly walk. He was being helped along by Tom & Frederick and they were all determined to get him up.  Frederick even put him on his back at times to carry him.  He did insist that Daron walk - but with help - when they got within sight of people on top.

We got there and took the pics and hurried down, hoping Daron would start to improve, as we got lower. 

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Jim, Tom, Daron, Frederick at the Top!

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Frederick, Daron, Wilfred, Tom headed down

By the time we got to Stella Point, he was getting worse so Frederick decided it was time for an evacuation to the nearest hut with evacuation/rescue facilities, which was at the Kibo hut on the Marangu route. After sending one guide down to Barafu camp with the notice of our change in plans, Frederick and Wilfred took turns carrying Daron on what proved to be a narrow, snowy, very exposed trail down to Gillman's Point. I am amazed at the dexterity they had and they never fell. Tom and I sometimes had trouble keeping up with them while keeping our footing. After passing Gillman’s Point, we could see down in the valley to the Kibo Hut.  Wilfred went down quickly to try to get aid sent up while Frederick carried and assisted Daron. Not surprisingly Frederick got tired frequently - Daron is probably over 150 lbs. Tom and I helped as we could. 

Finally some Rangers came up to help carry him down to where they could put him on a 1-wheeled stretcher.   By about 12:30 pm, we were all down at the Kibo hut. They put Daron back on the stretcher and ran him down to our changed destination - the Horombo hut - a site on the Marangu route.

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Rangers helping Daron down the slope

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Taking Daron down in the stretcher

It was about 5 or 6 miles and Tom and I walked down with a guide.  We got there a little after 3 pm and our feet were in horrible condition - I had blisters on both little toes.  My moleskin had all sweated off after 16 hours of continuous hiking.  We were extremely tired and sore and had had almost nothing to eat since the supper the night before. Daron was there waiting for us - feeling better but still weak.   We hope he can walk out tomorrow. The rest of the group finally showed up about 5:45 - they had started walking down from Barafu at 1pm with John, the porter as their guide. They apparently came part of the way on a porter’s route - that required special permission. Since John was carrying my gear, I had to wait for them all to arrive to be able to change my boots.  We all were ready to collapse into bed as soon as we ate.

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Horombo Camp