The area between Mawenze and Kibo is called the “saddle”. I suspect it is because it looked like a saddle between two higher points.
The landscape of the saddle is completely exposed alpine desert. From the time we left Mawenze Tarn, we can see Kibo in front of us, and the entire path for the day’s hike. The altitude gain is 1,800 ft across the saddle.
When we set out in the morning, I was still struggling with my headache and sore throat. At least it was warm and sunny. We climbed uphill briefly to get out of the Mawenze Tarn area. The pace was painfully slow today. As we entered the saddle area, I thought it would be an easy hike because it looked flat. I was very wrong. Even though the elevation gain was only 1,800 ft, the thin air was making the hike difficult.
2 hours into the hike, the sun went away, and the wind started to blow. Then it started hailing. The hail combined forces with the wind, and came down at us at an angle. I can hardly believe I was in Africa!
I don’t remember too much details of the day’s hike. The more I walked, the more I felt the lack of energy. I was telling myself to put one foot in front of the other at a very slow pace. As we walked through the fog, I felt like my mind was entering a dense fog as well.
AMS feels very much like a hang-over. I felt nauseous and exhausted. As we got closer to the camp site, Seamus was encouraging me that Kibo Hut is just around the corner. I remembered thinking that he must be crazy because there are no corners on the saddle. I wanted to laugh and tell him he was crazy, but decided that it would take too much energy out of me to do so.
Then we rounded a corner behind some boulders, and the glorious camp site appeared. So Seamus was right; there are corners on the saddle. I quickly unloaded my backpack, hid behind a big boulder, and threw up everything in my stomach.
For the first time on this hike, I had no appetite. As we sat down for lunch, I played with the pasta on my plate instead of eating it. The thought of food made me feel ill. I remembered the team doctor asking me some questions, and everything was in slow motion. I can see his lips move, and then the sound will reach my ears, and it took a long time for my mind to process his questions and answer him. Yes, I feel nauseous. No, I don’t want to eat. Yes, I feel confused. Ok, I will take a shot in the arm for an anti-vomit drug used on cancer patients.
I passed out in my tent after taking the shot in the arm.
I woke up after a 3-hour nap around 6 pm, and felt a renewed sense of energy. The nausea was gone, and I was hungry! This was a very good sign. I marched into the dinner tent and ate everything on my plate.
We were given some time to pack our backpacks with summit gear, and have another few hours to sleep. We would be getting up at 11 pm, have some tea and biscuits, and set out around midnight for the summit attempt.
I have been preparing for this night for over a year. I knew exactly what I was going to put in my backpack for the summit night. I had my banner from work signed by my co-workers, rain gear, down jacket, gloves, hat, glacier glasses, snacks, water, camera, tripod, and spare batteries arranged in such a way that I can access them with my eyes closed. My backpack about 22 lbs with all my camera gear and tripod.
I fell asleep listening to the porters chatting with each other in Swahili and laughing.
Looking across the “saddle”:
It got so cold that it started hailing: