Gaining Elevation and Giving It Back

Day 4 on Mt. Kilimanjaro

We hiked up to Lava Tower Camp this morning getting us to over 15,200 of elevation. It’s an acclimatization climb to see how we do at the higher elevation—Lava Tower sits at about the same elevation as our base camp prior to summiting. As the name implies, there’s a huge rock formation made out of lava that looks to be another 800+ feet tall from the camp area. We’re closer to Kibo, the summit of Kilimanjaro, and see the results of that volcanic eruption so many years ago.

Looking toward the summit. Phil LaBelle, 2017.

With the tower of lava came more boulders. Big, dark rocks that we had to maneuver around on the trail. Noah and I had seen similar trails in the White Mountains except they’re littered with granite and other light colored rocks. But getting around boulders at 15,000 feet is another thing entirely. We could really feel the lack of oxygen as we hiked.

Additionally today was unseasonably cold. Fog came in while we hiked, and then as we were eating lunch in the mess tent—thank God for the porters who set up the tent for us to have our meal in and for the chef for a meal of delicious fajitas!—some freezing rain picked up.

After lunch we hiked down over 2300 feet to Barranco Camp at 12,950, losing 500 feet of overall gain on the trip. It was our first major descent, and it was cold, a bit wet and slow. Along the way we saw amazing vegetation, including palm trees found only in that area of Kilimanjaro. We stopped often to grab photos on our way. We spend tonight and tomorrow at this lower elevation before heading back up to 15,000 and then the summit at 19,000+.

Sometimes I feel like I make strides on something and then give back some of the gain. Life is rarely—if ever—building success upon success. We grow and then face a challenge. We can only spend so much time at the higher elevation before needing to come back down to a more realistic level. We can only get more accustomed to things if we take our time. We gain elevation only to give it back.

Such is life in the slow lane. Perhaps along the way we learn something. Or at least stop to take in the beauty. It’s the journey, not the destination, that shapes us.

 

Daily Totals: 6.2 miles, 1500 feet of gain and 2000 feet of loss.

Trek Totals: 22 miles and 6400 feet of gain.

Elevation: 12,950 feet.