day 6 – to Gilman’s Point 5,685m then Uruhu Summit – 5,895m

Thursday 7th February 2013

We started out at 23:00 on the path to Gilman’s point with the stars, moon and head torch to light the way.  Watching other groups snaking up the screen above and below us in groups of trailing lights is a mind-boggling sight.  It was bitterly cold but with seven layers on I was comfortable even though the thin atmosphere and slope angle means you travel slowly.  We walked for reasonable lengths allowing then for decent rest breaks where my grab-bag of M&Ms came in handy.  You don’t notice in the dark where you are, how long you have been walking, or where other groups are.  At around 04:30 our guide Douglas suddenly signalled the Gilman’s Point sign up ahead – a great surprise!  We stopped for a few photos as even here you cannot be sure of reaching the summit and the route down may be different.  It means we were around 200 metres in height and 2 hours walk from thevery top now and the terrain changed as we got out onto the crater rim.

We now headed through snow and rocky outcrops, stopping for about 20 minutes in the lee of some rocks to recover and snack.  We then continued to climb and reached Stella Point – all the time darkness and strong winds around us.  Before long Douglas pointed ahead – in the dark we could just about make out the famous “roof of Africa” sign [new version!] in the distance.  For the next few minutes, exhausted by the altitude and effort, my mind was buzzing – I was going to do it, I was b*****y well going to do it!  These moments bring tears to my eyes as I write this now almost a year on – what powerful emotions.  Two years after my diagnosis of Parkinson’s and a just few months away from my 40th birthday here I was with my great friend Darren about to conquer Kilimanjaro and in a small way put one over the Parkinson’s.  It represented so much and knowing that my family, friends and colleagues were back home supporting us.

At around 06:00 we reached the top – Uruhu peak 5,895 metres above sea level – and it was still dark.  We were fortunate that there were only a few others up there at that time and I had never imagined we would reach there in the dark and certainly had not expected what happened in the next half-hour.  Looking out into the distance a strange glow appeared in the middle of the dark sky.  The glow was actually coming from the horizon, some 200 miles away!  Over the next few minutes we watched in complete awe the sun rising from the horizon from the best vantage point – the roof Africa – a truly spectacular sight and a very special memory indeed.

After more photos it was time to start the descent back firstly to Kibo camp for a short rest and breakfast and then down onto Horombu campsite.  Descending the volcanic scree from the crater was fairly quick.  Looking back up towards the top you realise the immense scale of the challenge we had been through during the night.  I reflected that this would be seriously hard under the intense sunlight especially considering that you would keep looking up and have to overcome any self-doubt.

The walk after breakfast was in the event possibly the hardest part of the entire trip – even though it was downhill!  We had used so much energy during the night and the walking seemed endless.  There are some last photos of us in front of the mountain where I can honestly say the smiling was forced.  Arrival at Horombu campsite was a relief and we soon collapsed having climbed some 1200 metres and descended some 2200 metres during the previous 16 hours.

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resting during the night
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sunrise over Africa from Uruhu peak 5,895m - 06-Feb-2013
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