I woke up at 7:30 AM and I had to go use the insanely smelly toilets – nearly vomiting while inside. Standing alongside the camp were guides using brick phones (preferred because their batteries last forever) to call their families and colleagues on other sides of the mountain. Today’s challenge would be to ascend the large steep Barranco Wall. The Wall required us to climb with our hands and feet. I really enjoyed the rock climbing, because I got to focus on my breathing, my heart pounding from the thin air, and my out of shape body plumping along. Throughout the upward climb, I focused on breathing, keeping my footing sturdy, grabbing reliable rock corners, and staying warm. At the beginning of the Barranco Wall, I felt like I was going to throw up, but by the time we reached the top of the Wall, back up at 4,600 meters like Lava Tower, likely due to the benevolence of my friends, and special friend Acetazolamide, I felt ok at that altitude. Trying to catch my breath at the top of the Barranco Wall, I asked Faza if he had any family in the USA and he responded, “Yes, Barack Obama”.
I observed the porters carrying all sorts of heavy things on their heads. Baskets of food with the vegetables falling out, entire propane tanks, radios, jugs of water, and even portable toilets for the high-maintenance hikers who rented them. Whenever a porter was behind you on the trail the hikers always moved to the left, because the porters were moving quickly up and down the mountain with lively music singing out from their radios and smartphones.
After summiting the Wall, we continued to climb through the ghostly sandy valley of clouds and the mist. Here our trail converged with everyone headed to the summit’s base camp. No were starting to see people who were really hurt’n as they “slowly-slowly” made their way up. I teased that all the bearded hipsters were Joakim’s twins, that Jonas’ boundless energy was like a Swedish mountain goat, and was in awe of Mikyoung who was well ahead of me on all the trials despite still recovering.
We arrived at the camp at 1PM, when we arrived at the camp I napped for a solid hour, and then joined the others in the dining tent. After dinner, we had stood in a circle with the porters and introduced ourselves and the things we carried. I joked that all I carried was my 29-year-old beer belly. We took a group photo with the porters and went back into the tent for dinner.
Over dinner, Faza shared with us that he wouldn’t continue on up with us. He was going to attend a funeral for a relative, he would descend the mountain in the morning. The secondary guide Samwele would continue on with us and lead the rest of the climb. At first, we were a bit discouraged because we had not got to interact with Samwele much. So we invited him to join us in the dining tent for all the meals. The porters and guides, except the lead guide to tended to the hiker’s questions and health in the dining tent, usually eat Ugali instead of the stews and rices that we were having. From Thursday onward, Samwele joined us for the meals, but I think he preferred the Ugali and didn’t take much to the “continental” foods. Faza left us with a list of all the porters’ names and their responsibilities so that we could sort amongst ourselves a proper tip for each of them.