I started coming down with something during our last day in Nairobi – Saturday, June 30. It started as a strange cough, but I did not think too much of it. We flew into Kilimanjaro airport late that night. The next day was a rest, souvenir, and packing day as we would leave for Kilimanjaro the next morning – Monday, July 2. I started feeling quite bad on Sunday, so decided to start taking a five day “Z-Pak”, that I had the doctor send me with to Africa, just in case something like this would happen. I figured I had dodged a potentially “bad bullet” sent my way. By the end of the Z-Pak I would be one day shy of the final ascent, so I believed the timing was working in my favor.
The first couple of days of the hike were not too bad, though I seemed more tired than I had expected to be. I trained very hard for this climb, as I knew how difficult the final ascent would be, so I attributed my tiredness to the bronchial and sinus condition I was experiencing. After arriving at 2nd Cave of the Rongai Route and having lunch, several of us took off for an acclimatization hike from 11,453′ to 12,805′. The saying “climb high, sleep low” is a valid one. It helps a person to ease into higher altitudes eliminating, minimizing, or at least reducing the effects of thinner air that can cause altitude sickness. Common side effects of altitude sickness are headaches and nausea. Extreme side effects of altitude sickness are pulmonary edema and/or cerebral edema. On the way down it was getting quite dark and just before camp I stepped on a loose boulder and went sailing to the ground. A few cuts and scrapes on my leg and hand weren’t so bad, but I could tell I had twisted my right ankle as it was hurting quite a bit in several spots. This was not good. I limped my way into camp wondering what this meant for the remainder of the trip. It is amazing how one little incident like this has the ability to “knock one out of the race.” During the night I was experiencing quite a lot of coughing and congestion. The good news though was that it was clear – no blood or sign of infection.