2012 Clean Water Climb – Day #5

July 6, 2012 was our hike to Kibo Huts (final base camp) where we would eat and rest up before heading out around midnight for Gilman’s Point and then the summit. The hike to Kibo Huts (4700 meters or 15,420′) began with the mighty slopes of Kibo swallowing up the fast setting full moon. During our morning hike we had good views of Mawenzi Peak which is the 3rd highest peak in Africa. As the day wore on and we gained in elevation we found our eyes becoming closer to level with it’s top.

Today’s hike was a far more difficult day for me than the acclimatization hike the day before. I was back to heavy panting again, having to stop frequently for air during the day. This was not a good sign for the ascent to Gilman’s Point and the final push to Uhuru Peak, the ultimate top of the volcano. I could only imagine what midnight and beyond would reveal to me. I began to wonder if I was going to make it or not. I was determined to give it my best shot, but without risking my safety or the safety of others. As long as I could catch my breath, I knew I would make it, but it would be at a slower pace than last year. Guide Bruce offered to take my pack which I gladly gave to him. Look for him in one of the photos below. I easily made it to Kibo Huts last year with my pack. Something continued to be amiss with my blood oxygen level.

Clean Water Climb – Day #4

July 5, 2012 was an acclimatization hike form Cave #3 campsite to School Hut where we hiked from 12,946′ to 15,528′. This was a great acclimatization hike. We would actually get a bit higher than Kibo Huts where we would start our final ascent in a couple of days. I actually felt a lot better today. I had more energy than the day before, I had no headache, and my sinus congestion was lightening up. My right ankle was not bothering me much at all. My heavy panting was not nearly so much as the day before, though I did experience some of it. I was very thankful that the worst of my respiratory problems seemed to be behind me and it couldn’t have come at a better time – before the final ascent. However, that evening, our guide, Bruce, was wondering why I was experiencing the shortness of breath so much more than the rest of the team. He pulled out an oxymeter to check our blood oxygen levels. Mine was significantly lower than anyone else’s. Mine read 78% blood oxygen level. The rest of team had around 88% blood oxygen level – 10% higher. This was disconcerting to say the least.

Clean Water Climb – Day #3

July 4, 2012 was our hike to the next base camp – Cave #3 camp at 12,946′ (up from 11,443′). It was the first very difficult day for me. I was exhausted along the entire route and my right foot, despite being bandaged up, hurt quite a bit. I was constantly panting very heavily to the point that I had to frequently stop to catch my breath. This happened last year, but only on the final ascent, at a much higher elevation than what I was experiencing. Our lead guide offered to carry my day pack the last 1/3 of the hike, which I gladly accepted. Last year, I did not relinquish my day pack until the final ascent. I checked my heart rate monitor at the end of the hike and my max heart rate for the entire day was only 138 BPM, very low compared to what I train at. I try to train in the high 150’s to low 160’s occasionally going into the 170’s. So, my heart was fine, I just couldn’t get enough air. Something different was going on this year and the only thing I could point to was this upper respiratory condition I was trapped with. I was on Day 4 of my Z-Pak, but it didn’t seem to be helping much if any. When we arrived at camp we were invaded by several White-Naped Ravens. We had to constantly guard against them as they would steal anything. We witnessed one of them pulling out of a pack pocket, and flying away with, a brand new package of Baby Wipes, a precious commodity in a dry and dusty place.