First of all…thank you to everyone for reading this blog and sending love and support to us in Africa! We love hearing from you all and it has been key to keeping up our spirits and motivating us up the mountain. Thanks also to Laura, who has been so helpful in coordinating everything and updating the blog while we’re on the mountains. Please continue to write in and know that we all appreciate it very much. Additionally, we’ve been told that our guides will receive text messages whenever there are new donations! So, please keep them coming and pass along the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks homepage to all: www.3peaks3weeks.com
Some remarks from Mount Kenya:
We were lucky to have amazing weather for the first 4 days. We arrived on the 4th afternoon at Austrian Hut around 1:30pm after almost 5 hours of trekking in very steep and rocky terrain with incredible views of glacial lakes. The team was in great spirits. In fact, we were all entertained by Sam’s chatting for hours on the intense hike. She was chatting so much that she didn’t realize exactly where she was and when she looked around, immediately dropped to all 4’s and screamed! Unfortunately, all of that talking gave her a massive altitude headache upon arrival at Austrian Hut, so we are disappointed that she may be quieter on the other mountains:(
Unfortunately for Gretchen, she took a turn for the worse at Austrian Hut…lunch did not go over too well; neither did dinner or breakfast. Despite having an oxygen level of 66% (which by the way is the lowest rate with a successful summit that the guides had ever seen!), she pushed on like a champ.
Most were feeling exhausted and some questioned their mountaineering skills. We all retreated with nervous tummies to our tents after trying to eat as much dinner as we could. The gale-force winds started to pick up and we could hear the howl across the summit face and feel the brute force against our tents. Brooke and Toni happened to be taking a break outside around 9pm when the winds reached their height and all of a sudden, the huge, orange mess tent began to sway. It became clear that it was about to blow off the side of the mountain. Toni ran to help the porters manage the damage, while Brooke threw herself at full evacuation speed into Kat’s tent 🙂
After a sleepless and cold night, we climbed out of our tents at 4am to set out for the clouded-over summit. Each girl layered in about 5-6 tops and bottoms, so we could hardly walk, but began the climb with excitement. We all had the LWF in our hearts and minds throughout the summit push.
About 15 minutes into the climb, Nicole, who was leading the closely stacked line, slowed to her knees. Long story short, it was one of the many stops for Nic and all of us were amazed that she managed to summit with a smile and hike the rest of the day.
The final challenge before reaching the long awaited summit flag was an 8ft rock face that required some incredible grace, depending on the length of your legs (photos to come in the next few blogs). Rachel and Leah easily lumbered over the ledge, while some of the shorter team members did what Sam deemed the “fat spider scramble.”
The teamwork was amazing and the summit was no individual feat. Leah, Mara, Kat, Gretchen, and Rachel instructed the less experienced girls on techniques and coached us along. Some nice anecdotes…
-When Yvette’s glasses clouded and froze up, Toni led her up the mountain and told her exactly where to step.
-Just before the last few meters of the climb, Brooke’s shoelace came untied on a treacherous ledge. Without hesitation, Luce took off her gloves and tied the lace.
When we all reached the summit it was an incredible moment. We had trekked for long hours and endured the effects of high altitude for 4 days, but it was just amazing to be on top together. The USA and Australian flags quickly came out for some great photo snaps. It was a truly memorable moment!
Our guides have been wonderful, positive, patient, and supportive. It took a team of 40 porters and 6 guides to pack and feed our crew up the mountain! While our own feet and backs are responsible for getting us up the mountain, they made sure that we ate enough, drank enough, wore sunscreen, and kept warm. The best part was the constant encouragement and beautiful songs! Asante Sana to everyone!
We are now all safe and sound in Arusha at a great hotel surrounded by green gardens and a pool we can’t wait to try. We’re also excited to have Fiona from Save the Rhino joining us for the next two mountains. Fiona was extremely helpful with the planning and logistics and she has quickly assimilated into the team, with the help of a few Kilimanjaro beers.
We are heading to the School of St. Jude’s tomorrow morning and look forward to meeting Gemma and the crew. Mount Meru awaits us and we await IT!