Thank you for your patience and understanding for not having heard from us for a few days! We are grateful that Laura knows these mountains well and was able to keep you posted on our progress despite not having received any updates from us (altitude apparently affects memory too?). Anyway, we are back in Arusha after our Mt. Meru (“Yes We Did!”) summit, and are enjoying a few days of rest before Kilimanjaro.
We left at 2:00 on Tuesday morning from the Saddle Hut (3,570 m/11,712 ft) for our summit attempt. Skies were clear, beautiful, and full of stars as we made our way up the trail. The first 4 hours consisted of switchbacks, headlamps, and some minor rock scrambling. The trail eventually straightened out and began to follow the ridge overlooking the crater, which provided beautiful views of the sunrise and Mt. Kilimanjaro to the northeast.
We had been warned about Mt. Meru’s 13 false summits, but quickly realized how difficult it can be to think you are “almost there” 13 times before actually seeing the summit flag! A few girls felt sub-par due to altitude, lack of sleep, or otherwise, yet pressed on into the morning. The weather was wonderful, for which we were especially grateful after our cloudy/windy summit of Mt. Kenya. This provided for great photo opportunities and a few minutes to take a brief nap before heading down.
By the time the team left the summit to head back down to Saddle Hut for breakfast, most girls were both hungry and tired, and willing to hike at a rather “brisk” pace. For many, this meant running downhill for nearly 3,300 ft.
Upon arrival at Saddle Hut, we dined, rested shortly, and carried on downhill to Miriakamba Hut. This stretch of the journey was when the weather turned for the worst. As Laura mentioned in the last blog, rain graced us with a good shower – which we actually needed rather badly after several days of (as one girl described it) walking on a stairmaster. Needless to say, we all threw on our raingear but most ended up being just as wet from sweat by the time we all reached the hut.
Upon arrival at Miriakamba, we tried our best to dry off, ate a delicious dinner, and immediately went to bed. The next day, we had a short hike down from Miriakamba to the gate, where we were greeted by the girls from the School of St. Jude and a few bottles of celebratory champagne. The girls joined us for a game drive around Mt. Meru and Arusha National Park, after which we dropped them off at school and headed back to the hotel.
Unfortunately, a terrible accident on the road to Arusha had traffic backed up and we were forced to turn around and take a bit of a detour. Our alternate route took us down a 4WD road through some small villages at the foothills of Mt. Meru. To make a long story short, one of the Land Rovers broke down on the narrow, one lane road, and 5 girls from the team ended up watching a very “technical” traffic control operation. At the end of the operation, we all felt lucky that we didn’t have to witness a passing truck knock our vehicle into the river below, and were grateful when our “rescue vehicle” picked us up and promptly delivered us to the hotel.
The team is looking forward to two days of errands in town and activities with SIC. Two down, one to go!