Kilimanjaro Trek Day 5 – Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp

Kilimanjaro Trek Vital Stats

Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp

  • Distance: 2.28 miles
  • Starting Elevation: 4033m
  • Ending Elevation: 4573m
  • Total Climbing: 460m
  • Total Descent: 125m
  • Highest Elevation: 4673m
  • Total Time: 2:34;39
  • Moving Time: 1:33.01
  • Calories: 996
  • Oxygen Saturation at end of day: 82%

Day 5 of our trek was billed as a short one. Just a short 2.2 mile jaunt from Karanga Camp at just over 4000m to Barafu Camp at 4700m. Barafu Camp is also referred to as Base Camp as it is the starting point for summit attempts. The walk should only take a few hours at our now customary ‘pole pole’ pace which would give us the afternoon and evening to rest up ready for an attempt on the summit starting at around midnight that night.

I was awake early, but at least I had managed to get to sleep for a couple of hours which was a record so far for me on Kilimanjaro. The sun was just rising as I opened the zips and had some lovely views from the tent looking down on a thick layer of clouds below us. Mount Meru could be seen rising majestically above the clouds to the SW – It’s a lovely shaped mountain so I can’t get enough photos of it. Behind my tent, the Summit of Kibo was bathed in sunlight too with the snow and glaciers of it’s summit glistening white. Would we be up there soon?

Breakfast was fulfilling as always, all of my clothes and my sleeping bag were now dry and I was feeling good. Yes, I was still out of breath if I moved anywhere too fast or did anything particularly strenuous, but the nausea and headache seemed OK. Maybe they had been caused by lack of sleep rather than altitude, or maybe I was acclimitising?

Alpine Desert

We were soon on our way with what started out as a painfully slow plod up the hill out of camp. It really was very slow which doesn’t suit me, but we did have some nice veiws of Kibo and some nice views back down towards Karanga Camp as well.

Once at the top of the hill the rest of the walk traversed across the mountain side where we got our first real taste of the alpine desert. We had been walking through ‘alpine desert’ several times throughout the past few days but it had always been pouring with rain so the desert part of it never really revealed itself. Today it felt a little dustier in the sunshine and more like a desert with sand-coloured rocks and gravel everywhere. To our left the ever present summit of Kibo kept watch over our progress. Huge buttresses of rock protected it’s treasures from this angle.

Things started to go downhill a little for me here. First my back was sore and beginning to hurt. Next my knee started playing up too and I wasn’t able to put any force through it once the path started heading upwards again. I was relying more and more on my poles and this seemed to make my back hurt more. Before we reached Barafu camp we were faced with another steep ascent. I battled through and tried to keep the pain to myself but the hobbling and occasional wince was clear to see. I let onto the guides that both were hurting and said that I would just have to see how it goes.

Barafu Camp

At camp we climbed to the top so as to sign in at the hut and get a photo at the camp sign.

Barafu Camp

We had at least left our backpacks at the tents for this part of the climb which helped my back a little but by then the damage was already done. I also developed quite a bad headache before returning back to our tents and started to feel sick. All of which was made worse by a sudden bout of diarrhea immediately after a little lack-lustre lunch. Things weren’t going well. Immodium, Dioralyte, Ibruprofen and some rest were required. So that’s what I did, lazing around in my tent contemplating the summit.

Afternoon in Barafu Camp

Would I make it, or was everything unravelling at the last minute. I was prepared for pain and suffering to make it to the top, I was prepared for physical and mental challenges, but was I prepared for failure? I tried not to think too much about it for now as rest would be the best thing. Rest, more painkillers, more Immodium and maybe some Diamox?

Dinner was a somber affair. Most people were suffering by now and just wanted to get on with it. Nelson our chief guide warned us how difficult it would be. He also told us to make sure we were wearing at least 4-5 layers on our legs and 5-6 on our tops. He said he would check before we left. He also told us to wear two pairs of gloves, 3 pairs of socks, hats, balaclavas and scarves. We were told that the guides decision would be final, so if we were told to turn around and head back down then there would be no arguing. We were also told that a couple of extra porters would come with us who could help us if needed so we were told to ask for help before we got to the stage of complete exhaustion as it would be easier to help someone who was a little exhausted that it would be to help someone who couldn’t even stand up. Nelson was clearly concerned about the state of my back and knee and I also got a little chastised for not drinking enough during the day. I did have to agree that the cause of some of my issues could be dehydration. I was doing my best to drink lots though and did manage to up my intake to around 1.5 litres before heading off to bed.

My health checks showed my oxygen saturation to be 82% and my heart rate 67bpm. Everyone else was now on the maximum dose of Diamox so I asked Nelson for his advice as I has so far managed without it. he said to take one 250mg dose before setting off for the summit in the early hours of the morning as a precaution. I decided to go along with this as I now had quite a bad headache. he also told me to up my dosage of Ibuprofen in the morning taking a full 600mg before setting off.

I got everything ready for the morning and the summit attempt before going to bed and then snuggled into my nice dry sleeping bag to try to get some sleep. I was soon far too hot so undid the sleeping bag and dosed just a little before the 11:30pm wake up call.

2 Responses

  1. Mum x says:

    Lovely wild life photos on day 4 , I don’t know why, but I hadn’t expected so much .
    Glad the rain, mist and clouds cleared for day 5 .allowing views both up and down the mountain. Obviously the slow but necessary pace isn’t helping your back ! Hopefully the ibuprofen helped .

    Ps .it’s not a failure to not make the summit.

  1. Monday, February 10th, 2020

    […] Our campsite had been quite a way below this so we were just retracing the steps we had made the day before to regain the official 4700m elevation of the […]

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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