Into the Famous Light of Great and Fabulous Kilimanjaro

“The mountain peaks seemed to say to me that they were there only as a challenge to humans —and that humans exist only to accept the honor of that challenge.”  -Paulo Coelho

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The trail stream I splash and falter through in my exhaustion is rich chocolate rivulets with a frosting of pea-sized hail arranged at its borders and dams.  Strong detail perception in the absence or inability of thought;  the steady thunderous rain clouds, the water on the hundred petaled flowers, the increasing warmth as we approach 3000 meter Mweka Camp on day six.

“Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail the sky cracked its poems in naked wonder.”  –Bob Dylan

Attained 5,895 m [19,340 ft.] Uhuru Peak in a dark dawn mist “over the whirling ditch of daybreak.”-DT  Midnight to six spent in a nauseating headlamp lit march to the top.  Fatigue and disorientation building until walking a straight line was a struggle–the final hour culminating in an organic stomach matter contribution to the zero degree summit.  Quick picture and we stumbled into the gloaming orange dawn after fleet-footed Fred–brief stops to appreciate the spectacular sunrise scenery and the remaining glaciers bursting into existence.  Rapid scree-run descent and I was back at relatively easy breathing 15,000 ft. Barafu Base Camp for a sun-soothed nap.  Staring at jagged Mawenzi Peak opposite, threatened by a mass of expanding cumulus, a vulture glides effortlessly by.  “Before the lunge of night, the notes on this time-shaken Stone for the sake of the souls of the slain birds sailing.”  -DT.

Day 1:  The mountain was out at hotel dawn, and I am just above rain-forest Machame Camp at dusk.  In between a slow green downpour hike with the two mid-life Americans and the young Australian named Courtney [or as the 11 local cooks and porters called her, ‘Cournay’].

Day 2:  Up at five–watch the pink mist clouds move onto the slate-pale face  of Kili.  “Lines of age sleep on the stones till trumpeting dawn.” -DT  No early starts in an operation this large. Mossy heather-moorland hike to Shira Plateau Camp.  A view of Mt. Meru as the sun gives way to open bright stars and flashes of distant lightning seemingly below the horizon.

Day 3:   Snow fell heavy and soft at Lava Tower, our first 15,000 ft. altitude test—passed by everyone.  All rock with hanging orange beards.  Descent to stunning cliff-side Barranco Camp where rolling mists reveal glacial walls. “This night and each night since the the falling star you were born, Ever and ever he finds a way, as the snow falls, As the rain falls, hail on the fleece, as the vale mist rides…”  -DT.

Day 4:  Single sunrise pastel tuft behind the receding glacial face of Kili—cloud blanket spread out before the converging cliff drainages towards Moshi-town.  Following steep Barranco wall, able to extricate myself from the ‘pole pole’ [slowly slowly] crew and follow fast Festo the porter into Karanga Camp three minutes before the daily one o’clock rains.

Day 5:  Simple day to Barafu in prep for the night’s summit attempt.  A nap.

My mountain name is Jesus, Vizi informs me on the final day.  Tino stops to inform me I have energy like a porter [for carrying my own gear, which weighs half as much as the average porter’s load, plus does not have to be balanced on my head through treacherous terrain wearing worn sneakers or dress boots], and that therefore I am ‘strong like lion.’  He smiles, gives me the Tanzanian handshake, and I feel like I have accomplished something.

My eyes could not absorb enough of the swirling mists’ beauty, the multiform rocks’ color, the walls of melting ice, and the relentless thump of heavy precipitation.  An unparalleled week on Kilimanjaro.

“Through windows of dusk and water I see the tilting whispering…”

“Time let me play and be Golden in the mercy of his means…”

“And freely he goes lost In the unknown, famous light of great And Fabulous, dear God.  Dark is a way and light is a place, Heaven that never was Nor will be ever is always true…”

“Time sings through the intricately dead snow drop.  Listen.”

-DT   [Dylan Thomas, from various poems.]

Interested in a Kindle 2? Support Scott’s travels by buying it from this link to Amazon.

~ by Scott Hamilton Peters on February 9, 2009.

3 Responses to “Into the Famous Light of Great and Fabulous Kilimanjaro”

  1. All I can say is: thank you, Scott.

  2. Ditto from Iowa. Speechless.

  3. Amazing! Great job sharing with us.

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