Machame Route – 7 Days
Start – Baranca Wall – 13,044 ft
End – Karanga Camp – 13,300 ft – Total Elevation gain from start – 7,920 ft
*Chicago is at 573 ft above sea level. Denver is 5,470ft
Distance – 3.2 miles – total distance traveled so far about 17.3 miles
Time – 4 hours and 50 minutes – total walking time so far 20.5 hours
Terrain – Alpine Desert
Gremlins – Stomach issues still nagging but headache is gone.
The morning routine – AGAIN!
- 6:30am wake up with hot beverage
- 7am hot water provided to wash
- 7:30am breakfast
- 8:30am go hike
The Baranca Wall is an intense day. From a distance at camp, it’s hard to get an idea of the path until you see people on the mountain in the morning. There are a number of routes when climbing the mountain and many have combined at this point. We all get tested on the “Wall.”
We had a slight downhill from camp to get to the base of “God’s fun jungle gym.” You still don’t quite realize the difficulty or magnitude of the climb being at the base until you get about 100 feet up. You take a moment to look down and not only see but feel how steep it is. You then look up and notice how straight up the path feels. It feels harrowing and arduous but your adrenaline is pumping. This is climbing rocks with no ropes just your wits. POLE, POLE! No one needs to rush up this wall.
It was awe inspiring to see the porters go up the rock as if it were some easy jungle gym on any grade school playground. They carried more weight and took paths I wouldn’t of dared. Their sense of balance is beyond impressive considering they move at a rapid pace and have feet any mountain goat would envy. I hope you can see it in the picture gallery.
I had a lot of fun on this climb. There was one point where I got to the “kissing rock.” It’s named because you’re literally spread eagle grabbing both sides or trying to depending on how tall you are. Thankfully our guide grabbed my hand on the other side to help me across. I don’t think I’ve ever danced on a ledge that high up before! It’s a little unnerving when you can’t see or feel a handhold while being that vulnerable. The best advice if you ever find your self taking on the Baranca Wall – don’t look down and don’t look up. Just deal with the 5-10 feet in front of you. You take it one small bite at a time!
I mentioned in earlier posts we would see and hear other groups talk on the trail, many in foreign languages but there was that group again with “Bucket List Girl” and “Captain No Game.” He was still at it on the Baranca wall 3 days later. I give him credit for not quitting and for entertaining us. I overheard him at one point talking about how his father was from some rocky island and that it must be genetic how good of a climber he was – nauseating! Bucket List Girl asked him if he’d ever watched “Big Bang Theory” which he hadn’t. I’m not sure if she was trying to find common ground but it was comical to hear him flounder yet again.
The top – top of the wall came after an hour and forty minutes. This was another lesson. The top you see isn’t the really the top of that portion of the climb! At the real top we took a few minutes to chill, snack and drink some water. At this altitude, it helps to just sit and catch your breathe. Just walking every few steps your breath shortens and you just feel like oxygen is getting shallow. You have to take a few inhales and exhales to catch up all at once every few minutes. I appreciate what a 70 year old heart patient goes through.
When climbing a mountain, the closer you get to your goal, by climbing to higher elevations, you deprive your body of one of the key things it needs to help you – oxygen. It was a staggering lesson. The closer you get to the top the harder you make your body work while starving it. Listening to your body is critical not only fpr success but survival when going this high in to thinner air.
At the top of the rock, we began our descent in to the Karanga River Valley just as the rain began, again! The ups and downs became a rhythm we grew used to – up and down, up and down. The fog hid a lot of the elevation changes and they were dramatic at times. The weather cleared at one point and we could see the next camp! It looked WAY closer than it really was. It took about another hour of walking and finished on another steep, straight up ascent. When we got to the ranger’s book to sign in, I joked with our guide, “You should take donations to build a bridge to cross that valley and shorten the walk. I bet you’d get a lot of money!”
We got to camp in four hours and fifty minutes. We had a hot lunch waiting and a good portion of the afternoon to relax. This was our last day before the big ascent that would come “tomorrow.” What seemed like days away was closer than ever.
The thought of my year long journey ending in a single day brought me great perspective. I’d run a marathon in preparation, done countless workouts since to get ready for this moment. The “climax” of this adventure was at hand!
Other Posts in this Series
Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter or instagram @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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