Show Over

I crunched through a dusting of frosted snow as I walked away from Kibo hut just after seven the next morning.

Behind me, switchbacks climbed through the scree until they disappeared into the great waves of fresh white drifts which tumbled down from Gilman’s Point.

I paused and faced back up the trail. I yearned to climb, to pass Kibo Hut and labour on through ever thinner air to the crater rim, the glaciers and Uhuru Peak. But I knew that it would be impossible to do so now; the window had passed. Four climbers had set off for the summit shortly after midnight; they had battled blizzards and obscene cold but none of them had even reached Gilman’s Point. Even as I watched, clouds rolled over the saddle, simultaneously from both sides, like curtains drawing across Kibo. Show over, I mused, and resumed my downward progress.

I already knew that in a week’s time I would sit on my sun kissed veranda in Moshi’s suburbs and gaze up at the wisps of cloud winding around the summit. And I knew that it would be impossible to imagine the unrelenting, bitter cold that had driven me off the mountain; or believe, whilst gazing at the glaciers seductively cascading over the edge of that innocent looking peak, that such brutal conditions had caused me to retreat after working so hard to reach Kibo.

Soon the clouds had closed around me, swallowing Mawenzi and the saddle. Convection currents brought chilly shadow one moment and faint warmth from the sun the next. As the clouds drifted around me, sucked this way and that by the mountain’s own meteorological system, I imagined today’s contingent of climbers assembling at Marangu gate. A storm was brewing; the mountain was gathering its voice. A rumbling vocal warm-up had already begun as it prepared its thunderous baritone to read the riot act to the expectant huddles of hikers eagerly preparing to start their trek.

I had heard that warning three days earlier. As I descended, I listened with greater reverence.

.<< BACK                               INDEX                               NEXT >>.

If you enjoyed reading, please share this page with your friends and followers:

Chapter 1: Picking up the gauntlet

Chapter 2: Sacrifice Hill

Chapter 3: Celebrity in the room

Chapter 4: Golden promise

Chapter 5: Kibo's fire

Chapter 6: Show over

Kilimanjaro photo album

Kilimanjaro sunset on the glaciers

Early morning light behind Mawenzi seen from Kibo and below, the clouds roll across the saddle - show over.

Kibo Kilimanjaro - Show over

Storm clouds gather across Kilimanjaro's saddle.

Recommended reading

Trekking Guide to East Africa

Years ago the first edition of this Lonely Planet title just leapt off the bookshop display: Africa and mountains - the sleeve just conjured up so many exotic possibilities that I had to own it.

Kilimanjaro National Park MapForget T-shirts; for me it's "Been there, got the map." I can relive a holiday or climb, or go on a brand new fanciful adventure, just by poring over a map. This one includes useful street layouts for Moshi and Arusha, and is GPS approved, whatever that may mean!

For a larger scale, try these maps from ITMB (1:62500) and Rotter Verlag (1:50000)

Kiilimanjaro the trekking guide to Africa's Highest Mountain: Includes Mount Meru & guides to Arusha, Moshi, Marangu, Nairobi & Dar-Es-Salaam

"Stedman is something of a Kili obsessive... and that shows on every page of this fully revised and expanded edition of his guide..." Trek & Mountain, March 2010

"A comprehensive and informative guide." Wanderlust magazine, February 2011

Swahili (Lonely Planet Phrasebook)

Portable, pocket-size and cheap, but packed full of useful phrases. Swahili is an uncomplicated language and Tanzanians are patient with beginners. Believe me, a few Swahili words go a long way.

Make a Free Website with Yola.