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Kilimanjaro diary - day four

Day one  Day two  Day three  Day four  Day five  Day Six  Day seven

I slept well, perhaps finally acclimatised to the altitude or lulled by the stream echoing against the cliffs.

Today we were to climb the Barranco Wall - the nearest thing to rock climbing the ascent offers. It certainly looked scary; we could see the path opposite our campsite zigzagging up what looked like a near-vertical cliff.

In the end it wasn't nearly as bad as it looked. This picture was taken at the steepest bit, as the path wound round a huge rock buttress, with vertigo-inducing views back into the Barranco. The porters (left) needed considerable skill and some help to scramble up the rocks with the packs on their heads. There's Isaac our guide at the bottom, with his usual taking-care-of-business expression.

Up at the top we were back into moonscape desert, with cold mist swirling round. It was amazing how as soon as the sun went in and stopped warming you, the effects of altitude would suddenly get worse. We plodded our way up over boulder-strewn slopes and then down again into tiny secret valleys full of tinkling streams and small patches of hardy plants, finally hauling ourselves up an exhausting climb onto a windswept plateau.

This, Karanga plateau, was to be our fourth night camp. We had paid more to take an extra day and it was still only lunchtime. Otherwise we'd have had to slog all the way to the summit base camp, Barafu Hut, snatch an evening's sleep and start climbing to the summit at midnight.

I took  myself on a long, slow, shuffling walk to acclimatise, up the barren hill up to where the mist started, feeling very intrepid. It felt really high and I was panting from the altitude.

The guides kept saying "pole, pole" - "slowly, slowly" - whenever we started to hurry but in reality you can't do anything other than an old-granny shuffle at this altitude. Any other exertion leaves you panting like a dog and running is out of the question. Yes as soon as you walk downhill you feel light as a feather. It's like being on Jupiter: is accentuates the brute force of gravity. Will I feel like this when I'm 80?

At the top the clouds cleared and Kibo did its nightly unveiling for us - still looking impossibly far away and steep. We settled down for a long, cold night. We'd need all the sleep we could get over the next two days.

Go to day five

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