- Date: June 13, 2017
- Shira Camp 2 to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp
- Elevation: 12599ft to 15190ft to 12960ft (2591ft gain then descend to sleep low)
- Distance: 5.6 miles
- Hiking Time: 9 hours
- Vegetation Zone: Mooreland to High Desert
We planned to start early by waking up at 6:30am with an in-tent service of our choice of hot tea, coffee or hot chocolate. This was supposed to be the `test’ day according to Ricky. If we could climb the Lava Tower at 15000 ft today without any major trouble, we most likely would be able to `survive’ the summit night. We started our hike at 8am.
It was a long, mostly uphill hike to the Lava Tower. Alex was leading the group today. I had a talk with Anuj last night and I encouraged him to stay with his big brother who always walked in front of the group with Manasi and Milly- the super-fit, mom-daughter duo of our group. I also assured him that I would always try to align my pace with his -no matter what- till we both made it up to the summit. Five of us kept following Alex, who had a hard time maintaining a steady pace. We felt like the pace could’ve been slower. Dharmesh kept walking back and forth between the faster and the slower groups taking photos and videos and also making sure that the ladies in the back of the group were okay.We made it to the top of Lava Tower at 1:30ish. The rest of the group was about 30-40 minutes behind us. Our cooks and porters already had our mess tent set up there to protect us from high winds and served us a lunch of hot soup, sandwiches, empanadas, potatoes, and salad. It was pretty chilly up there but it was too hot in our tent. We rested for another 20 minutes after lunch.
The next part of our hike was a 2000 ft descent to the Barranco Camp. This was my favorite part of the entire hike. After a steep descent, we entered this mystical cloud-covered forest full of `tree groundsel’ (Dendrosenecio kilimanjari). These alien-looking plants are found almost nowhere else in the world. This was one of the most unusual sites you could ever think of seeing in the middle of volcanic rocks. Not exaggerating, but it looked like a scene from a different planet that you would usually see in science-fiction movies. We got to the Barranco campsite, which was right outside of this forest, around 6:30pm. We had a snack of popcorn, cookies, and hot tea/coffee waiting for us as soon as we got there. We walked around the campground after eating those snacks. Dharmesh and Angira were stationed in front of bathrooms, as that was one of the only places on the mountain where cellular service was available. Neither of them, however, had any luck getting connected. This campground was right below the Barranco Wall which is a steep 850 ft rocky wall we would be climbing tomorrow. The wall looked intimidating at a first glance, but we knew it would be fun and exciting once we started climbing.
This was a very long and exhausting day and almost all of us had some kind of symptoms of altitude sickness whether it was an upset stomach, headache or loss of appetite. A delicious dinner was ready at 8:30pm but eating was not enjoyable anymore. Arnav was the only one who still had a large appetite. The rest of us forced some food down to get energy for tomorrow. I started getting chills, a headache and a fever at dinner time. I took a couple of ibuprofen before going to sleep and hoped for the best.