Heaven to Hell
This was the Longest Day of My Life. I am not sure how long I had been awake or how many camps I had been through over the past few days where I really had not slept, but we were on our way down to Barafu for a short break before we ended the day at Mweka. My hope was that I would find Bill alive at Barafu and also healthy and not in some horrifying condition after the evacuation at 18,500ft when his eye started wobbling sideways and he could not see. it was a long walk back.
Ski Through Barafu
The hike back to Barafu was several hours, but due to the loose sands and rock Moses and I skied down the slopes on the heels of our boots. It was actually pretty fun, and you end up with a layer of dust on your clothes that will never completely come out.
The only other event worth mentioning was my test of goodness when I saw my "favorite hiker" wander off into a valley that was not on the way back to camp. The temptation of letting her wander off forever was delicious, but I hollered to her to stop. She turned, waved, and then decided she did not care or did not understand, and kept on down into the wrong valley. Poor Moses had to run ahead (not easy at 17,000 ft) to catch her and bring her back up the slope to the turn off to camp. I hiked on ahead and caught up with Kathy and Walter and was able to get back with them. I wasn't going to stick around and wait 40 more minutes for her. (wink).
About a mile from camp, my own strongman met me to walk with me back to camp, like he had at all other camps. We all joked and said that at the first camp they met us a few yards from the tent, the next day it was a quarter mile, the next day it was a half mile, and they kept walking further out to meet us each day because we were so sad, so sorry, and so slow.
Down to Barafu again from the summit, we were promised a nap that never occurred. Instead I made it in just in time for lunch and thankfully to find Bill alive and astoundingly crabby. The tent was too hot. Everything was wrong. He could not see out of the wobbly eye. He was lucid and this was good. We were immediately ordered to start hiking down to the next camp: Mweka.
The hike down was a few hours more. I joined the 'early group' which consisted of the invalids that had been 'evacuated', i.e. had been brought down with assistance from the summit. A later group would follow. I hear they departed 40 minutes late. This was the earliest the late girls had been all week. We were moving up in the world. Too bad it was almost over.
Most of the trail was misty and then a slight rain along the rocky slope. Eventually we came into new scenery that was at least refreshing, but no one was overjoyed to have to continue walking after such a long day. Looking back i wished I had enjoyed the scenery more as it was stunning and I wished I had taken many photos, but with Bill's condition and my exhaustion we just plodded ahead without thoughts.
We made it to camp, but I do not remember this part. I think a food delivery from town came to this lower camp for our tour group so we could have chicken. It was elegant.
Finally we had dinner - chicken in peanut sauce over rice - man I love the cooks! There was a lot of other food and treats, but the peanut sauce - oh one of my favorites in life - and we were having it as our last supper on the mountain. And like tradition, we retired to our cots that were slightly downhill for the all night sliiiiide, but who could complain?
To Final Descent