Wednesday, August 29, 2001
Uhuru, Tanzania
Elevation: 19,340 feet

Helene and I rose at 5:30 a.m. again to prepare for our summit bid. We had some unfortunate mishaps in our tent during the wee hours of the morning (no pun intended) and all our plans for what we were going to wear were foiled. Helene panicked when she realized she didn't have any clean underwear. I told her I had one pair of clean underwear left and she could borrow it. She said, "What color are they because I"m wearing a purple bra." We exploded with laughter. Everyone in camp said, "good morning girls."

Later that day, Kapanya said he had never, NEVER, heard anyone laughing the morning of the summit bid like Helene and I did.

Saidi putting on Helene's gaiters at Summit Crater camp

Helene and I decided that we were not only not going to deflate our Thermarests on this day, but we also were not going to stuff our sleeping bags, pack our duffel bags, or put on our own gaiters. We wanted to conserve our energy so we could make it to the top. Saidi, Kumongusho, and Joshua were only too happy to help us take care of packing and donning our outerwear. I took a photo of Saidi zipping up and snapping Helene's gaiters.

On our way from Summit Crater camp to Uhuru

Larry and Andy were the first to start up toward the summit, Uhuru. We had about an 800 foot ascent to get there. It took an hour and a half.

Teresa was a real trooper. There she was throwing up on The Snows of Kilimanjaro, yet she pushed to the top and was one of the first in our group to summit.

Our summit team on top of Uhuru (photo courtesy of Larry Gross)

I picked up some great rocks along the way for Jordan, Elana and Brandon.

Marcee and Helene at the top

Andy signing the log at the top

Helene and Marcee at the top

Marcee at the top (photo courtesy of Fred Yorra)

Larry and Marcee at the top (photo courtesy of Fred Yorra)

I was very happy to reach the summit, but I wasn't nearly as moved as when I crested the crater and laid my eyes on the glaciers. Still, we all took a million obligatory summit photos and used Larry's satellite phone to call home and share the good news. When Andy called Mariel, he woke her up and told her he was at the summit. She said, "Wait a minute. I thought you were supposed to summit tomorrow, not today." Andy had to convince her that he was, in fact, calling her from the summit. Fred measured and documented our oximetry. We remained at Uhuru for about 45 minutes and then Kapanya made us move on.

The Los Angeles gang at the top (photo courtesy of Andy Katz)

Mweka Camp, Tanzania Elevation: 10,500 feet

Going down was much harder than coming up. The first thousand feet or so was a breeze because it was a scree field and we sort of skied down. I felt like I was cross-country skiing downhill. It was fun.

Frank and Teresa drinking Coke at Barafu Hut

We stopped for lunch at the Barafu hut camp, but everyone just shoveled some food in their mouths and quickly resumed hiking. Kapanya had asked us to bring our headlamps with us in case we were still walking when night fell, so we didn't want to waste precious daylight by sitting and eating. We kept moving at a quick pace and we were all in camp by 4:00 p.m. Kapanya was relieved. The group he guided the week before us did not get into camp till 3:00 a.m. They took 11 hours longer than we did to get to camp.

Mweka camp was practically a metropolis. There were several groups camped there, so there were probably 300 people. This was the least appealing of all of the campsites because of the crowds. On the other hand, there was something to be said for the entrepreneurs who were selling Coca-Cola and Safari Lager.

We looked up at Kili from our camp and could not believe we had been at the top earlier in the day. It seemed so far away.

The entire expedition team at Mweka Camp with Kili in the background

I asked Roy to help me take out my cornrows. With the two of us working together, it took about an hour. This attracted a lot of attention. By the time my hair was liberated, the air was too chilly so I didn't want to wash my hair. But I did take a relatively thorough sponge bath and with my hair off of my head, I felt like a new person.

We heard that it was snowing in the crater while we were warm and cozy down at 10,500 feet. We were so lucky with the weather. So lucky.