Day 4: No Food, No Summit!

With Nora at the top of the Barranco Wall. A view worth all the trouble in the world!

I’m the opposite person today! I woke up feeling so refreshed and energetic, and looking so much forward to some real breakfast this time. I learned my lesson the hard way.

There is the breakfast that I’m supposed to have in order to lead a healthy lifestyle and maintain my shape in busy Cairo life, and there is definitely the breakfast a person is supposed to have in order to  hike up a mountain for 6-10 hours against all odds of weather and altitude. So the things I ate for breakfast on that day I would never have thought I would ever eat first thing in the morning. I had sausage, sausage, and lots of sausage. I had beef bacon. I had eggs and white toast with peanut butter and strawberry jam.

This time I took our cooks’ threat more seriously than ever. Everyday at dining time they would put huge portions in our plates and whenever we tried to object they would say “No food, no summit!”

I walked out of the breakfast tent feeling empowered. I had my weapons this time! I couldn’t be more ready for our second acclimatization hike. So I burst out of the camp and wanted to hit the road, but ever so wise Baraka would not let me continue on that pace. He insisted that I stay behind him and follow his slow, small steps. “What you’re feeling is very nice, but after 30 minutes you could crash again. Keep this pace to keep the feeling,” he said.

Our hike today was up the Barranco Wall, at 4600 m altitude. And yes it is a wall; you have to scramble your way up on the rocks. We were to then hike back down to Karanga Hut at 3930 m and spend the night. The altitude numbers are similar to those of yesterday, but this time at steeper terrain. It was an excellent way to acclimatize our bodies to the altitude with a variety of terrain over two days.

Baraka was exceptional with his detailed instructions. I was taking a full course on how to find the right spot in the rock to hold on to and where to place my feet. I was calculating my every step with care and making decisions with each step up.

Scrambling up the Barranco Wall. I slipped after that shot was taken, but never mind the price as long as I end up looking like an expert. I hope I did!

As we went higher each new rock became a bigger challenge. It was like solving puzzles that kept advancing as I progressed. That’s what I love the most about the mountains. They are a metaphor for life and its challenges as we grow older. Each new rock is a new bigger challenge you have to face. You have to get over it with careful consideration and calculation of your steps. Where you place your feet, when and where to rest your weight, and which part of the rock you choose as your support could mean either your road to the top or your painful, sometimes lethal, fall.

Scrambling is always my favorite part up any mountain. I gave my camera to Ian to take a picture of me and he decided to do it at the highest, most difficult rock thus far. Baraka tried to offer me his hand but I confidently refused. My picture was being taken. “I want to look like an expert!“ I said. After the shot my feet slipped and the weight of my backpack pulled me back so I almost lost balance. That’s what happens when you lose your focus. So I had to give in to Baraka’s hand. He rolled his eyes and said “Of course! You weren’t concentrating. All you were thinking of was that photo because you wanted to ‘look like an expert!’”

But he still sensed my special interest in the rocks, so he decided to take me on a more challenging route usually taken by the porters because it’s shorter. The rocks were so much bigger and more complicated. I listened obediently to his instructions this time and I was absolutely euphoric when I reached the top of the wall, and with my heavy backpack.

I’m feeling a mild lack of appetite now, which I hear is normal on altitudes. I should always force myself to eat. My problem at the dinner tonight was that I felt so full yet I couldn’t tell if it was the altitude or simply that I really was full! I just kept shoving the food down my throat as much as I could. The cooks were eyeing me and repeating their threats. “No food, no summit!” Yeah yeah… Keep chewing on those potatoes rolling in your mouth girl. You need to make it to the top, so take it from the experts!

Hoping for a nice relaxed day tomorrow. It will be our last before the summit hike.

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  1. #1 by Marwa Elnaggar on September 27, 2010 - 4:07 pm

    Yay!! Finally a feel-good day. What would I have eaten if sausages saved you?


    • #2 by Arwa Mahmoud on September 27, 2010 - 4:14 pm

      Chicken sausages! There’s an answer to everything and Kilimanjaro is against discrimination!


  2. #3 by Reem on September 27, 2010 - 5:32 pm

    I am enjoying all your writings Arwa.. I am following day by day.. Learning the lessons that u learnt.. loving your Master Baraka more and more.. I did not call u yet because I would love to get the Blog experience first, then the Oral one I guess.. see u soon in Cairo ISA


    • #4 by Arwa Mahmoud on September 27, 2010 - 10:06 pm

      Thanks Reem. I can’t wait to see you. I miss you so much!


  3. #5 by Ted Sertons on September 28, 2010 - 8:43 am


    My brother sent me the link to your blog, I’ve really enjoyed reading it and can only imagine what my parents are going through right now. They started climbing the mountain last monday (yesterday). Maybe you run into them on your way back, they should reach the summit on saturday.
    They are climbing in a group of just two, so if you run into them ,say hi, please! ;)
    Hang in there, and make it happen!



    • #6 by Arwa Mahmoud on September 28, 2010 - 1:26 pm

      Thanks! I’m already back, actually. If your parents are also taking the Machame route then they’re obviously taking the same stops I took.

      I wish them the best of luck and keep us posted on how they progress.


  4. #7 by Shearin Abdel Monem on October 5, 2010 - 4:26 pm

    This entry was hilarious…I love how you described the day 4 energy rush, and how you were advised to conserve it. It’s incredible how your climb is a metaphor for living. So far it’s all about striking some kind of balance with nature. Composure seems to be key…I’m telling you Arwelly you’ve got a book in the making. I relate to it on so many levels, and can’t wait to see what happens next. Tell on brilliant friend!


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