As the sun set on the Barafu Hut camp, the temperature dropped, and the winds accelerated.
The plan was to rest a few hours and then start the summit push at about 1 AM.
Of course, I could not fall asleep. I was also feeling the effects of the sore shoulder, the back spasms, cold temperatures, and an altitude-induced headache.
After a light midnight snack of biscuits and tea, I donned no less than four layers of socks, three layers of gloves, and the beautiful down parka coat that Sueyoung had given me as a birthday present. The weather was cold and windy, with a light snow falling.
Joy and I were one of the last pairs to leave camp, at about 1:30 AM. From this vantage point, I could see a line of head lamps in the distance, snaking their way up the mountain.
Over the next hour or two, as Joy and I navigated the scree and the rocks, we started overtaking a number of these climbers.
We also encountered many climbers turning around and descending, with the aid of their guides. The altitude and cold were taking their toll.
Unfortunately, I was not able to take very many pictures. As the weather was so cold and windy, the last thing I wanted to do was to stop and take off my gloves.
The effects of the altitude really kicked in as ascended past 17,000 feet. I had to walk very slowly. Every 10 steps or, I would have to stop and catch my breath. I also had to be careful to maintain my balance so as not to re-injure or dislocate my shoulder.
After about four hours, we made it to Stella Point, which sits on the edge of the volcanic rim at the top of Kilimanjaro. At just under 18,900 feet a.s.l, it is still about 500 feet below, and a slow 45 minute walk from, Uhuru Peak.
I imagine I would have seen some amazing views as I walked ever so slowly along the volcanic rim to the true summit. Due to the snow and fog, however, I couldn't see much more than about 50 feet in front of me. I never did see the glaciers I had heard so much about.
I thought I had seen the famous Uhuru Peak sign in the distance several times as I trod from Stella Point. But each time I was mistaken.
Finally, though, I did spot it for real. Unfortunately, it was so windy that I could not stay for very long. Joy was kind enough to snap a few pictures. I was very emotional holding the banner that I had made in Sueyoung's memory.
You can really get a sense for the wind in these videos
The hike from Barafu Hut to Uhuru Peak took just about six hours
After enduring the cold and the wind at the summit for about five minutes, Joy and I gingerly made our way back to Barafu Hut.
After a quick lunch, I packed up my gear, shed the winter coat and a couple layers of socks, as we began the three hour hike to Mweka Camp.
The descent was torturous, as I could not risk a fall. The path was rocky, and each step down took an eternity.
The landscape changed quite dramatically as we descended.
Thankfully, after 2.5 hours, I made it to the camp without having to be carted down in one of these.
I would have my best night of sleep yet! Just one more three hour downhill hike to go!