Many Stairs and Many Raindrops Later…

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Good evening my friends. It’s that time once again. Gather round the glowing LCD and let ole ActiveSteve share another travel tale with you to while away some time. My post today takes us back up to Mount Meru, where Team Cantrailia was about to tackle our second day of climbing towards the peak. On the menu for today would be climbing from Mariakamba Hut at 2,500m up to Saddle Hut, located at 3,576m, and nestled at the foot of the Little Meru peak (smaller peak in the region). Once again, you can start out by checking out the custom map that I’ve put together, as well as the set of photos that have been uploaded to Flickr. I’ll try to keep things light and breezy for this post, as the heavy work is all about tomorrow… summit day! 🙂 Read on fans.

After the relatively nice ending to day 1, we were eager to set off on the trails, and hoped for good weather. Today’s hike was going to be much steeper and shorter. We were basically following a trail up the crater rim, which you can clearly see on the terrain map. Due to the short, steep, nature, we quickly found out that once again, we’d be ‘crawling’ up the mountain at a tired snail’s pace. The pacing was made even more difficult as there were quite a few stairs at the beginning of the trek. There were several times when I truly thought I’d fall over, and that I’d bump into the backpack of the guide ahead of me. Very difficult. I felt great physically, and the altitude certainly didn’t seem to be having any effect on me, but the idea was that the slow pace was to help in the long run.

In starting our day off, the sun seemed to want to come out and say hello, and we even caught a couple nice views of the mountain in the early morning sunlight. On the trail early on, the sun was shining bright and keeping us warm. However, the ranger was pretty certain we’d see more rain further up the road. Well, as long as it stayed warm, right? Well, for at least the first hour and a half, mother nature was fairly accommodating. Although it started getting a bit foggy, it was still not raining. On the plus side, the trail we were climbing up today had no real stopping points or viewing areas. It was simply a straight hike to our next hut. The real plan was to get to the hut, have lunch, then attempt a climb up Little Meru, which is a peak at about 3,765m, and easy to get to from the hut. I was excited for that, since I love getting to a peak. It’s always a sweet feeling.

Unfortunately, the weather did change, and we suddenly found ourselves donning out rain gear to keep hiking. I resisted doing so, but the rain just got progressively heavier and heavier, so getting cold was now starting to be a concern. I hadn’t put on many layers, wearing only shorts and a long sleeve tech shirt. So, I threw on my thin gore-tex jacket and hoped for the best. I hadn’t realized it yet, but this jacket, which I often use for adventure racing, was full of little holes, so this wasn’t even very waterproof. D’oh! Most of us chose not to put on rain paints, as the hike was only supposed to last till lunch.

True to our pace and predictions, we had only another 2 hours of hiking that morning. Sadly, the rain was so heavy that by the time we arrived at Saddle Hut, every square millimeter of my was soaked. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Always throw on the rain pants as well. Having really we underwear and continuing to hike is a recipe for coldness and ultimately discomfort. Even after arriving at the hut, and getting out of the rain, I felt even colder, as we were no longer moving. While we’d each had our own rooms at the first hut (with 2 per room), we were told that this time, we’d have to double. As Jody, Deb and I were all there at the same time, we agreed to bunk together, which left Dylan, John, Sarah and Mike to share another room. These were not very roomy spaces, and the fact that Sarah and Mike had an extra bag between them made their lives even more complicated.

We all tried our best to get comfortable in the short term. We all basically stripped down and crawled into our sleeping bags to try and warm up and dry off for a bit. We also tried (very unsuccessfully I’ll add) to string our clothes up where we could to dry. However, with no circulating air or heat, it just made our room feel like the inside of a locker. The one high point during this brief period was the fact that the porters had come room to room to deliver us hot beverages of our choice, as well as deliver us our warm ‘washing’ water. I had a nice cup of hot chocolate while we waited for word that lunch was ready.

Outside, the rain continued to come down relentlessly. Not fun. No one had any desire to attempt to tackle Little Meru at this point. During lunch we talked about options, including trying to figure out a cut-off time for trying Little Meru. I was still keen to go, but honestly, with nothing by soaked clothes and soaked boots, I knew it would suck in the absence of sun. The plan was further complicated by the fact that we’d be leaving this camp around midnight in order to make our way to the summit. That meant that we’d have an early supper (5pm), then all try to sleep a few hours before being awoken again in the dead of the night. So Little Meru would HAVE to be tackled before supper, and we needed about an hour and a half to do it.

We played the waiting game with the weather. Happily, we had brought some games to kill time. Being lugged up the mountain by our trusty porters was a set of Mille Bornes cards and a travel Battleship set that Jody and I had brought. As well, Mike and Sarah had brought along a game of travel scrabble. So while the rain fell, Mike and Sarah played scrabble, while Deb, Jody and I raced cars in Mille Bornes. John and Dylan opted to rest, as Dylan wasn’t feeling 100% to start with, and wanted all his energy for the summit bid.

Somewhere just before 4pm, a mini miracle unfolded. The sun peeked it’s head out from the rain clouds. For the first while, the rain continued even though there was sun, which was frustrating, but eventually we had a reprieve. In a very small period of time, all hands were on deck, and all the groups flocked outside to try and drape clothes all over the surrounding branches in an effort to dry some clothes out. Unfortunately, the effort was rendered mostly moot, as no sooner had clothes been spread out that fog rolled up from below our location. Although it wasn’t raining, there was no more sun :-(. All we really would have needed is about 20 minutes of direct sun, but no dice for us.

And so endeth my tale of Day 2. There are no more interesting parts to the day. Just more rain, more food, and then an attempt at sleep before the summit. But that will have to wait until my next post 🙂 So, my thought of the day? Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Rather than a thought, I’ll make it a lesson learned: Always put on the rain pants when the rain starts on a long hike. You may ‘lose’ some time, but there is always a long-term gain. In this case, it would have made the arrival a bit more pleasant. That’s it, that’s all. Stay tuned for the Meru Summit Bid!

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