In the days leading up to my ascent of Mt. Cameroon, every time I mentioned my hike to a local, they would laugh, and tell me there was no way I was going to make it.
Day one: 6 hours, 6,036 ft. elevation gain, 4.6 miles.
For the hikers, Thursday morning came early. At 5:30 I rolled out of bed to get one last shower, and finish some last minute packing. The little water filter, which is usually ample for Bill, Trixy, Cherilyn, and me, was no match for six people filling up water bottles for Mt. Cameroon. Cherilyn and I both needed our Nalgenes filled before we left, but since the water filter was empty, we decided just to try the tap water. Although it didn’t have any immediate adverse affects, we’re pretty sure that is why we were out of breath, weak, and tired the rest of the day. Everyone else suggested that it might be that we were out of shape; but it couldn’t possibly that, it had to be the water!
We all met at the old Bicec, and visited for a few minutes while the guides and porters packed the bags. Before we had even walked through Upper Farms, I was asking myself what I had been thinking; I was already tired, and we weren’t even to the mountain yet. By the time we had reached hut one, I had a good rhythm down; walk, pant, drink, pretend to take a picture, and start walking again. Once we were out of the forest and onto the burned face of the mountain, the going got much more difficult. For a while, we were hiking up a section that was like walking up a never ending, and extremely steep staircase.
I was told that once we crested the ridge we would be able to see hut 2, where we would be spending the night. After each tiny rise, I hoped to see the tiny tin structure, just waiting for me. But sadly, after each crest, I was disappointed. Finally, when I thought I couldn’t drag my tired body another inch, we came over a rise, and around the corner to one of the most beautiful sights I’d seen: hut 2, just waiting for me to dump my back pack on the floor, and sit in its shade. Most of us spent the next few hours sleeping, reading, and relaxing in the sun. Our nap was interrupted by the fire that threatened to burn our resting place. By that time our porters were there, so they beat the fire out for us.
Dinner was served shortly before dark—white rice with a delicious vegetable sauce. We all sat, warming our hands around the fire, and telling stories after dinner. Since we had a very long day ahead of us, we all turned in early.
Day 2: 9 ½ hours, 3,939 ft elevation gain, 5,726 ft elevation loss, 10.4 miles.
After we packed up, and ate our breakfast of tea, bread, and hard boiled eggs, we resumed hiking. The second day was even harder than the first; my muscles were tired and sore, and the air seemed to be getting thinner with every step I took. After each ridge we crested I only saw a bigger higher one to be climbed. Each one seemed insurmountable, but one step at a time, I conquered them. By hut 3 I was exhausted, and still forty-five minutes from the summit. I kept plodding along, one step at a time. Even when the trail flattened out, I had to make frequent stops to catch my breath, and let my legs rest. For the last half an hour or so, we could see the summit; it seemed so close and yet so far away. Finally, we made it to the summit. I felt like I was on top of the world! We took our pictures, ate some snacks, and then headed down the backside of the mountain.
We made good time sliding down the back side, trekking across the lava field, and across the wide open grassy land. When we started our descent across the craters I slowed down exponentially. After about six stops to empty the gravel out of my shoes, I decided it would be faster going without them and opted for going barefoot. The last few miles of downhill were torture! My legs felt like jell-o, and my feet felt like they’d been put through a meat grinder. It was prayer and mind over matter that got me down to Mann Springs, where we spent the night.
Spaghetti and vegetable sauce were served around a roaring campfire. Since my whole body ached, and we needed to get up at 5:30 the next morning, I went to bed early once again.
Day 3: 5 hours, 4,370 ft elevation loss, 8.7 miles
We ate an early breakfast, packed up, and were headed down the mountain by seven o’clock. I had taped up my blisters and thought I was ready to conquer anything! The hike went good at first, not too much downhill and the trail was fairly easy. When I thought we had to be nearly there our guide informed us, we were almost halfway. From there, the going got tougher. My legs ached, my feet burned, and I had blisters all over, even on my hands. I’d stubbed my toes into almost every immovable object within five feet of the trail, and now they were killing me. Around every corner I swore I could hear voices and I thought for sure I’d see the town as soon as I rounded the bend. Each time I was disappointed. Finally after about five hours of hiking we started to see signs of civilization. A woman took one look at our bedraggled group and said, “ashia!”(Which means sorry) We didn’t really think we looked as awful as we felt, but I guess we must have. I was so glad to see the shade at the clinic in Bokwango. I knew that as soon as I reached there, I would be done! I felt that the clinic was a very appropriate place to end our hike. Really, anywhere would have been fine with me, but the clinic just seemed a perfect fit.
Mt. Cameroon was a great adventure, and I’m happy I did it. I’m even happier that it’s over, and I will never have to go through all that pain and misery again!