Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You Will Never Walk Alone- Kili Day 5

We woke up this morning with our arms and our legs sprawled diagonally, having slept sideways through the night. Karanga camp is on an incline, and at that elevation our porters were hard pressed to find steady ground on which to pitch our tents. By now it doesn't even matter, since we're such pro's you see, sleeping through the night and all, and even sharing our tent with our duffle bags- instead of leaving them in the "entrance" area. (When roughing it, it's the little things that give you an ego boost.)

The mountain has a funny effect on people. Zein is practically trotting with energy mashallah, while just behind her the excess motion makes Aunty Ammooni dizzy. As we ascend, we enter the "sleet" area. We are rock climbing now, literally; as in, the terrain under our feet is simply slabs upon slabs of uninterrupted rock, interspersed with piles of broken up sand-colored stone. It's like a construction junkyard. I look back to see how far we've climbed and find our trail twisting and turning through the slopes, clearly defined as if marked up by chalk. But before we know it, Karanga camp disappears in the haze. Smoke-like clouds ascending from below make their way around the top and encircle us. They team up with the wind and push us further along. To our right, more silvery grey clouds hover over the rocks. As they part, beautiful, puffy clouds appear. We are above the clouds now, the horizon below us, against a sky so blue.. the sun shining through.. it's enough to get a rhyme out of.. you.

But there is little wildlife here, no plants whatsoever- maybe a mouse or two, or a bird of prey circling up high. I wonder at which point the mud decided to quit us. Ironically, there are more signs here of human presence. Pebbles stacked on top of one another in creative patterns- perhaps to mark the route, or perhaps the remnants of climbers playing around during a water break- words like "TONY 2011" etched on a rock; lots of familiar alphabet with indecipherable meanings scrawled in thick black marker. My pole picks up a juice box straw and it hangs on for a few meters.

We cross the ridge and then surely enough those humans start to appear. Fellow climbers, all walking downhill as they return from successful summit attempts. That British man with the red face and few words; the Scandinavians looking dizzy and nauseous; the Canadian with a kindness in his face that reminds me of my college friend Sushil Jacob. The Japanese. And finally the French party poopers ("├ža vaut pas l'coup" - it wasn't worth it).

I'm lightheaded I think, but I can't be too sure. My heart is racing I think, but again I can't be too sure. I breathe deeply and focus on the boots in front of me. With every step, I pray to see the orange tents.

"Subhan".. "Allah".. "Alhamdu".. "lillah". The supplications are timed to my poles making contact with the ground. I fight to keep going but the tents refuse to reveal themselves. Instead, protruding from the rock is a sequence of capital letters that actually spell something I can read:

"U WILL NEVER WALK ALONE."

I stop dead in my tracks. What compelled me to look up at that moment, at that rock, I don't know. I am ecstatic now as the emotions gush through me, flooding me with thoughts of loved ones, family and friends who have been with us in spirit from the start. With this unexpected boost of energy, my struggle is reversed: I now fight to keep my pace slow.

I am finally, inexplicably, fully ready to tackle tonight's climb. We arrive at our final camp. We are SO close, but we must first eat up, rest up and then have one more meal before midnight. My arm is sore as I write this- my bicep is feeling the pressure of pen on paper at this altitude. It is hailing outside but I feel like I'm on top of the world. And that wouldn't be a stretch: at 4800 (?) meters, I've never been this high!

We lie down to rest. It is hardly three in the afternoon, but a deep slumber besets us, not unsimilar to the time when Dororthy set off to see the wizard (the wonderful Wizard of Oz). I just rewatched that scene and the resemblance is UNCANNY: Dorothy and friends reach the end of the yellow brick road. Above them, Emerald City sparkles in its green magnificence. But first, they must cross the field of poppies. They are so excited they start to run, but the poppies put Dorothy and Toto to "sleep, sleep, sleep." Tinman, Scarecrow and Lion are all panicking that the witch (in our case, altitude) has cast a spell on them, but it starts to snow and the snow wakes them up.

Ok... after this synopsis I can hardly believe it, but I swear it's true: when we woke up on summit night and stepped outside our tent, it was snowing. Our entire campsite was covered in deliciously fresh, thick, Christmasy powdery white snow.

It is time.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

They just keep getting better and better! Mashallah you're truly talented Noura T :) Big hug
- Jude Attar

Sherry Nassif said...

loving this Noura thank you. How did the poles help you?

IT began as a field diary for my summer in Jizan (2006) under the title "Watch Out Bubba Gump." Now I'm not sure what it is... but I do know it's time for me to start writing again.