I woke up feeling OK, but not good. I could feel the headache in the back of my head a bit distant though and I felt a bit dizzy. I was hoping the headache would have been completely gone by the morning, like all the mornings before, but since that was not the case I knew it was going to be a tough day and I might not be going to the summit. So I changed my mental goal to Kibo for now. I thought if I can just get to Kibo camp I am happy and I have reached my target.
First few hours were still OK. I was managing my headache, drinking ridiculously a lot of water, breathing my lungs as full every time as I can and taking one step at a time. Still it was not enough. I felt worse by the step and looking at the scenery I started to ask myself questions like “What are we doing here?”, “What am I doing here?”. There is nothing here, no plants, no birds, no animals, NOTHING. Not even bloody rocks big enough to go pee behind!
We should not be here. This is not for humans. This is like walking on the moon…
I could sense everyone was more quiet. It was getting harder and we were climbing higher all the time. Every single step you had to concentrate on breathing and speed being as steady as possible. There was no talking, just breathing, walking and a lot of time to think about things. Like for example if you will continue to the summit or stay at the base camp. Before we reached the next camp I had made up mine or rather the answer was given to me.
We had a break around 2 hour mark which was midway (about 2,5 kilometers) and the kitchen crew had bought some coffee, tea, cake and biscuits to us which was a really nice surprise. I put my legs up against a small rock as I felt like blood was not circulating after so many days on my feet. Fluids were gathering to my body as rings on my finger were not moving which is always a good indication of that. I felt a bit better during the break and confident that I can get to Kibo although the headache was there all the time, but still not so bad that I had to take any medicin. We were at about 4300 meters now.
400 meters ascent sound like nothing especially if you have been to Norway for example where most mountains next to fjords are higher than that and you take an evening walk up them and back in less than few hours. Here in high altitude it’s not the same. You don’t rush up. This is not a high heart rate exercise. As a matter of fact on the way up my heart rate average was 115 which equals to normal walk and my max is 198-199 so there is quite a lot to go before I would be at max level.
Still I felt exhausted, tired and I could hardly keep going. I tried to keep the heart rate as steady as possible too all the time. By the time we got to about 600 meters before Kibo camp I felt the headache getting worse. I was prepared it would probably get so bad at some point that I would need to take Ibuprofen, so took half a tablet. I don’t really use Ibuprofen so usually small amount is enough. I felt like everyone was rushing a bit to get to camp and my head just kept pounding.
About 100 meters before camp I felt so sick and like I would throw up soon. My head was pounding so hard and felt so heavy that I went straight to my tent to lie down. I could not do anything I felt so bad so I just sat there and thought about how I feel now and how hard the day had been. I weighed the options of maybe going up as I would probably again feel better after a bit of sleep and staying still.
I thought I don’t want to go up there. I thought I have come all the way here, so I should go up there. I thought I am giving up not going up there. Would the others be disappointed if I didn’t go up there? I thought maybe I will be the only not going up. Will I be the only one giving up?
I thought about my children and how I missed them. I thought about my husband and how I just wanted to be close to him and talk to him. I thought about what would happen if I would take a bit more Ibuprofen, ignore the pain and just keep going. I thought about ignoring the pain, being stubborn, keeping on going and ending to hospital. Then I thought about my children again.
I cried, I cried a lot. So much I don’t remember the last time I have cried so much. Then I thought I don’t want to go up there. I felt I don’t want to go up there. I have never had such a strong gut feeling in my life and it told me not to go up there. So I decided I should listen to it and that I am not going to the summit.
I probably could have tried, I probably would have felt better later on and with Ibuprofen kept going, but I had found my answer. Then I went to the mess tent to have lunch and told everyone. Next day it turned out to be a wise decision.
I could not eat anything during lunch though I felt so bad, but had a mug of Milo anyway. We measured our HR and CO2 levels. My CO2 had dropped to 75% from the mornings 93% and my heart rate was higher again around 96. Just the CO2 level drop was clear enough hint that I should not go so went back to tent to sleep. I think that just the fact that the decision had been made eased my mind and I knew the stressing, pain, anxiety and wondering will I get there was over.
I knew I don’t have to worry anymore, I didn’t have to have the strength to carry on anymore so I can now relax and just stay here. Stay alive for one more day here at 4700 meters and then we can go down and home. Just one more day and during the day I will hopefully acclimatize and feel better by the morning.
After the nap I felt better and managed to eat some dinner. Had to take the other half of the ibuprofen also. Pretty soon after dinner everyone head to bed as all others were heading to summit at 4 am and some were not feeling too good either, but good enough to go. As I suspected I was the only one not going, but was already OK with my decision. I knew it was the right one. Besides I wanted to wake up also to see them off.
Team Ubuntu was really strong. The only thing bothering really was the tummy aches and the runs. Other than that CO2 was great and they felt good. I was happy that I was the only one feeling so bad. They were all good to go to the summit and I did not want to miss them going.
It was already really cold, below zero degrees maybe -2 or -3, but there was no snow at base camp. Our tents were frozen stiff because of some cold rain earlier and for the first time I had to have a bit more clothes on when sleeping.
I was relieved that the decision had been made and eager to see the others off and welcome them back the next day. Fell asleep in those thoughts looking forward to the next day at 4700 meters thinking, wow, am I really here?