Great Rift Blog

Colman, an African Mountaineer – Part 3

Posted by in Colman, Kilimanjaro, Mountains | September 16, 2016

As I promised, one more post of some Kilimanjaro stories.  I hope you enjoy them.  I will tell a sad one and then some happy ones.

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Colman on the summit with a group of British clients.

Another story happened in 2006 when I was with a group of 2 Swedish guys.  We climbed via Machame Route, but planned to summit via the Western Breach.  I was not used to summiting through the Western Breach.  Normally I was used to summiting via Kibo Hut or Barafu Camp.  I had already heard a lot about the Western Breach from other guides, about the rock falls.  Some clients had already died there because of rock fall and some porters and guides had already lost their legs and arms on that route.  It was really scary.  But I have no choice because the clients they chose to do it.  After arriving at the Lava Tower I tried to explain to the clients about the rock falls, but they say we do not care and that they want to climb via the Western Breach.  They say they do not like to climb via Barafu.  They told me if I don’t climb via Western Breach it was ok, they will go down and they will ask for refund, because my employer at the time promised they will climb this route.  So I have no choice.  We stayed at Lava Tower and then the next day we go to Arrow Camp.  From Lava Tower to Arrow Camp is not far, only one hour.  We had lunch and then we rest.  I did not go to sleep.  I was talking with the porters.  Later I saw another group of four clients.  They were coming up from Shira Hut to Arrow Camp.  We had the afternoon walk and then we come down for dinner.  It was early dinner at 5:00pm.  They want to sleep early because they want to wake at 2:00am and start summiting.  That was their plan, it was not my plan.  After they told me that, I told them no we will wake up 4:00am and departure it will 5:00am.  I had that plan because it was more safe if the rock fall you can see it and you can avoid it.  After I told them they agree with me but not 100%.  Instead of going to sleep they go to chat with the group of four clients from America.  The American group has a plan to leave at 2:00am because they want to have a sun rise at the top.  The Swedish guy they come to me and they want to leave with the Americans at 2:00pm.  They say Colman, we want to stick with our original plan to leave at 2:00am.  I was so confused now.  I just say no we will leave 5:00am.  They go back to sleep in their tent.  At 1:30am I hear the Americans are ready to start to go.  They leave at 2:00am.  Our Waiter, he goes to wake the guys at 4:00am.  The guys they say they do not want anything for breakfast and they are ready to leave.  The Waiter tells me so I wake up and I pack everything and I go to the guys to say hallo to them.  But they do not respond.  They were angry with me.  I told them lets go.  After two hours of walking we hear people making noise.  I try to look at the top but I cannot see anything.  I it was too cloudy.  I told the guys to have rest and drink water but they say no and keep going up.  I want to have a break because I want to know what is going on.  But they say no.  After fifteen minutes I hear something coming down.  I look up to see it was rock and it was not far from us.  The rock was coming down on the right side.  I told the guys to stay on the left side.  The guy they were so scared.  The noise now it was not far. I told them to have a break and drink water.  We moved from the trail and stood on the big rock.  I looked at the top and saw the group of people coming down and they were carrying somebody in their hands.  We waited until they came near us.  Now I started to recognize them.  It was the American group guides and the three Americans.  After they see us, they stop and they want help.  We asked them what has happened.  They said at 4:30am on the way up they had a break for water, but before starting to drink they heard something like rocks coming down, but they can’t see which side it was coming through because of clouds and darkness.  By headlight they can’t see far away so the three American guys and the two guides moved to the right, but the other guy was peeing on the rock so he was late to move to the right.  The rock hit him on the shoulder and he fell down and hit his head on the rock.  There was lots of blood starting to come out.  They tried to use everything they could to stop the blood but it did not stop.  That was what they told us.

The Swedish guys say no more climbing.  We need to go down to help them to rush the wounded guy down because the three Americans and their guides were looking tired.  We take off our t-shirt to wrap the head of guy because lots of blood was coming out.  Me and my Assistance Guide carried the guy for one hour and we passed him to the Swedish guys.  They carry him for half an hour and they pass him to the American guys.  We did this down to Arrow Camp.  At Arrow Camp there was nobody there.  We took a five minute break and we start to go down to Lava Tower Camp.  It takes us only thirty.  At the Lava Tower we met a big group of fourteen Americans.  The guy could not talk any more.  The group of fourteen American they checked him and they said he was dead.  Our gear was covered in blood.  It was now 11:00am.  We got some tea and soup and some snacks from the group of Americans.  The guides of that group prepared food for their porters who then carried the body with their hands to Shira Camp.  The group of fourteen Americans changed their original plan to climb to the summit via Western Breach and now they planned to go through Barafu Camp.

On my side it was really hard because the Swedish guys now they want to go through Barafu and summit from there.  I told them its ok, but the problem is our tent were already down to Mweka Hut and there is no more food with us, only snacks.  The three American had no plan to climb anymore, so they gave us a lots of dry food, snacks, biscuits, etc.  The group of fourteen Americans told us to stay with them until the time we meet our porters.  The problem was now we needed more time on mountain – 2 more days.  I told them they will have to go pay extra money and also they needed to change their plane tickets.  I told them if they are ready I was ready too, but they say no.  I give them a plan to stay at Lava Camp and start at 3:00pm to go to the summit via Western Breach then after the summit we will go directly to the hotel.  They agreed but they look scared in their eyes.  We eat dinner with the American group at Lava Tower and we go sleep in their tents.  Me and my Assistance Guide give our sleeping bags to the Swedish guys and we share sleeping bags with the American porters.  We wake up at 2:30am and we start to climb at 3:00am.  We climb up and at 7:00am we find a hat on the trail.  It was the hat worn by the American guy who get died.  We take a break at that point and we pray and then we go to the summit!  We arrive at the summit at 9:00am.  We start to go down to Mweka Gate at 10:00am.  We arrived at Mweka Hut at 4:00pm where we met our porters.  We then went down to Mmweka Gate arriving at 7:00pm and then went to our hotel.  The Swedish guys thanked us a lot for leading them very well, otherwise they would have gotten into the accident with the Americans.

Another story happened in April 2012 when I was with three guys from South Africa.  We climbed via Machame route.  During the briefing one day before we start to climb I notice something.  One of the clients, his name was Frans and he cannot speak properly.  I did not want to ask why so I finish my briefing and I go home.  The next day, the day we start to climb, I notice another thing, Frans he cannot drink or eat properly.  We arrive at the Machame Gate and we register and start to climb.  At the Machame Camp I ask one of the guys what happen to that guy.  He told me he had cancer on his throat and that cancer killed his voice, and made the whole mouth numb.  Also he told me he used to be a pastor before and he was travelling to different countries.  Because he was not eating and drinking enough he was very weak.  Always we arrive at the camp very late.  The last day, summit day, we start together but after one hour we separate the group and I stay with Frans.   The Assistance Guide goes with the other two guys.  I climbed with him up to 5200m and we met the other guys as they are coming down.  They advise him to go down and he agrees because he really looked tired.  We go down to Millennium Camp and we camp there for the evening.  Frans explains to me that his dream is to climb Kilimanjaro before he dies.  Because his doctor told him he will die within 1 year.  He says although he did not make to the top, he was very happy because he made his dream before he died.  It was really amazing to me how this man managed climb Kilimanjaro while he can not eat 10 full spoons of food in one meal.  He cannot drink even one litre of water per day.  I learn something from that trip.  NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE.  THE ONLY THING IS TO PREPARE YOUR MIND.  After two years I received the book from the two guys.  The book was written by Frans before he died.  The book was called SUPERNATURAL CULTURE, LIVING FROM ABOVE.  He mentions me in that book and I am so honored that he did.

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My siblings and I when we were young.

I told a lot of stories about the hardest parts of my climbing.  Also I have the other side of happiness.  The day I was real happy after a climb, it happened in 2012.  I was with two families from Canada.  They were friends.  They were with young boys and girls, the boys they are 7-8 years old and the girls they are 12-14 years old.  We climbed via Marangu route.  At the beginning of the trip I was worried about the boys because they were so young.  It is very hard to notice sign of mountain sickness in the kids.  But as the days go, the boys and the girls they become strong.  Even more than their parents.  The last day to the summit I was thinking it will be hard, but it was easier than I was thinking.  We start at 12:00 am and we arrived at the summit at 6:00 am.  On the way down it was easier too.  We arrived at the gate and we celebrated there.  That group was different from other trips because on that trip there were kids and it was a family trip with two families and all of them they made it to the top.  The guides, we are happy when our clients all make it.

There are lots of stories, good and the bad ones.  But I cannot mention all of them here.  When you come and climb with us, I will give you more stories if you would like to hear them.

There is one more thing I want to share.  It happened in September 2009.  I married Anna.  She was a tailor.  She makes the dresses for woman and sometimes she makes trousers for men in the country side.  She has a dream to be a big designer in our home town.  She still works very hard to fulfill her dream.  In June 2010 we get our first daughter (Editha) and January 2012 we get our second daughter (Anitha).  Editha she is in standard one and Anitha she is still in baby classes.  We work very hard every day for our daughters to get them a better education in a better school.

Thank you for reading.  Please leave a comment if you enjoyed my stories and share with your friends who you think might like them too. picture0006

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