Today was our last hike before the peak. We were told it would be a relatively short day, but it was about 500 m of climbing fairly steep sections of rock. One of our favorite things Robert, one of the guides, would always say in our nightly briefing meetings was that we would have some “gentle rolling hills.” Whenever we would heard that, we knew it meant extremely steep climbs. It is interesting because the guides grew up in these mountains and don’t see climbing them as a challenge. They all easily ascend and descent the steep sections, wet rock, and mud like they are walking on a sidewalk. So to them, I’m sure they did seem like gentle rolling hills.
We left Hunwick’s Camp at around 9:00 am and headed down into the Kitendara Valley. We then hiked up the valley which was fairly muddy like the previous day. We passed lower Kitendara lake and then upper Kitendara lake. After the valley, we started the climb up Mount Stanley toward Margarita Camp. The climb was more what I was used to hiking in the US – more dirt trails and scrambling on rocks. We passed the lunch spot because we only had about 40 min left to camp by the time we got there.
We crawled through a boulder field and then up many more steep sections until we reached Scott Elliot Pass and finally to Margarita Camp.
I was never planning on summiting Margarita Peak, so once we got to Margarita Camp, I had reached my goal for the hike. The guides were however very insistent that I would be able to make it up to the peak, so I said I would at least attempt to summit.
After we rested at camp and dried our socks by the stove, I went on a small acclimatization hike with Thomas and Sam toward Elena Camp which was a camp for a different mountaineering company. Jay was already up in the mountains. He still had a cold and said that he only coughed when he was standing still, so he was on a mission to keep moving. We met him out on the rocks and walked back with him.
Jay had also been trying to get Sam and Henry to let him lead the ice climb tomorrow. He hasn’t gotten a “yes” yet, but he also hasn’t gotten a “no,” so we’ll see what happens.
The guides had brought up all the gear necessary for the summit including crampons, harnesses, ascenders, rope, and helmets. We had a short lesson on how to use the ascenders to go up steep sections of the mountain.
After our lesson, we had our usual dinner of too much food and watched some lightening in the clouds in the distance.
After dinner, we met with the guides again to discuss the plan for the summit. They suggested that Thomas leave a little earlier at 2:00 am because traditionally he has been slower then the rest of us. Sam wanted the Germans and us to leave at 2:30 am. That way we could stagger the ascents and repels and prevent backups in the lines waiting to get up. Based on our previous hiking times, it would also allow us to summit the peak around sunrise (weather permitting). The Germans refused and said that they were going to leave at 2:00 am. They have very direct personalities and know what they want. I could tell Sam was a little annoyed at their refusal, but as always, the guides were extremely accommodating and let the Germans do what they wanted. We went to bed and got ready for our 2:00 am wake up call.