September 24, 2012 Monday
After a pretty good night sleep we were up at 6:30 to get packed, have breakfast, and hit the trail. The morning air was cool but you could tell it would probably warm up before noon. It did warm up which made some of the steep ridges down right hot! By the time we had finished lunch however, the clouds had moved in from over the mountain and we spent the next hour or two walking in the rain and hail.
We moved from the rain forest biome into the heath zone. The line that divides these zones was very clear. In a matter of ten steps the large trees and vines of the forest were gone and replaced by lower growing plants and a much dryer look to the area. Before the rain came we had a chance to take some measurements from one of the streams that we crossed. The scientists and students took water samples and tested the pH, conductivity, and clarity of the stream. Just before lunch we found an area to take ground temperature readings from 5 and 10 cm, along with the air temperature and collecting data on the soil.
We hiked up some pretty steep ridges and finally reached the Shira Plateau. The volcanic plateau was formed 10,000 years ago during the last eruption of the Shira crater. The plateau is huge and sits inside of an old caldera that has seen a lot of weathering and erosion. This was also our first close up view of the main crater of Kilimanjaro, the Kibo crater. It was still heading straight up into the clouds. With some luck the clouds will clear this evening and we will see the ice and glaciers at the top.
We have now reached the Shira 1 Camp (11,450 ft/3500m) where we will spend the second night. The wind has picked up and it looks to be a cool evening. This camp is not as crowed due to less people and more space to be in. I am tired and except for a headache that comes and goes, feeling pretty good. I feel terrible that the communications have not allowed me to get on the PolarTREC site and answer everyone's posts. Hopefully in a couple of days we will be able to get on line and I will get caught up with the students and post more photos.