before heading out to kili's official national park boundary, the group's belongings must be weighed and distributed. we had three in our climbing party--myself, julia, and john.  as such, we had to have 1 lead guide and 2 assistant guides. the lead guide acts as the main path blazer, especially on the final ascent day. the assistant guides are primarily needed as a fail safe if anyone becomes hurt or too ill to continue. if one of us quit, an assistant guide could trek down the mountain with us while the others continue on.

in addition to the 3 guides, a reputable climbing crew will also have a cook who oversees all meals for us, the guides, and porters. with a party of now 7, you have to have a whole slew of porters to carry clothes, tenting, and food and water, etc.

kilimanjaro law has restrictions on how much weight each porter can carry. if a porter is forced to carry too much he can become exhausted and literally die from a whole host of accidents. all the porters' bags must be weighed, though you might not be aware of it. by comparison, john, juls and i were each carrying very little. and then there were the moments when you just thought you would die, and one of the guides would relieve you of your one tiny bag or camera to make you just that much lighter.

reminds me a bit of the weighing of souls. the whole "21 grams" theory-- that when we die, we loose 21 grams of weight, presumably, our soul.

we met all our porters and guides before we started. here john, as our leader, the baba (father/man) meets Ernest, our head guide, who will ultimately be responsible for our safety. he is responsible for evaluating our ability to continue up the mountain, an under appreciated skill. the symptoms of high altitude pulmonary edema can be very difficult to spot. what stands between you and that endless sleep is only an experienced guide.

as all this continues... i begin to have second thoughts... and third... and fourth...

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