The big day. Our wake up call was at 4am, and we were on our way right around 5am. Because we were already wearing balaclavas and warm weather caps, we didn't really notice our helmets, which are required on the Western Breach in case of rockslides. If anything, the helmets were a plus, because our headlamps were on the helmets instead of our heads, so we didn't have a tight elastic band irritating us. All things considered, the weather was pretty good. [Joseph told us after the fact it was more than pretty good, it was stellar.] There wasn't much wind - it had died off in the late afternoon the day before and hadn't come back.

While it was cold, the lack of wind made it more bearable, and our multiple layers helped a lot. We had slowly but surely been adding layers the higher on the mountain we got. Down in the forest, we were wearing a single lower layer and a single upper layer during the day, and just adding a fleece or shell in the evening. A day or two later, it was the fleece under the shell. Then long underwear (top and bottom) got added. By now, Justin was wearing long underwear, a long sleeve shirt, two fleeces (one was bigger than the other, so it worked out okay), and a windproof waterproof shell. Crystal was wearing the same, except since she had only one fleece, she was wearing two additional long-sleeved shirts instead of a second fleece.

After about 90 minutes, we were able to turn off our headlamps, as it was bright enough to see without them. We had already come up a pretty good distance. The views back towards where we'd spent the last week were epic (and Lava Tower was now tiny), and Kibo was making its own shadow on the horizon. The walking parts, while slow, weren't so bad. It was quite steep, but it wasn't like we were on our hands and knees. But every now and then there were large rock formations that we needed to scramble over, using our hands to grab hold to help elevate and/or having to take giant steps straight up. These scrambling parts were the worst, and quickly tired us out.

On the walk up, all sorts of thoughts and emotions went through our heads, from despair and anger to annoyance to premature jubilation and exhilaration - basically the whole spectrum. We started to get direct sunlight around 9:30. We got to the rim just before 10, which was a pretty good time. Behind us was the Shira Plateau and Mt Meru; in front of us was the last little bit to climb. We had travelled only 2.5km (1.5 miles), but we had climbed 858 meters (2815 feet) in elevation over that short period.

This in and of itself was a great sense of achievement, but we still had the last little bit from the crater to the summit. We dropped our backpacks at Crater Camp, and took a 15 minute break at the campsite. Crystal took a short walk over the Furtwangler Glacier, Justin just paced around at the campsite. After the short break, we took just ourselves, our cameras, and some water to the last incline to the summit. The weather was still great, with almost no wind and almost no clouds. We had not very much, if any, energy left for the summit attempt, as we were drained. It took about an hour from Crater Camp (bottom right in this photo) to reach the summit.

At the top there were clear skies, and great views in all directions. [By the way, the iconic sign faces out towards the east, maybe a bit northeast, presumably so it's not shaded at sunrise.] We had the top all to ourselves for 15-20 minutes. Most people leave around midnight, get to the summit around sunrise, and then hike down quite a ways thereafter. Because of our ascent, and staying at Crater Camp, we had a much more manageable day. After 15-20 minutes at the top, the "leapfrog" group from day 2 showed up. Only 3 of the 4 of them made it to the top - we weren't sure what happened to the fourth. We took some pictures of them and their group, and then they took some pictures of us with Joseph and Alexi. By this time, each of us had headaches, but nothing too bad.

We came back down to Crater Camp and had lunch, happy but exhausted. After lunch, Crystal went straight to sleep while Justin took a short walk to a space where there was cell coverage, so he could let friends and family know we made it. When he got back, he went to sleep too. When we each woke up, we felt worse than before napping, particularly Justin. He felt nauseated, and his oxygen numbers had dropped from 79 to 71 (out of 100) since lunch time. Around 3:30, he decided it would be best for us to head down to a lower camp for the night, and Crystal concurred.

Joseph decided we could go to Barafu Hut, which is the camp commonly used the night before a summit attempt by those people ascending via Stella Point (as opposed to the Western Breach). Walking across the crater rim to Stella Point, Justin yacked, but felt better right afterwards. He even felt well enough to take a couple of photos of the crater, figuring it unlikely if not certain that we would never be back. After Stella Point, we descended rapidly, basically "skiing" down the scree, trying to keep pebbles out of our boots. Each of us had a number of slip and falls, but nothing too bad.

There were some good views on the way down, of Kibo (in our rear view) and of Mawenzi (ahead of us, intermittently covered by clouds). As the descent kept going, we became more and more of zombies, as our energy had already been spent coming up in the morning. We got to Barafu Camp just after sunset, and at first we couldn't find our particular campsite, as Barafu Camp is huge. Once Joseph found the campsite, some of the porters had to help illuminate the path to the campsite. Crystal was too tired for dinner, but Joseph made Justin eat (since he had yacked and needed energy for the next day). All told, we had climbed up 1024 meters (3360 feet) in the morning, and descended 1233 meters (4045 feet) in the afternoon. Because of coming down in elevation, we each felt better than at lunch time, but we each were exhausted. All in all, a very good day, one we had worked towards for months.