This day began at 11:30 PM on December 31, 2009.
We got up and out of our tents. I was ready, had my platypus filled (2 liter) and a 1 liter nalgene as backup. To keep it from freezing I put a packet of EmergenC Electrolyte mix in, then be sure to blow back on the tube. It worked in Ecuador, so I figured it should work here as well.
The literature said "summit day midnight snack of tea and biscuits" but we forgot the Euro heritage and syntax here. Biscuit = cookie. Many of us had gotten used to the Milo hot drink - it's made by Nestle and it seems to be just chocolate milk powder. Hot it's good enough.
The porters were all going nuts cheering in the new year as we went up the trail. The pace was quite slow enough, and I don't remember being out of breath at all at any point this night. The moon was very bright due to being full, at altitude, and near the equator in a relatively non-industrial nation. I didn't use my headlamp very much except to glance at my Polar FT60 or for a brief time about 4:30 AM when the moon passed behind a ridge.
As we hit Stella Point, only a few hundred meters from the summit, the sun was a strip of glowing orange and red on the horizon. Along the ridge walk to the summit we were on snow a little, and got to see the edge of the glacier lit up with yellow beautiful sunrise.
As we passed leaning to the right, I could see the summit in the distance, maybe a half mile away. I began to cry a little realizing one of my lifelong dreams, since reading Dick Bass's book.
We made it to the top at 6:45 AM on January 1st 2010. Happy New Year! Climbers said it to each other passing along the ridge. We got in line, helped the climbers ahead to get their pictures, then got in for ours. I had Kitty on a lanyard on my neck, and realizing she wouldn't get her own pic today, I pulled her out to sit on my chest.
We hung out for maybe 20 minutes. I still broke out in quiet sobs thinking about it. How joyous and wonderful all at the same time. The views of the crater and glacier walls awesome to behold. Poetry in my mind. Lovely.
We made it down to camp in a few hours and took a small rest and lunch. We broke camp and prepared for the trip down to Mweka Camp nearly 5,000' below.
TIPS: The platypus worked fine and 2 liters was plenty. The temperature probably got down as low as 5 F around 3-5 AM. My feet were a bit cold in my Scarpa Charmoz, but I wiggled my toes a lot and that helped. Thinking of other cold-toed friends, I think maybe at an extreme electric insoles might do it. Or you could do the entire trek in goretex trail runners and keep a very warm pair for summit day. Pocket snacks were beneficial. I keep a handful of goo packets in a pocket to stay warm and handy.