This is the view from Upper Farms towards the summit of Mt. Cameroon; the start of the hike was about 7AM. During the dry season, mornings often provide clear views of the mountain and the surrounding areas.
Here is a photo of one of our porters. The big pack is Steven's, and I think he is carrying a second pack on his chest. The third pack is the porter's that contains food and water for himself. The trail is not too steep yet, but it gets worse.
Here is the motley crew at Hut 1. Everyone still looks fresh and happy, of course it is only 9AM with 3000ft yet to climb! Not everyone in the picture was in our hiking party, but they were also on the trail that day.
This is the lava field that you see as you exit the savannah and start the serious ascent. There is not really a clear, demarcated trail; people just pick their way up the slope. This was one of many disheartening views as we struggled to get to Hut 2.
Here is a visible example of the slope that we encountered along the way. Most of the trail between Hut 1 and Hut 3 looks similar to this or worse. There are no good stopping places to rest, so you just sit where you want to catch your breath before continuing.
This is the view from above the "magic tree" looking back towards the savannah and Hut 1. As you can see, the hill falls off rather steeply, and there is no other vegetation around to provide shade for a brief respite. Even though the tree provides a point of reference, you can see that the terrain does not change much to provide relief for weary hikers.
This is our hiking group after reaching Hut 2. The back row consists of Tom, Steven, Christine, Fred, and one of the porters. In the foreground, Daniel (red coat) and Christof (blue baseball hat) can be seen amongst our other hiking companions. We felt pretty optimistic about our progress and our chances for reaching the summit.
After four more hours of hiking, the summit team reached Hut 3. This is the view after cresting the last of 5 continuous climbs. The summit you see is a fake summit; the Guinness summit is off to the right about 1 mile from Hut 3.
.Here are a few of the weary survivors of the climb to Hut 3. You can see that the altitude and temperature affects Cameroonians differently than they affect Steven. They had been cold for most of the climb up to Hut 3 and required coats and headgear, but Steven just needed a windbreaker in the 5 degree Celsius alpine environment.
This is the same group as in the previous picture but finally at the summit. The clouds and wind created a white-out condition, so visibility was quite poor. The hope was that we would be able to see much of the countryside below, but the weather did not cooperate. You can still read, however, Christine's t-shirt (pilot); she is the first and only woman pilot for Cameroon Airlines. Maybe her subsequent trips to the summit will involve a method of air transport instead of hiking?!
This is an example of the trail as we descend from the summit. It seems to meander up to the edge of the steep decline, and then drop precipitously to the savannah and farm land below. There are a few alpine flowers, grass, and lichen, but little else. As an example of the unforgiving setting, one of the runners in the race up Mt. Cameroon died near this section of the trail. Disobeying doctor's orders, the runner decided to try the climb anyway; he got tired and lay down to get some sleep, but he never awoke.
This was our vision of hope as we descended from Hut 3 to Hut 2. The trail descends from Hut 2 off to the left. As one might guess, there are numerous caves or caverns that go down into the mountain, providing an underground tunnel system formed by volcanic activity. The guide and porters told us that many bats lived down there, but none of us brought a torch to investigate.