I’ve been to Mt Kenya 3 years ago. It is second highest mountain in Africa. Right after Mt Kilimanjaro. So that’s where the idea about Kilimanjaro came from.
I didn’t participate a lot in the planning of this trip. It was mostly an idea of my friend. He found the list of routes, timings, agencies who arrange guides and permits. My only participation was to tell that I want to go with tents, not huts. Even the idea of having a huge team of cooks, porters and guides around you was kinda strange for me. But it seems to be regulated and there is no other option…
So we got our tickets to Tanzania, Kilimanjaro Airport. After arrival, we met our driver. He got us to the company’s office in Moshi. There we met our guide, checked the list of equipment and confirmed timing for tomorrow.
Day 1: Londorosi Gate – Shira II Camp
For the climb, we chose Lemosho Route. It is said to be one of the most spectacular routes for the climb. However, in fact, Shira and Machame Routes join it on the 1st or 2nd night, depending on how you start. Umbwe Route joins it on 2nd or 3rd night respectively. So the most variety of routes differs in the first one or two days.
Another totally different route is Marangu. It is the only route with huts instead of tents. And irrespectively to how you climb up — everybody takes Mweka Route to go down.
We had a little bit shortened Lemosho Route — to 6 days. On the first day, we drove to the gate, checked in there and then continued with a minibus to Shira Plateau at approximately 3500 meters above sea level. From there we walked for about 4-5 hours to the Shira II Campsite. We’ve gained about 300 meters and our first night was at 3810 masl.
The first night was the most difficult. As soon as you get to that altitude the body tries to adapt to a new environment with less oxygen level. Short breath, headache, inability to easily fall asleep — all of this waited for me at the altitude.
Day 2: Shira II Camp – Barranco Camp
First three nights of our route were planned at pretty much the same altitude (3810m, 3985m, 4035m). This was done for acclimatization purposes. As we got to 3500 pretty fast we had to stay at this altitude for some time.
Nevertheless, we followed the rule “climb-high, sleep-low”. So on the second day, we first climbed to the Lava Tower at 4626 meters. Had a launch there for about an hour. And only then continued to Barranco Camp.
Almost right after the launch, it started raining and continued until our arrival to the camp. We had rain all the next days after it. Even though February is said to be a dry month.
Day 3: Barranco Camp – Karanga Camp
In the morning and closer to the evening, we had occasional views of the mountain. All time in between it was foggy or raining. This day seems to be super easy — the difference between camps is just 40 meters. However, there are 3 hills on the way that we had to climb and descend before reaching Karanga Camp.
After arrival and a launch, we went to a small acclimatization trek uphill. We reached a plateau after gaining about 250 meters, stayed there for some time and went back.
Day 4: Karanga Camp – Barafu Camp
For me, it was a start of the long-long-long day. We woke up in the morning, had breakfast, packed our stuff and started our way to Barafu Camp. The way took us about 4 hours. It was even too early for the launch when we came. And it was already raining. So we just set in a tent, played cards waiting for the launch time.
After launch, everybody went to rest and try to sleep. The dinner was optional at about 17:00. It was more like an occasional nap than real sleep. In any case, we had to rest and collect power for the midnight. Wake up was scheduled for 23:00. Then a short breakfast and departure. That’s why I was saying that it is a long-long-long day…
Day 5: Barafu Camp – Uhuru Peak – Mweka Camp
As scheduled we woke up at 23:00, prepared hot tea in our thermoses, re-checked our backpacks, got some light food and started ascend around midnight. First hour or so we thought that our team is actually called Kilimanjaro Express ;) We’ve been passing 8 or 9 other groups on the way and climbing further.
However in about an hour or two we had to split up. One member of our team continued with a guide in a slower pace. Me and Alex continued with guide assistant further. The way up was long, sometimes with scrambling, but mostly a regular trail, steeper to the top. We were walking and walking and walking. Short breath didn’t allow to talk much, so we were walking almost in a silence. Step and step and step — it puts you in some kind of trance… This time, I took my iPod Shuffle with me. I must say it was a great idea. With all different kinds of music, it pulls you out of that trance and helps to watch where you step.
Around 5:30 our guide told us that we are close to Stella Point — first part of the summit. The problem is that sunrise is around 6:30. And you don’t want to get there before that time. A flat and windy place is not good to stay for a long time. We had to slow down.
Right at 6:30 we were at Stella Point. Unfortunately… only fog was around us. Not a single sunbeam around, not a little piece of the blue sky. We took a few shots at the sign and continued to Uhuru Peak. About 140 meters to climb more. For some seconds the fog on the left rolled away and we saw a glacier. Finally at 7:41 we were at the highest point in Africa. Few more pictures and a way back.
All the way back to Barafu Camp took us just 2 hours. The soil became soft and we were just sliding down. At the Barafu Camp, we had some rest, launch and continued to Mweka Camp. Closer to 17:00 we reached it at 3068 meters above sea level. It was all surrounded by tropical forest.
Day 6: Mweka Camp – Mweka Gate
On the last day of our trip, we got from Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate, checked out and got a bus back to Moshi town. The walk took us about two and a half hours through the tropical forest, warm and humid.
…and some video…
Below you can find a detailed itinerary with all altitudes and distances. The timing of the trekking is specified for an average pace. Depending on the weather conditions we were slower or faster, but it doesn’t really matter ;)
2250 masl, registration at the check point
Alt. 3500 m, driving with a bus to shorten first day
3500m to 3810m, Distance 10 km, Gain 310 m
3810m to 4626m, Distance 3.5 km, Gain 816 m
4626m to 3985m, Distance 3.5 km, Loss 641 m
3985m to 4035m, Distance 5 km, Loss ~200 m, Gain ~240m
About 250m ascend and back to the camp
4035m to 4662m, Distance 9 km, Gain 627m
4662m to 5756m, Distance 3 km, Gain 1094m
5756m to 5895m, Distance 1 km, Gain 140m
5895m to 3068m, Distance 7 km, Loss 2827m
3068m to 1640m, Distance 10 km, Loss 1428 m