Hiking Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro Travel Blog

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En route to the summit Uhuru Peak & me

Our hike began in August 2001, but the training began 7 months earlier in January 2001.  I was a normal, 39 year old female - in relatively good shape but not an athlete.  My goal for hiking Kilimanjaro was to do it with no pain.  I figured 7 days of 8 hour a day hiking and over 19,000 feet straight up could be tough - if not properly prepared for.  So, I started working out - cardio, arms, legs, and yoga.  By the time we flew out, I was in the best shape of my life. 
There were six of us total, me, my mom, our travbuddies Ed & Charlie, and two of my friends from Singapore - Winnie & John.  Our age group spanned from 35 to 67.

En route to the summit Barranco Wall Day 4
  We were all worried about altitude sickness - probably provoked by my experiences on the Tibetan plateau almost two decades before. I had suffered terribly then, so I worried it would put a kibosh on my hike and affect the others.  So, we all started on Diamox, except for John who didn't 'do' chemicals, and scheduled a pre-hike on Mt. Meru, to bring us slowly up to at least 12,000 feet.  We figured this would be a good way to acclimate our bodies slowly.
For those who haven't experienced altitude sickness, it's hard to imagine.  It's completely random - hits the fit and non-fit.  It's devastating - can keep you locked up in your hotel room instead of out experiencing & enjoying.  I've seen a young, healthy man lose complete consciousness and be sustained by air from a tire until we could get him to an army hospital in Gansu Province, China, en route to Lhasa.
Starting out, Day 1, clean Ed, Winnie, Charlie, Jac, John, me
  So, I/we were determined to not let it affect our 7 day hike.  We felt like we were taking every precaution possible to have a completely enjoyable, pain free wonderful trek up the hill. 
We flew into Arusha and immediately left for Mt. Meru, the second highest peak in Tanzania.  The Mt. Meru hike was only two days - a quick day up to @12,000 feet and back down.  Surprisingly, considering the Diamox and our training, four of us had trouble with this short hike, but we all hoped that would be our 'test' and we would have no problems on Kili.  After Mt. Meru, we had one night back in Arusha before we started the Kili trail.
One of our porters - bless his heart!
 
Day One of our hike we were transported to Machame Gate, where our personal belongings and sustenance for the hike were weighed.  It was determined, based on weight, that we would need 19 porters.  We'd already been assigned 3 guides - Wilbard, Jackson and Michael, who also served as cook.
We set off on our first day through wonderful rainforest type terrain - full of lush greenery and lots of roots to watch for.  We reached Machame Camp with no problems and enjoyed our first night on the mountain.
Day Two we set off for Shira.  The terrain changed with every hour up.  We met lots of hikers along the way - folks from all over the world, each with their own story.  Since our group of 6 spread out during the day (each day we found we had a different "energizer bunny" leading the pack), we had plenty of time to hike with other folks.
Shira Camp
 
Still feeling great, we started our third day for the Barranco Camp.  En route, we hit our first lava terrain - gorgeous in its barrenness, appealing and desolate, and the source of some of our best photographs.  We bypassed a camp site at the Lava Tower and descended to Barranco.  The idea, again, was to slowly acclimatize.  Each night we would meet up at camp and settle in, do yoga, exchange stories of the day, and watch the stars. 
Day 4 en route to Karanga was the toughest day.  It seemed it just kept coming.  Every turn found a new incline.  We ended up stumbling in to Camp hours later than expected.  Still, we were pain free and enjoying it, just SLOW!  We learned a few words of Swahili while we were on the hike.
En route to Karanga
  The most common were Jambo!!  Hello!!  The second most common, for our group, was Pole Pole!!  Slow Slow!!
Our Day 5 was to Barafu Camp.  The scenery was increasingly desolate as we climbed way above the tree line.  We had timed our hike to ensure our final summit was during the full moon - so we would have as much visibility as possible.  When we settled in Barafu, the moon was high and full and promising.  This was our starting off point for the big day - the final hike to Gilman's Point and then Uhuru Peak.  We were soooo excited.  The moon was so full, we were able to get lots of great photos before we headed to bed.  Our hike was to begin at 11pm and we were going to try to get a few hours of sleep before starting off.
Barranco Camp - Uhuru Peak is getting closer!
  Winnie had decided before we even started that she would not summit with us, so it was just me, Jac, Ed, Charlie & John.
We were woken after our nap and were helped into our clothes.  Barafu Camp was the highest Camp we stayed at on Kili, at 4,600 meters / 15,091 feet.  It was sooo cold, our fingers couldn't fasten our buttons or zippers or pull on our extra layers.  I felt like a little kid being dressed by her mother, though in this case it was one of our favorite porters, Juma, who dressed me and my mom.  All the extreme weather clothes we'd been carrying (or our porters had been carrying) were on, as well as headlamps so we could see the path. 
We set off with the moon high overhead.  Luckily we couldn't see where we were going - we all speculated that if we could, we would give up.
Sunrise at Gilman's Point
  We were walking amidst glaciers and ice formations - and at one point, whether I was tired or affected by the altitude or just needed glasses, I thought the vertical ice formations in the crevices were spirits walking with us.  I knew we were on the trail alone, and they were too white & ghostly to be another hiker, plus they didn't have headlamps. 
While I was hallucinating, my mother - one of the strongest hikers I know, decided to give up.  She just decided it was too tough and turned around and started hiking down.  Luckily, we caught her before she got very far and Ed and I talked her into trying another hour up.  Our guide Michael walked right behind her with his arms on either side to keep her stable as she wobbled.
Yours truly at Gilman's Point
 
Luckily, within an hour, my hallucinations were gone and my mom was back to her normal smiling self.  We were approaching Gilman's Point, just below the Peak.  John had made it to the Point first and was stationed with his camera to take pics of us all as we arrived.  Mom arrived smiling!  From Gilman's Point, we carried on to Uhuru Peak, 5,895 meters / 19,341 feet.  Unfortunately, John got hit with nausea at this last bit and arrived last and very very green.  Mom, who had wanted to quit, arrived first.  I was second!!!
We were lucky in that we were so slow that we were among the last to reach the Peak, so we pretty much had it to ourselves.  Some of the other hikers had camped close to the Peak at the Inner Crater, so their hike was a short one, and the other hikers from Barafu had passed us early on, so we could enjoy it in peace.
Uhuru Peak, 5,895 meters
  Our guides had told us we were only allowed to stay for 15-20 minutes without being adversely affected by the altitude, so we gave each other high fives, took lots of photos, enjoyed the view, and headed down.
As we started down, we had a clear view of the steepness of the trail that we hadn't noticed on the way up in the dark.  It was straight down, with loads of scree.  Not easy going on the knees.  We hit Barafu Camp and met up with Winnie, who'd been hanging with the porters waiting for us.  She commented on how we were all smiling!  I was thrilled that my goal had been met - I made it to the top of Kilimanjaro, pain free and with no altitude sickness! 
The trek down to Mweka Camp and Mweka Gate was long and grueling.
John in our meal tent
  I don't have any stories because it seemed like a dream walk - we were all so exhausted and lost in our own thoughts of what we would do when we reached the end that we didn't talk.  Step step, drudge drudge, walk walk.  The entire day, from the start of our ascent at 11pm to our descent to Mweka Camp took us 17 hours.  We were all happy to be breathing rich air - it actually felt thick. 
Our last night on Kili was dreamlike - after our short nap and our long long hike, we didn't stay up to party.  The next day we anticipated would be easy as our elevation was now so low and it was less steep.  We were back to the roots and forest of the lowlands.  Still, our Day 7 was tough as we were all exhausted and, though not in pain, not feeling like spring chickens.
A scenic spot for lunch
  The greatest danger we all faced was tripping over roots, since we were stumbling along.  Somewhere close to the end of the trail, Charlie - the oldest of our group - put his back out.  Jackson, one of the guides, took his day pack and stayed with him as he stumbled along the last few miles.  We weren't very nice when he finally caught up - we took pictures of him and called him "C" man since he was curved like the letter C.  While we celebrated at Mweka Gate and received our certificates, Charlie came up with our greatest quote from the odyssey "I would highly recommend this trek to an enemy."  Nevertheless, I think he actually enjoyed it.
The hike up and down Kili was one of the highlights of my life.  As a hiker, this was my toughest Peak and definitely my most famous.
Giving shaky legs a rest at Mweka Camp
  I still have the photo of the five of us from the Peak sitting on my coffee table - 9 years later.
We followed up our hike of a lifetime with a 9 day safari - about 4 days too long.  

g_wedders says:
this is fantastic, I just came back from hiking the hills and mountain in Borneo and am looking for my next trip and I think you've just convinced me that it's going to be Kilimanjaro, thank you :)
Posted on: Apr 11, 2011
Stigen says:
Sounds great ! will be going next year !
Posted on: Dec 27, 2010
Allorjenbabybernie says:
I'd really like to climb Kili, but not on my own. I don't think my husband would do it with me, I'll find someone some day.
Posted on: Mar 16, 2010
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En route to the summit
Uhuru Peak…
En route to the summit Uhuru Pea…
En route to the summit
Barranco W…
En route to the summit Barranco …
Starting out, Day 1, clean
Ed, Wi…
Starting out, Day 1, clean Ed, W…
One of our porters - bless his hea…
One of our porters - bless his he…
Shira Camp
Shira Camp
En route to Karanga
En route to Karanga
Barranco Camp - Uhuru Peak is gett…
Barranco Camp - Uhuru Peak is get…
Sunrise at Gilmans Point
Sunrise at Gilman's Point
Yours truly at Gilmans Point
Yours truly at Gilman's Point
Uhuru Peak, 5,895 meters
Uhuru Peak, 5,895 meters
John in our meal tent
John in our meal tent
A scenic spot for lunch
A scenic spot for lunch
Giving shaky legs a rest at Mweka …
Giving shaky legs a rest at Mweka…
Our entourage at Machame Gate
Our entourage at Machame Gate
Machame Gate warnings
Machame Gate warnings
En route to Machame Camp
En route to Machame Camp
Machame Camp
Machame Camp
Machame Camp
Machame Camp
Chow time in Machame Camp
Chow time in Machame Camp
Machame Camp - morning of 2nd day
Machame Camp - morning of 2nd day
Departing Machame Camp for Shira C…
Departing Machame Camp for Shira …
En route to Shira Camp - Day 2
En route to Shira Camp - Day 2
En route to Shira Camp
En route to Shira Camp
Another porter
Another porter
En route to Shira Camp
En route to Shira Camp
En route to Shira Camp - another p…
En route to Shira Camp - another …
John in the Shira Camp latrine - f…
John in the Shira Camp latrine - …
Shira Camp
Shira Camp
Shira Camp
Shira Camp
En route to Lava Tower & Barranco …
En route to Lava Tower & Barranco…
En route to Lava Tower
En route to Lava Tower
En route to Lava Tower
En route to Lava Tower
Lava Tower
Lava Tower
Lava Tower Camp - but we kept goin…
Lava Tower Camp - but we kept goi…
Continuing the Lava Tower trail to…
Continuing the Lava Tower trail t…
Wilbard, guide extraordinaire
Wilbard, guide extraordinaire
En route
En route
En route
En route
En route
En route
En route
En route
Barranco Camp - finally
Barranco Camp - finally
Barranco Camp
Barranco Camp
Barranco Camp
Barranco Camp
Barranco Camp
Barranco Camp
Day 4, leaving Barranco for Karang…
Day 4, leaving Barranco for Karan…
Day 4 en route to Karanga Camp thr…
Day 4 en route to Karanga Camp th…
The Barranco Valley
The Barranco Valley
Approaching the Barranco Wall
Approaching the Barranco Wall
Barranco
Barranco
En route to Karanga
En route to Karanga
One final hill
One final hill
Karanga Camp
Karanga Camp
Uhuru
Uhuru
Karanga Camp
Karanga Camp
Karanga Camp and our private (gree…
Karanga Camp and our private (gre…
Uhuru
Uhuru
En route to Barafu, day 5
En route to Barafu, day 5
Getting higher
Getting higher
Higher
Higher
Uhuru
Uhuru
Barafu Camp
Barafu Camp
The route we will take on day 6
The route we will take on day 6
Summiting
Summiting
Charlie at Gilmans Point
Charlie at Gilman's Point
A smile! at Gilmans Point
A smile! at Gilman's Point
We did it, 
me, John, Jackson, Ja…
We did it, me, John, Jackson, J…
Uhuru glacier
Uhuru glacier
The LONG trek down
The LONG trek down
down
down
down
down
down
down
Its now all behind us
It's now all behind us
Uhuru from Mweka
Uhuru from Mweka
Still smiling
Still smiling
down
down
down
down
its getting flat
it's getting flat
flatter
flatter
down
down
down
down
We all gather to celebrate at Mwek…
We all gather to celebrate at Mwe…
What an amazing accomplishment!!
What an amazing accomplishment!!
Gibbs Farm, Ngorongoro
Gibb's Farm, Ngorongoro
Gibbs Farm - Coffee
Gibb's Farm - Coffee
Gibbs Farm Bungalow
Gibb's Farm Bungalow
Gibbs Farm, Ngorongoro
Gibb's Farm, Ngorongoro
Gibbs Farm, Ngorongoro
Gibb's Farm, Ngorongoro
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater
Maasai Mom with Jac
Maasai Mom with Jac
Maasai boys, celebrating reaching …
Maasai boys, celebrating reaching…
Serengeti Sunrise
Serengeti Sunrise
Serengeti
Serengeti
Serengeti
Serengeti
Serengeti
Serengeti
Serengeti
Serengeti
Serengeti - the Thomson Camp
Serengeti - the Thomson Camp
Serengeti - wash spot
Serengeti - wash spot
Showering at Camp
The Serengeti, …
Showering at Camp The Serengeti,…
Serengeti
Serengeti
Serengeti
Serengeti
Serengeti
Serengeti
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire Safari Lodge
Tarangire Safari Lodge
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire
Tarangire Valley
Tarangire Valley
Kilimanjaro General Tips & Advice review
Deluxe Safari & Hike
My friend Ed chose this company for our hike on Kilimanjaro. I'm much more cost conscious, so I wouldn't have chosen them. If you have no concerns r… read entire review
Kilimanjaro
photo by: sarahsan