Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
20th - 30th January 2011
It's finally here. After a year of fund raising and training the day has finally come when we head to Tanzania and climb Mt Kilimanjaro. After a hearty full English breakfast we head to Heathrow and meet up with our fellow climbers and Hayley our Macmillan Rep, we board our first flight on Ethiopian Airways to Addis Ababa then on to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania.
Moshi - We finally get our first sight of the challenge ahead as we fly alongside Mt Kilimanjaro. Our hearts are in our mouths as we see the size of our challenge ahead but the excitement in the plane is also clear to see. We transfer to Moshi Town by bus and we catch a glimpse of Kibo, the crater at the summit and the youngest of Kilimanjaro’s three volcanic cones. At the hotel we receive our first briefing where we met our leaders Rolfe & Ritchie, our doctor for the trek Jayne and our local guides Whitey, Jimmy and Ernest who between them they have summated Kili over 500 times! So we're in safe hands.
Machame Gate - Day 1 - What a way for James to celebrate his birthday. We head for the Machame Gate (1,800m amsl) and the start of our ascent. We registered ourselves at the gate and fill our water bottles as we watch the enthusiastic porters race through the gates to eagerly pick up our gear. The ascent started with a steady pace through the rainforest. We arrived at Machame Camp (3,200m amsl) at 4:30pm after climbing the equivalent of Ben Nevis, we settled down in our tents for our first night under the stars. The walking pace was quicker than we expected but will get slower, the higher we go!
Shera Plateau - Day 2 - The alarm call came at 6:30am. After a breakfast of forced down porridge we head out. The pace is slower today and some of the group are already starting to show the signs of altitude sickness. We have hot lunches from now on so the porters pack up camp behind us and then run past us and set up the mess tents ready to provide us with soup, a noodle stir fry and a hot drink. This afternoon's terrain is a bit more rocky and as we arrive at Shira Plateau Camp (3,840m amsl) where looking back, we could see Mt Meru rising high above Arusha town in the distance. Our tents were ready and waiting and popcorn & hot drinks waiting for us in the mess tents. The nights are starting to get colder and draw in really quickly so most people go to bed straight after dinner as they are so tired and some stay up for a warming drink of Konyagi (a local citrus and spice flavour clear sprit).
Lava Tower - Day 3 - Today is one of the longer days on the trek along the Shira Plateau, traversing the southwest side of Kilimanjaro to Barranco Wall. The 3 of us still have our appetite, which is a good sign, but the headaches do come on occasion. After lunch we split into 2 groups. Some of the group head down to the next camp whilst the rest of us climb higher to the Lava Tower (4600m amsl). The rain starts to come in so we have to scramble to put on our waterproofs but it doesn't last long. Barry and five others from the group stop to climb the tower, which stands at 4,700m amsl, whilst the rest of the group descend back to camp. We have followed the mountaineering code of ‘walk high, sleep low’ to aid your body’s acclimatisation to altitude and finish the day at 3,900m amsl.
Barranco Wall - Day 4 - Our day starts by descending into the Great Barranco, a huge ravine. We then exit steeply, up the Great Barranco Wall, which divides us from the south eastern slopes of Kibo. It’s a climb over rock, not technical, but long and tiring. We are only out for 6hrs today but the group has really bonded together more and more. There are some bits of scrambling to be done but our crew are always on hand to help every step of the way. The porters or Rafiki as they are now more familiarly known as amaze us more and more each day as they pack up camp behind us and then run past us with at least 35kg on their backs/ heads to ensure camp is ready at the next stop for us as we arrive. Rafiki is Swahili for friend and we can honestly say that there couldn't be a better word for these guys. We are now at 4,100m amsl and look down on the lights of the villages below and the stars as they twinkle in the night.
Karanga - Day 5 - Today is another short day passing underneath the Heim and Kersten glaciers, we head towards the Karanga valley, which is our last stop for fresh water before the summit. Scree now forms the terrain as we walk through arid and desolate land towards Barafu Camp (4,600m amsl). Although we are trying to take each day as it comes, the summit is never far from our minds. The wind is quite strong here and blows the tents about quite a bit. We arrive at camp for lunch and start to prepare for the purpose of our visit - the summit. After the evening meal we all go straight to bed and prepare for the final challenge.
Uhuru Peak - Summit day – Wakeup call is at midnight and we head out of camp at 1am after our usual breakfast and begin the slow steady climb to the top of Kibo. Walking in the dark is a very different experience as the line of head torches snake up the mountain. The wind is extremely strong and also very cold but the focus of the group remains the top of the mountain. The sun rises at 5am and is an amazing sight and at this height you can almost see the curvature of the earth. It is also strange to see aeroplanes at eye level! By early morning we have all reached Stella Point (5,750m amsl) and then head out to Uhuru Peak (Uhuru means Freedom in Swahili), at 6:41am UK Time the Trek To The Sky Team Summit Mt.Kilimanjaro at a height of 5895m amsl. There is great jubilation throughout the group; however the visit to the summit is all too brief as the weather and the altitude are difficult to cope with. The trip down the mountain back to high camp is extremely quick with the porters assisting both James and Louise in their decent. After a brief lunch the gear is packed up again and we head back down the mountain for a couple of hrs to Millennium Camp (3,000m amsl).
Mweka Gate - Today we head down to Mweka Gate. The walk down through the different terrain is a lot quicker and within 6 hrs we are back at the gate for a well-earned beer. Our tour company Asante Sana Tours at their head office provides lunch before we head to the Sal Salinero hotel in Moshi for a well-earned shower. We are covered in dust, extremely tired but very proud to have reached the summit. The celebratory meal takes place at The Glacier Inn where certificates are presented to each of the team to commemorate our achievement. Although we have been climbing for the last 6 days we still manage to boogie on the dance floor!
Journey Home - After packing our bags for the final time we begin the long journey back home. Before heading to the airport part of the group head into Moshi to do some shopping whilst the other half of the group head to Light of Africa - an orphanage supported by Discover Adventure. As we head out of Kilimanjaro airport we take one last glimpse of the mountain that has captured our hearts and minds and provided one of the biggest challenges of our lives. Going back through customs in Addis Ababa, Barry is stopped and asked to cut open his lovely new hand crafted leather rhino as something has shown up on the scanner, after arguing for half an hour he gives in and has to watch customs open him up to find just a screw which was holding the back leg on! After an 8 hour flight, we finally arrive back in the UK at 7am and after collecting our bags and saying a final good bye to our fellow trekkers we head back up North for a well-earned rest.