Travel Report: Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro (June 2012)

  • #1
    Hey guys! I just finished the first part of my Kilimanjaro Blog and hope you like it. 2nd Part including a 26 mins video will come next friday!

    Cheers
    Chris/Tak3r


    Region: Africa, Tanzania
    Travel time: 2012, June 15th to June 19th
    Picture Gallery: Link





    "Right where you are," our guide says, "is where the man died in the landslide." I look at him in utter disbelieve and continue slogging through the alpine desert, 4.000 meters above the African plain. Climbing to Mt. Kilimanjaro's snowy summit is a once in a lifetime experience for some and the start of a mountaineering career for others. I'm not sure which group I belong to just yet, but I will certainly share my experiences on the world's highest free standing mountain.

    June 15th, 2012 - Frankfurt to Nairobi

    It's Friday evening and I am on Condor Flight DE5264 from Frankfurt to Nairobi, Kenya. Christoph is sitting next to me, struggling with the comfort and narrowness of our seats just like myself. We've known each other for two years and have become good friends with similar interests. One of them is traveling and we are currently on our way to Africa in order to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I'm looking over the main aisle to the other side of the airplane, where Christoph' friends, Moritz and Simon, are already sleeping. Certainly a good idea, as we will be on plane for the night and arrive in Nairobi at 5:10 in the morning.



    Restless thoughts about our route are keeping me awake. At 5,895 meters, Uhuru Peak is the highest point on Kilimanjaro. No technical climbing is involved in scaling it, but the high elevation can not be underestimated and only 41% reach the summit according to the Kilimanjaro National Park. I could not prepare for the trip, but am confident in my solid base condition, which leaves the AMS (acute mountain sickness) as the only real threat. Eventually, my mind settles and I doze off in economy class discomfort.


    June 16th, 2012 - Nairobi to Moshi

    The plane begins to descend and the beeping of the please-fasten-your-seatbelt alarm wakes me up. It is nearly 5AM and we are just on time. I get up and walk towards the exit of the plane and surprisingly, only my buddies and a handful of strangers are leaving the plane in Nairobi, as the rest keeps on sleeping on their way to the final destination. My eyes don't like the fact that I left my contact lenses in during the flight and I'm still pretty tired. We grab our bags, pay the transit visa ($20) and walk to the waiting area outside.

    Moritz provides some anti mosquito repellant for us and we only need to put it on today, as we will be too high for them when we start the hike tomorrow morning. The airport in Nairobi is not very nice and after three hours of waiting, the shuttle bus finally arrives. We get inside and try to rest on the most uncomfortable seats I've ever used - too bad we will be in here for the next seven hours!

    I'm looking outside the window and it does not take long to realize that I'm in a Third World Country. People and especially young children have a look in their eyes which is hard to describe. They seem lost and not able to change their life for the better, almost like they've given up on themselves. We leave them behind and drive towards Arusha, which is a rather big city of about half a million people. There are a couple of mountains on our way to Moshi, but it takes a while until we can finally catch a glimpse of Kibo.



    The driver drops us off at the Weru Weru River Lodge, which belongs to our Operator Ahsante Tours. We receive a warm welcome and one of the employees updates us about the current European Football Championship scores and it's looking pretty good for Germany! Our rooms are good, we have a pool and some sunshine left, so we are getting right into i.! Some overpriced beer and pizza rounds up the day and it's time to get some sleep and rest for the upcoming hike.

    June 17th, 2012 - Lemosho Glades (2100m) to Big Tree Camp (2750m)

    I wake up at 7AM and could not sleep very well due to Christoph's unrelenting snoring. There is nothing he can do about it, but I'll try to find another person to spend the upcoming nights with :-) We get down to the reception area to meet our guides, Nelson and King William of Kili. They are both very nice persons and I can't image having better guides for the trip. I even got a high-quality pair of gloves from Nelson - mine are apparently not good enough for the cold summit night. We also have time to catch up with Jessie from New York, he is on his own and will join us.



    We leave Moshi (910m) and drive west for two hours to reach the Londorossi Park Gate (2100m). All of our luggage has been weighed to determine how many porters we need before we continue to Lemosho Glades (2100m). This is the actual starting point of the beautiful 56km Lemosho route. It will take us six days to get to the top, as we are adding one extra day for better acclimatization. Our 4x4 jeep can't continue through the mud, so we get out and walk the rest to Lemosho Glades. Everyone looks very motivated as we begin to walk into the foggy rain forest...

    Our destination for today is Big Tree Camp (2750m), also known as Mti Mkubwa in Swahili, the official language in Tanzania. We are entering the second climate zone on the mountain (five in total) and it's not easy to climb the steep muddy paths due to the rainfalls in the last days. Nelson tells us that this part is actually one of the hardest in bad weather. There are not many animals around and it is rather quiet, except for the sounds of the Black-and-white colobus and blue monkeys. King William is making sure that we keep a slow pace throughout and it takes us nearly three hours to reach the Camp.



    The camp is already set up from our porters, who passed us earlier while carrying about 25-30kg each. They are doing an incredible job and try to get promoted to a guide someday. Everyone here needs to start as a porter and only the ones who can speak English will have a chance for a better job. I walk around the campsite and notice the toilets - a hole in the ground surrounded by some walls. Not really looking forward to use these! We gather in our dining tent and patiently wait for the first big meal of the day; turns out that our cook is incredible, as he made us some very delicious chicken with potatoes and vegetables.


    June 18th, 2012 - Big Tree Camp (2750m) to Shira 2 (3840m)

    Our waiter(!) wakes me up and hands me a nice hot cup of tea. Jessie is sharing the tent with me now, but I could still not sleep this night thanks to the Dolby-surround snore theater around us. The porters provide us with some water to clean ourselves and some purified water to fill up the 3-litre camel backs. We enjoy breakfast, pack up our stuff and then begin the walk to the next camp: Shira 2. We decided to skip Shira 1 and take this long 15km day in the beginning, in order to have an extra day for better acclimatization at Karanga camp.



    The path looks very similar to yesterday's and we are constantly climbing up, being happy about the great weather, as more and more sun shines through the trees the higher we get. After about 50 minutes, we reach the top of the forest and get a good view on our surroundings. Nelson makes us aware that we are entering the moorland climate zone and it is great to have a change of scenery again. The sun is really strong now and we are constantly getting passed by porters.



    We descend a bit again and reach a nice spot to take a break. Some french guys pass us without any porters, they carry everything on their own and just have a guide with them. I think I could do it as well, but since it's my first time in this altitude, I decided to take the easy way to make sure I reach the top :-) We take some pictures and continue climbing up, only to finally see what we were all waiting for: Kilimanjaro is showing up in the distance and he looks damn far away still!

    The hike continues for about half an hour before we reach Shira 1 camp. We stop for another break and just enjoy sleeping in the sun for a short while. Turns out that this was a bad idea, as I can already feel the first sun burns coming up, especially on the back of my legs. I decide to cover up most of my body from now on, even if the sun is still out strong. The hike starts to get more demanding the further we go on, but eventually we reach our destination with a slight headache.



    As usual, we first need to sign up in at one of the huts with our name, nationality and signature. This needs to be done each day and the data is used for official statistics including date, name, nationality and operator. I notice that it is significantly colder already at 3840m and put on some extra layers, as well as my hat. We are already above the clouds and I stay out to enjoy the great views before heading back to get dinner. We are all freezing in the tent while waiting for hopefully yet another great meal. This is gonna be a very cold night...

    June 19th, 2012 - Shira 2 (3840m) to Lava Tower (4630m) to Barranco camp (3950m)


    I'm blessed with hot tea again - definitely a must-have right now, as last night was one of the coldest I ever experienced. Our sleeping bags only have a comfort temperature of +4 °C and I would not exactly categorize the sleeping mats as comfortable. We get popcorn soup for breakfast again and I'm so sick of it, the cucumber soup is way better.. My body is a wreck, four sleepless nights and a lack of appetite are taken their tolls, but this won't break my will to reach the summit, as my mental health stays strong.



    A long walk through the warm alpine desert is ahead of us and our crew celebrates the famous Kilimanjaro Song, singing and dancing for us before we start this difficult day:

    Jambo! (Hello!)
    Jambo Bwana!
    Habari gani (How are you?)
    Mzuri Sana (Very fine)
    Wageni! (Foreigners)
    Mwakaribishwa (You are welcome)
    Kilimanjaro
    Hakuna Matata (There are no worries)

    Tembea pole pole (Walk slow, slow)
    Hakuna matata
    Utafika salama (Come safe)
    Hakuna matata
    Kunywa maji mengi (Drink plenty of water)
    Hakuna matata

    Great performance by the guys (and the porter girl!), the rhythm of this song will stick in our heads for sure. I make sure that my jacket is protecting me from both the wind and the sun as we head towards Lava Tower (4630m). Hour after hour walking on rocky paths without any vegetation or animal life is passing, and my stomach is giving me a very hard time. The headache is getting stronger as well, definitely a result of the high altitude. I can spot people in the distance as they are walking on the Machame route, which will unite with ours very soon. We finally arrive at the Tower after 6 long hours.



    Our guide Nelson suggest some extra-fun by climbing the Tower before we get together for lunch. "It is a very easy climb", he says and it would only take him 15 minutes to get up and down again. We look at each other and decide to accept his offer. I'm the last one in our group and the climb is not exactly easy for me in my current state, nevertheless all of us make it back safely and the great views on the Western Breach and down a 60m vertical cliff were amazing!

    The uttering bad feeling in my stomach is getting worse as we are leaving the Tower behind us. Heading into a valley, I can see the first Senecio kilimanjari - a unique and bizarre plant that only exists in this part of the world. I notice a weird feeling in my throat and then suddenly scream out "STOP!", seconds before throwing up in the serpentine curve next to me. "Are you OK?", Christoph asks and hands me some tissues. "Feeling much better now, thanks.", I reply and continue walking with renewed energy after dropping all the bad stuff in my body.




    I can finally enjoy the ongoing walk and my release could have not come at a better time, as we are entering the final path down to the camp. The immense Western Wall of Kilimanjaro is constantly present to my left, while tons of huge Senecio kilimanjari are showing up along the way - just incredible! I can see the camp already and King William explains that this day was very important for our acclimatization, as we were climbing very high today while staying in a camp 700m lower than the Lava Tower.

    This is the end of the first half of my Kilimanjaro Report. The second one will follow next friday!
  • #2
    I guess your stomach got sick of the popcorn soup too.
    Just as the Scorpion hunts...
    Silently Lurking...

    "Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted." ~ Ezio Auditore de Firenze
  • #3
    hahahahahahha nice job!
  • #4
    And the 2nd part :)

    Region: Africa, Tanzania
    Travel time: 2012, June 20th to June 23th
    Picture Gallery: Link




    "This night will be very cold on the summit, expect -20°C", Nelson warns us and we fill up our camel backs with hot tea water, even though we know that this won't help much in six hours when we hopefully get close to the summit. We check our head torches and off we go into the night, following all the other lights in front of us. King William shouts out "Pole, Pole!" (Slow, Slow!) but in reality, we actually have a reasonable speed and pass one group after the other.

    Welcome to the second half of my Kilimanjaro Report, click here to read the first one.

    June 20th, 2012 - Barranco camp (3950m) to Karanga camp (3963m)

    A feel of joy surrounds me this morning, realizing that I was sleeping for a complete night finally. Unfortunately, Christoph and Jessie are not able to share these feelings, as they are both suffering from nausea now. "Today will be an easy day and you will have time to recover for the summit night", Nelson encourages them and we are really glad for this extra day on the mountain. I look up to the imposing Barranco Wall and it seems like a tough climb, lot's of porters and hikers are already queuing up in this narrow and extremely steep section.



    Turns out that the wall is not as tough as it looks, using my hands to stabilize from time to time, it is a fairly easy walk. The porters are not impressed either, as they are basically running up there with all their luggage. Well, we know that they are beasts by now :-) We reach the top of the wall after 45 minutes and enjoy the superb view on Kilimanjaro. "Ahh you like it ya?", King William of Kili says while looking at the sky, "you will have an even better view on him tomorrow." Speaking of the King, he is an incredible funny person, who will most definitely bring a smile on your face after a couple of seconds talking to him. He got his Nickname by guiding a blind man up to the top with his long term partner Nelson.



    We arrive at Karanga camp after crossing a valley, which contains the last water supply on the way to the summit. The sun is gone and the camp covered in a thick fog. Some crows are also present here and the place has a very creepy atmosphere now. The "toilets" are actually smelling so bad, one would actually be better off looking for another place to take care of his business. It's also freezing cold, but I still decide that it is time for a complete body wash before we head into the final stage, so get undressed and clean myself with the cold water. Totally refreshed now, I start to read my book and wait for dinner.


    June 21th, 2012 - Karanga camp (3963m) to Barafu camp (4550m)

    Yesterday's fog vanished away and we have a clear view on Kilimanjaro. There are lots of clouds in the distance though, blocking the sight on Mt. Meru (4565m). I was actually looking forward to this day and am disappointed now, as I can barely spot the mountain. We begin the 6km hike and the landscape looks familiar - lot's of lose rocks and a great views on Kilimanjaro, as we are heading to it's east side. My headache is gone and I'm feeling pretty good in general, Christoph and Jessie are also getting better as well, so everything is set for the big showdown!



    Arriving at our base camp for the summit night after four hours, Nelson explains that it got its name from the cold weather conditions up here on 4,550 meters, as Barafu is translated to "ice". The tents are already set up between two huge stone walls and we see the peaks Kibo and Mawenzi. Suddenly, the complete camp is starting to scream and laugh, turning it into an open air theater with a great atmosphere. I look up and can't believe my eyes - a tent from another tour operator is actually flying above us like a kite, quickly disappearing behind a wall after a couple of seconds. "The wind is very strong here because of the surrounding peaks", Nelson says, "they will send out some people to pick it up again".



    Our guides lead us to the path that we will use to climb the summit this night, it is important to see the terrain now while it is still bright. We climb up a couple of hundred meters and then sit down to have our final briefing. I enjoy the view on the camp and mentally prepare myself for the upcoming challenge. We will now have two hours to rest before lunch is served and then another seven hours to sleep. Excitement is rising and I crawl into my sleeping bag, trying to catch some sleep and recover my energy.


    June 22th, 2012 - Barafu camp (4550m) to Uhuru Peak (5895m) to Millenium Camp (3820m)


    A severe pain in my hip wakes me up. I guess it was a bad idea to sleep on the side when only a thin sleeping mat separates me from the rocks underneath - but it was just so damn cold! I patiently wait for the tea to reach drinkable temperature and already begin to put on my summit gear: two pair of thick socks, long underpants (borrowed from Simon), two pants, two icebreaker merino wool shirts (150 & 260), one fleece and my weather proof jacket should do the deal in combination with my hat and the gloves I got from Nelson.

    "This night will be very cold on the summit, expect -20°C", Nelson warns us and we fill up our camel backs with hot tea water, even though we know that this won't help much in six hours when we hopefully get close to the summit. We check our head torches and off we go into the night, following all the other lights in front of us. King William shouts out "Pole, Pole!" (Slow, Slow!) but in reality, we actually have a reasonable speed and pass one group after the other.



    Walking in this altitude with 50% less oxygen compared to sea level is different and I'm having a hard time to breath, but other than that I don't feel affected by it a lot. However, I have a pain in my stomach and begin to lose my sense of balance after two hours of walking. Definitely a sign of AMS. It becomes worse the higher we get and occasionally, I need to use my hands to stabilize myself. Nelson and King William are taking a close look at me and are always around to help me out if needed. I can barely see any stars in the sky, must be very cloudy up above.

    I keep on walking like a drunk guy and have to sit down to drink some water to recover on a regular basis. The water in my camel back already starts to freeze and it's getting hard to drink from it. We keep on passing group after group and it is a very tough and demanding walk, but eventually we reach Stella Point (5685m) around 5AM. Our guides provide us with hot tea and it is amazing to drink it now. I imagine to be very close to the summit now, but Nelson corrects that assumption as we have one more hour in front of us - Urgh!.


    The Video was supposed to be here. Unfortunately, I'm having some technical issues and will publish it another day.

    Entering a trance-like stage, I try hard to keep on walking in a straight line. It's also slowly getting brighter and finally King William announces that "Uhuru Peak is at the end of this path!". Bundling all my strength and energy, I rush towards the highest point in Africa (without falling!) as the first in our group. Only a handful of people are here already, we actually passed all other groups on our way up. The sun shows it's face through the clouds partly now, but the sight is still not good and it is strongly advised to descend again as soon as possible.



    Despite the -20°C on the summit, I take off my gloves to start taking pictures and film the rest on their final stretch to the top. Being in my trance, I don't even realize how freaking cold my hands are as I am handling my camera for at least five minutes, before finally putting back on my gloves. I would like stay for some time, but the guides urge us to go down again. Christoph shows symptoms of AMS as well and we're not able to get back as quickly as Moritz and Simon, who've been in a top shape during the complete trip. They form a group with Jessie and Nelson, while we are taking things a bit slower.

    It takes a couple of breaks before I slowly receive me balance back. Things are moving way quicker now and I'm actually running down the rocky surface, hooked into King Williams arms so we can both stabilize each other. We have a perfect view on the Mawenzi Summit (5148m) on our left and now most of the clouds disappeared, too bad we had such a bad view on the summit. I could barely see any glaciers at all :-(



    We reach Millenium Camp (3820m) six hours later after a break in the base camp, passing an altitude difference of 2,075 meters. In the evening, it's finally time to gather in the dining tent for the last time - I will not miss to sit on these small chairs, but I will definitely look back at all the great meals our cook prepared throughout our trip - he did an amazing job! Nelson and King William join us after the dinner and brief us about the appropriate way to tip the crew on the next day. It takes us 20 minutes to figure out a fair contribution before we retreat into our tents.


    June 23th, 2012 - Millenium Camp (3820m) to Mweka Gate (1980m)


    Everyone is in a good mood this morning and we talk about our achievement from last night. "You were having some problems over there Chris", Nelson proclaims, "but we noticed that you have a strong will and checked on your vital signs the whole time." I want to know how they did it exactly and King William explains: "We checked for any changes in the color of your eyes and tongue and let you walk in front of us to call your name. You reacted and did not throw up either, so everything was good." Interesting to hear! :-)



    It's time to contribute the tips and we receive another performance of the Kilimanjaro song before we continue back to Mweka Gate (1980m), which is about five hours away. We contain a fast pace on the muddy surface and eventually decide to take things even faster by running down with our hiking poles. Moritz is filming with his Go Pro camera and it is certainly quite some fun to do speed up for a couple of minutes, eventually we are exhausted though and maintain a regular fast pace. We are now en route since nearly three hours and I ask our guides how long it would take. "About one hour from here", they reply and it sounds O.K. as we would have saved one hour. Turns out that the gate was just around the corner :-)



    We register at the gate and decline any shoe-cleaning offers before getting into our 4x4 jeep to drive back to Moshi. We drop our stuff in the office of Ahsante Tours and continue straight on to the Glacier bar, which also belongs to the same company. A last dinner is supplied here and I'm having a delicious fish together with a Kilimanjaro Beer. Our guides give a last speech and hand over the certificates to proof that we made it to the top of Uhuru Peak.

    Today is also the quarter final game between Spain and France and we head to the glacier bar to watch it and finally drink lot's of beer - it's about time! King William joins us as well and it certainly a great way to end this fantastic week of great experiences. I would like to thank my fellow trekkers, guides and the rest of the team for an amazing time. Hakuna matata!
  • #5
    Awesome read, thanks for it.
  • #6
    Fantastic! I would love to do it one day as well. One of my friends who tried climbing Kilomanjaro recently got some bad altitude sickness and had to turn back. Not as easy as it looks thats for sure!
  • #7
    Awesome!! Now for Mt. Everest!
    Just as the Scorpion hunts...
    Silently Lurking...

    "Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted." ~ Ezio Auditore de Firenze
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