African adventure part II – Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Day one on the mountain

We started out quite early from Karibu Home and headed north to the start of the Rongai Kilimanjaro route. This route starts on the north slope of Kilimanjaro, bringing you straight up toward the mountain and then you trek back just below the plains of the Saddle. And the up and back across the Saddle again. This detour ads quite a bit of time at higher altitude so the ascent to the summit might be a bit easier.

The route starts at about 2000 MASL and looking at other accounts of the route it seems we did it slightly different.

After lunch and registration we started out slowly toward our first camp, weather was good and it was a nice walk through the forest and past some farms. We stopped for the night at what the guide called Simba camp. Which is not as hight as First Cave where I know other has been camping in the past. Here we divided our self between tents and I ended up together with Stefan. We shared the same tent for the rest of the trip on the mountain which worked fine for me.

Since we had the same numbered tent for the rest of the trip we also got our packs in it when we arrived at our overnight stops for the rest of the trip. It’s nice not having to go looking for your luggage every day.

After settling down in the tents we had our afternoon tea while waiting for dinner. Afternoon tea meant that we got tea, coffee or hot chocolate (Cadbury or Milo) and some popcorn and warm peanuts. This we got every afternoon when we stopped and I guess it’s a good way to get some salt into your body.

For dinner we got soup for starters. Soup was also part of every meal, except for breakfast where we got some sort of gruel. I has no hunger the first days so I mostly of soup, gruel and fruits. Which for me at least seemed to work out just fine.

The food we got on the mountain was for the most part very good, it’s amazing what food the chef was able to make in his little tent.

After dinner we went to bed, not much to do in the darkness.

The first night I didn’t sleep the best. I’ve overfilled my air mattress a bit and I kept rolling off or sliding down into the bottom of the tent. But I guess I got the sleep I needed.

Day two on the mountain

I woke up early and was already awake when the wakeup call came. Every morning we got served hot coffee or tea in our tents, real luxury 🙂

We packed up our stuff and had breakfast before we started on the second day of walking. While we ate the porters tore the tents down and started off toward the next camp to have it ready for our arrival. And after we started walking the mes tent and kitchen was taken down and after a short while we were overtaken by the porters carrying all this.

As we walked further up we came into the clouds and most of the day we walked with only about 20 meters of visibility. We had lunch at Second Cave before continuing up a few hundred meters more and then back down a little to our next camp.

Apparently it’s good to have been a bit higher than your campsite before you go to bed. You’ll sleep better.

The second day we walked for 7 – 8 hours which was one of the longest walks. I was walking with the first group and we were at the Kikelea Caves about an hour before the last group came in.

At Kikelea Caves the fog lifted and we got sunshine and a good view of both the summit of Kilimanjaro and the top of Mawenzi. That night we got the first feeling of the cold and when I went to bed there was frost on our tent, and my shirt that was hung to dry was a bit frozen.

Day three on the mountain

I woke up to a nice sunny day and below us we could see a carpet of clouds, it’s kind of a strange experience.

After breakfast we started on the walk to Mawenzi Tarn Hut which is a camp in the shadow of Mawenzi. The walk today was only 3 – 4 hours long but the going was quite steep and we gained quite a bit of height. We got to the camp at lunch time and after settling in we ate. We also got the offer that day to do a short walk, about 90 minutes, up on the ridge above the camp. Again to be able to sleep better at night and to have a look at the view.

The ridge is quite narrow and we could look down into our camp on one side and on the other we had a great view of the Saddle and Kilimanjaro. Not everyone did this walk but I’m glad I did.

When we got back down it was time for dinner and then back to bed.

I’ll always remember this camp I guess, at least the toilets, because this was the camp where Erik managed to lose his sunglasses into one of the black holes 🙂

And once again we saw that the porters are a crafty bunch. One of the porters went around with a charging service for mobile phones and mp3 players. A little hand cranked generator and some universal charging cords.

Pishang tried to have his iPhone charged, but without much luck. I guess it would have worked if the guy kept cranking all night 🙂

Day four on the mountain

This was the day where most things happened.

We started out early for the trek across the Saddle to Kibo Hut and later the summit attempt. The walking was easy but when we came into the open the wind picked up quite a bit. And the Saddle seems to go on forever. It’s really hard to judge the distance and it seems that every time I looked up it was just as far to go.

But eventually we got to the camp. There we had some food and then settled down to sleep a couple of hours before starting on the final push to the top.

Day five – the summit.

We woke at 2300 on day four, had a quick bite, got some food for the climb to the mountain and filled our water bottles with warm water. At the camp the temperature was down to 0 degrees C and further up it would be even colder.

We started out about midnight and walked slowly in a long row up the mountain. We had a bright almost full moon and I didn’t use my headlamp until I was almost at Gilman’s point.

At around 5000 MASL (Williams point) I started to feel the lack of oxygen, I got dizzy and from there on upwards I had to concentrate on taking really deep breaths. When I managed that I felt just fine.  This was also the height where we unfortunately lost two people from our group that didn’t feel well enough to continue.

A bit further on we had a break and was divided into three groups; one fast, one slow and on in the middle. I elected to walk in the slow group since I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up with the other. If I knew what I know now I would have gone with the middle group.

As we set out I felt the slow group was a bit slow and I set out to try to catch up with the middle group which I saw not to far ahead. Somehow I missed a break or something like that because when I got closer to the summit I found that I was just behind the first group. I guess that was one of my mistakes that made me stop at Gilman’s point.

However I got a spurt of energy and suddenly I literary fell across the threshold to Gilman’s point and collapsed in a corner. I was tired and it was cold a miserable. The sun was just coming up but at the top we were in the clouds and there was even a bit of snow in the air. I guess this broke my spirit and all I could think about was getting back down.

When the rest set of toward Uhuru Peak, I together with Kent, Lilian and Kristofer started on the trip back down. I found the trip down to be one of the most enjoyable experiences on the mountain. The first part was like I imagined, not the easiest I’ve done because of the quite steep rocks and loose gravel.

But then we came to the part where we had zigzagged up across the gravel. Instead of zigzagging down out guides grabbed us and we set out half running / surfing down the gravel slope. I guess you could almost compare it to off-piste skiing, without the skis and snow 🙂 And as long as you stayed clear of the bigger rocks it was quite easy going.

After the  gravel the going was a bit harder on the thighs as you were breaking your way down to the camp.

And then it was all over, seven hours to get to Gilman’s point and 1 hour 20 minutes to get back down.

Since we were returning early we also had some time just to relax before we did the 9.2 km hike down to Horombo Hut where we had the last night on the mountain. Since this was a very good path and no chance of us getting list we were allowed to walk it more or less on our own so we were small groups that piled into camp that afternoon.

And I guess everyone had a great nights sleep that night.

Day six, going down to Marangu gate.

This was the last day of walking, we still got up quite early and set off on the walk , first down to Mandara Hut where we had our last lunch and then down to Marangu gate.

The first part almost to Mandara Hut was in warm sunshine, but as we got further down we got into the cloud layer and things became a bit damp. We didn’t really have rain but it was quite foggy, making the forest look like something out of a fairytale.

From Mandara Hut and down to the gate went fast, I guess everybody was longing for a cold beer, a shower and a proper bed.

At the gate we had a few beers, signed out of the parks journal and said our goodbyes to the guides and porters. All the porters sang a Kilimanjaro tune and we collected a lot of clothes and equipment that we didn’t need any more an that we knew the porters would put to proper use.

Then we got in the bus and headed for the lounge where we were hoping for a warm shower and a good bed.

The bed was good but the shower was lacking 🙂 In my room we only got lukewarm water, at best. But I guess it was better than nothing and we all started looking forward to Zanzibar.

We had dinner that evening together with the head guide and then we went to bed and had a good nights sleep before heading out to Zanzibar and the last part of this adventure.

Keep reading about my African adventure in part III – Zanzibar

One Comment

  1. Richie Bures
    March 7, 2011

    I found your site browsing around and really enjoyed clicking around. I wish there were more sites like yours. I’ll be coming back and hope that you continue adding more interesting posts.

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