| On the Roof of Africa
Tour company: Team Kilimanjaro
Route: Lemosho (Team Kilimanjaro’s variation)
Duration: 7 days (40 miles, 14k ft ascent, 16.7k ft descent)
Google earth map - start upper left, each dot is approx location of each day's campsite. Finish at Mweka Gate
Ever since I’d seen the Lion King as a kid, I wanted to go to Africa. I heard a couple people talk about friends that they had who had climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, and decided to start looking into it. I quickly found out that there were more companies that wanted to take me to the roof of Africa than I knew what to do with! After lots of research and emails, I finally decided on Team Kilimanjaro (TK). They had several well written recommendations in various places across the internet, and their website was very professional and honest. I coordinated with one of their expedition coordinators via email - they were very helpful and flexible, as I changed the details of the trip a couple times before finally deciding on a final itinerary and shelling out the cash. You could pay via wire transfer (I opted for this one) or in cash on arrival – whichever you are more comfortable with.
My friend (He goes by el Teddy among friends) and I flew into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) on 18 Feb. A driver from Team Kilimanjaro was waiting with a car to pick me up, and gave me a ride to Arusha where we spent the night before heading out. Our TK guide, Fredy, showed up and gave us a quick briefing on the trip and checked our gear to make sure we had everything we needed. Teddy flew from the US to Tanzania via Amsterdam all in one trip, and definitely felt the effects of jetlag for the first couple days of our trip. I’d highly recommend a day or two at the front end of the trip to recover from the jetlag rather than hitting the trail the first morning in country.
Heading up through the jungle
Day 1 (3 miles, 2000ft): The next morning, Fredy showed up with a couple other guys in a big Land Cruiser to pick us up. We headed out to the gate, paid the park fee, signed the register, and headed for the trailhead. We passed through lots of carrot and potato fields, with plenty of locals diligently filling giant sacks with the roots. The “road” kept getting muddier and harder to get through, so eventually we made the decision to hoof it the rest of the way to the TH. We unloaded all the gear from the Land Cruiser and started walking, hitting the trailhead about a mile later. We spent 3 hours hiking up through the bushland and into the rainforest, pitching the tents at the Forest Camp (9,255ft).
Morning on day 2
Into the heath zone
Day 2 (5 miles, 3200ft): Hiked 4 hours, breaking out of the rainforest, and into the heath ecozone. We made camp at Shira Plateau (Shira 1, 11,496ft), just barely beating a brief afternoon rain shower. After the rain shower cleared, we finally saw the snowy slopes of Kilimanjaro for the first time.
An outhouse at Shira Camp
First view of the mountain
Day 3 (6.4 miles, 2230ft): Hiked another 4 hours, up to Moir camp (13,632ft). This brought us up to the alpine desert and our first nighttime freezing temperatures of the trip.
Crossing Shira plateau
Day 4 (9.4 miles, -650ft): Hiked 6 hours to Upper 3rd Caves Camp (12,913ft). The route was mostly parallel to the mountain, crossing ridge after ridge as we worked our way around closer to the route up. The whole day was above the clouds and under the sun. At this point I wished I had brought a pair of work gloves to cover my hands from the sun. Definitely the longest and most draining day of hiking – just going up and down over the endless ridges.
Day 4 - the long day of ridges
Still on day 4
Day 5 (2.4 miles, 2400ft): Hiked 3 hours up to the high camp at the School Huts (15,469ft). After prepping our gear for the upcoming midnight start, we had an early dinner and went to bed.
Day 5 - heading up to the School Hut
Just above the School Hut
Day 6 (Up: 2.9 miles, 3700ft; Down: 5.4 miles, -6760ft) : Up at 11pm, started hiking at midnight. Warm clothes are vital here. You hike slowly enough (pole pole) that you never really start generating any excess body heat. We eventually merged with the Marangu route and became the caboose of a long trail of headlamps slowly heading up the mountain. Every 20 minutes, Fredy would take a short break – those breaks were key.
Sunrise near Stella Point
Sunrise with Mt Mawenzi
After 6 hours, we reached Stella Point, and then another hour of hiking along the crater rim took us to Uhruru Peak. Getting to see the sunrise was amazing! It was a beautiful day with clear blue bird skies.
Glacier from Uhuru Peak
(L-R) Me, Fredy, Emmanuel (our asst guide), and el Teddy
After the summit, we started heading down. The route down is very direct – we started bombing down the steep scree slope toward the Barafu Huts (15,358ft). We stopped at Millennium Camp (12,533ft) after descending for a little over 4 hours.
Heading back down
Day 7 (6.9 miles, -7200ft): Hiked the final 3.5 hours to Mweka Gate (5,384ft). Still plenty of descent, but not quite as knee-jarring as the previous day had been.
Day 7 - still heading down
Looking back at the mountain
We took diamox with breakfast and dinner starting on day 2, and then also spent a significant amount of time around 13,000ft. That seemed to work out very well for me and el Teddy, as neither of us really experienced any negative effects from the altitude. I’ll agree with everyone else who says that acclimatization is the key to success on Kili. Also – eating more than you think you feel like. The altitude tends to make you less hungry than normal. We struggled every day to eat (at least most) of the food our cook prepared.
I’d never experienced having porters and a support team, so that was very new for me. We had a total of 9 guys for the two of us. (Our guide, assistant guide, cook, and 6 porters) And we had the lightweight/budget version! I guess I’m saying… be prepared to see more folks on your team than you may have expected.
Afterwards, we went on a safari through Team Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Eaysi, and Tarangire National Park. Awesome experience – definitely recommend it, especially if you’re already over there for the mountain! February/March seemed to be a good time to see the animals. The wildebeest were in the process of migrating towards other water sources, so we got to see some pretty big herds travelling across the savannah.
Impala looking majestic
Sunset on the Serengeti
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):