ON TOP OF KILIMANJARO
Conquering the highest peak of Africa
After climbing the Himalayas back in 2018, reaching the Everest base camp and the top of Kala Patthar peak, I thought about completing another major quest: Standing on the highst peak of Africa, which was a difficult goal for sure, yet within my means.Fast forward to the 20th of October, 2020, I embark on a journey of a lifetime, to prove to myself whether this dream could actually become a future memory. That is, to conquer Uhuru Peak, which translates to ‘Freedom’ from Swahili, and is the highest peak of Mt Kilimanjaro at 5895 m above sea level.
After researching for many months, I decided to entrust my Kilimanjaro adventure in the skill and experience of Godson Adventures- plains2peaks, a local travel agency specializing in such climbing trips. They will provide me with a party of 8 people, who will see that I succeed in my goal of getting to the top of the mountain with safety, caring for my food, stay and health.
First Day of Climbing Kilimanjaro: Meeting the Group and getting from Lemosho Gate to Mti Mkubwa camp
I woke up at 6:00 am, full of enthusiasm and excitement for the journey ahead! It was time to meet with the group that would help my dream of getting to the top of Africa’s highest peak come true. Alex Kilembu was the guide and overall manager of the mission, Enoc was our cook and six more people who will help with carrying our tents, food supplies, and everything else we need up in the mountain.
Immediately after meeting, we hop on the jeep that will take us to Lemosho Path, after a drive of three hours approximately. Lemosho Path is the trail that I chose to follow to get to the peak of Mt Kilimanjaro.
There are five other trails one can follow to get on top of Kilimanjaro, namely Machame at 62 km long, Marangu 72 km, Nothern Circuit at 96 km, Rongai 72 km and lastly Umbwe at 72 km long.
We started climbing on a beautiful path for 4 hours, going through a magnificent landscape of dense tropical forest, which took us to Mti Mkubwa Camp, at 2650m above sea level, where we camped out to stay the night!
Climbing form Lemosho Gate reaching our first camp base at Mti kbubwa Camp
That is where our group set the tents, while Enoc cooked our first dinner at the mountain.
On the menu was a delicious soup of sweet corn and potato, a boiled vegetables salad and fried fish. I was particularly pleased and impressed by the soup!
Shortly after eating, Alex and me revisited our first day of journey over a cup of warm tea. Before going to sleep, we did an oxygen count in our blood and headed off for some much needed rest. I wrote a little in my diary and fell asleep, so I could be ready for the hard day ahead of me.
Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 2: From Mti Mkubwe Camp to Shira Camp 2
We woke up at 6:00 am at Mti Mkubwa Camp and, immediately as I opened the zip of my tent, the smells of the tropical forest mixed with the sounds of animals made me feel so energized, renewed and alive!
Walking on a path of unparalleled beauty, taking in all the sights, I will slowly come to realize that the vegetation gradually changes and, much like us, is affected by the gradual drop of oxygen levels. Just like that, the tropical forest turns into an Alpic desert.
Six hours after following a difficult trail, we reach Shira Camp 1, where we took a short break and lunch, much needed to catch our breath and get some fuel for our bodies to keep on going.
Going on after that was even harder, as we walked for 7 more hours on hard-trodden paths in order to reach Shira Camp 2.
While our crew was setting up our tents, Enoc prepared the dinner we were about to enjoy. A tasty soup of pumpkin squash, boiled vegetables salad and fried chicken. After Alex and me did our recount of the day we just finished, and an oxygen blood count, we went off to our tents, exhausted and glad to be getting some rest!
“I felt like the days to come would be more and more difficult. With both the temperature and oxygen dropping significantly, as we get on higher altitude, nothing could be taken for granted now!”
Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 3: From Shira Camp 2 to Baranco Camp
After a difficult night of the temperature at Shira Camp 2 dropping to -9 degrees Celcius, and after taking our breakfast, we started climbing to our next destination, Lava Tower, at 4600m above sea level.
“Lava Tower is a lava formation measuring 70m high, that was formed thousands of years ago after intense volcanic activity in the area”
Above the clouds of Africa
After having crossed7 km of Alpic Desert, we reach our first destination, we will take a short break and after taking pictures and admiring the beautiful view, we will continue on our trail to Barranco Camp, dropping altitude at 3900 m, where we will camp and spend the night.
“By dropping altitude, we will help our bodies get accustomed to the oxygen shortage”
On Enoc’s menu for tonight was Cucumber Soup, spinach salad and spaghetti with tomato sauce. Alex and Me talked about the day that was about to end, pointing out that each day the conditions get harder and harder, did an oxygen blood count and went off to get some rest. We had a difficult day ahead of us,again!
Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 4: From Barranco Camp to Barafu Camp
After spending a cold night and getting few sleep, we started our climbing of the Barranco Wall at 06:00 am.
“Barranco Wall is a wall of volcanic rock,800 m high, that lies across Barranco Camp.”
Exhausted by the lack of oxygen and the difficulty of climbing, we managed nonetheless to reach the top of Barranco Wall two hours and a half later.
After catching our breath (which is borderline ironic considering how low the oxygen was in the air around us!), we continued on our path in this wild, beautiful alpic scenery, having Barafu Camp as our destination at 4673 m above sea level.
“Barafu camp (4673 m) is the last spot we will camp at before getting at the top of Kilimanjaro”
After 8 hours of climbing we reached Barafu Camp, and I will sadly come to realize that, on top of the lack of oxygen and the cold, I had to deal with the pain from the wounds on my feet. This was what I had to overcome to reach the top.
“Since the start of our journey, I experienced pain from open wounds in both my feet, caused by new hiking shoes that I bought just for this trip. I tried to deal with this issue by putting some Compeed blister plasters.”
After setting out camp at Barafu, I treated my wounds and went to get some rest. A while later, I will treat myself to a cup of tea. Alex and I decided that on that night, a little while after midnight, we would start climbing to the top. I heard everything he said with caution, I was eager to find out his suggested plans so we could reach our final destination. As we discussed, safety always comes first!
Our plan was to have lunch first and then get some sleep, to recover as much of our strength as possible. Five hours later I hadn’t slept at all. I had dinner and came back to my tent to get some sleep finally, if I could. However, the lack of oxygen and anxiety left me overexcited and unable to sleep. Those were the reasons of my insomnia.
Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 5: From Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak and Exiting at Mweka Gate
As the clock strikes midnight, I wasn’t able to sleep at all, something that will make my plan to get on top of Kilimanjaro even more difficult than it already would be. After having a cup of warm tea, some popcorn and yet another oxygen blood count, it was already 01:00 am and it’s time for Alex and me to embark on the last part of our journey. Five difficult kilometers in extreme conditions stood between me and the dream of conquering the peak.With our only companion being the stars and moon shining from above, we went on walking slow, as to avoid consuming too much oxygen, on our way to the top.
Four hours later, being exhausted and almost at the limits of my physical strength, I reached Stella point at 5756 m above sea level. Only one hour worth of climbing away was my goal, Uhuru Peak. The highest point in Africa.
And as the sun begins to rise, the magnificent beauty of Kilimanjaro is unveiled! The sunrise was caressing the huge crater of this inactive volcano and this view gave me the strength I needed to carry on.
Fueled by the strength of my will, showing great determination and overcoming myself, I managed to reach my goal. Standing on top of the highest peak in Africa. My dream comes true, Uhuru Peak 24/10/2020. Words fail to describe how excited I felt about this achievement! However, being so exhausted, with oxygen levels so low and the temperature dropping below -15 degrees Celsius, I only stayed on top of Uhuru Peak for 10 minutes more or less.
And thus, full of images, experiences that I will never forget and proud for what I achieved, after taking our pictures, we headed back to Barafu Camp.
Three hours later we will reach the Camp, with the rest of our crew curious to find out the outcome of our mission. After being congratulated by the team, I will announce that after having lunch and some rest we will head back, not to spend another night to the mountain.
“I took this decision, partly due to the pain I experienced from the blisters on my feet and partly because I really need a long, warm bath at that point.”
And thus, even though I was exhausted, sleep deprived and experiencing pain from the blisters, I managed to walk for 17 kilometers more that day, with our final destination being Mweka, which also is the exit of Kilimanjaro National Park. Godson was waiting for us there, holding a champagne, in order for all of us to celebrate the success of our mission!
Godson and the whole crew celebrates with a champagne
Aftewards, we will get on the Jeep to head to Arusha town, where a warm bath and the relaxation I so much needed await for me at Mount Meru Hotel.And just like that, yet another crazy dream I had was crossed off my list. The dream became a memory I would have forever!
I will never be able to erase all these images, feelings and thoughts I experienced during this adventure from my mind! At this point I would like to thank the wonderful crew of Godson Adventures-plains2peaks and especially Alex Kilembu who, contributing with his great experience, helped me overcome myself and succeed in my goal.
Going through dense tropical forest on the way to Mti Mkubwa Camp
Enoc prepares our lunch at the tent we used as a kitchen
Waking up at the Tropical Forest in Mti Mkubwa Camp
Stopping for lunch and rest at Shira Camp 1
Upon arriving at Barranco camp
As the night falls in Barranco Camp, it’s getting so much colder
Climbing Barranco Wall
Climbing towards Barafu Camp is difficult
Arriving to Barafu Camp
Alex explains how we should move next
We start walking slowly towards Uhuru Peak
After a difficult climb, we reach Stella Point
As the sun rises, the beauty of this place is unveiled
Dream comes true, Uhuru Peak 24/10/2020
This post is also available in: Ελληνικα (Greek)