Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro is the most famous mountain in the world that offers the average, every day walker the chance of climbing. At 5,895m (19,308 feet) the climb is long and tough, with the added problem of potential altitude sickness. Its profile is one of the most recognized sights in Africa, sat near the Serengeti in Tanzania.

Any visit to climb the mountain often takes in a visit to the safari parks. I have asked some writers who have climbed the mountain to put together their own stories in the hope it will help any prospective climber plan their trip. 

First up is Jay Badiani, born in nearby Uganda.

 

Jay’s Story – Kilimanjaro via the Machame route

The summit of Kilimanjaro

The summit of Kilimanjaro

Having been born in Africa (Uganda), it had always been an ambition of mine to climb Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro. The opportunity came this summer when my cousin, Nainesh Chotai, and his wife, Kay, agreed that we should go and attempt it.

I became fitter and more active three years ago when I started doing Park run and then, more recently, climbing mountains (a slightly late start at age nearly 60!). Earlier this year we had atrocious weather on the Three Peaks of Yorkshire, in fact the weather was so bad that the walk was called off after Pen-y-Ghent. However, I have been up Snowdon and Mount Etna recently so felt good to have a go at Kilimanjaro.

Kay at Machame Gate

Kay at Machame Gate

Altitude Preparations

Success or failure on a mountain as high as Kilimanjaro also depends on how you adapt to the altitude and that was a big unknown for us. Nainesh is a Doctor and he decided we should take Diamox. In the final analysis, we are not sure whether this helped to ensure success.

We took the Machame route. This is used by about 50% of trekkers ascending Kilimanjaro and can be completed in six or seven days. We chose the six day option which probably increased the pain of the summit day. The first four days were climbing and acclimatisation, the fifth day is the summit day, with the sixth day completing the descent.

Walking in the rain forest

Walking in the rain forest

The Walk

We started from Machame Gate at a height of 1,800 metres (6,000 ft). The sign gives you a clear indication of what is ahead. It is 40km (25 miles) and 4,100 metres of climbing (13,300 ft) to Uluru peak, the summit, from Machame Gate.

We had thirteen helpers for the three of us. These included two guides, a chef (not that I felt hungry for most of the climb), and carriers of tents, tables, chairs etc. There is a VIP option whereby toilets and beds are carried up as well but we did not take this option. The helpers are paid $20 per day and they are keen for people to come to the mountain as it is regarded as a good job in Tanzania. That said, the route was full when we were there with 200 people moving up the mountain each day.

Approaching Camp 3

Approaching Camp 3

Day by Day

The first day took us from Machame Gate to Machame Camp through the rain forest, a distance of 11km (7 miles) and a height rise of 1,200 metres (4,000 ft). The following day we climbed to Shira Camp which was a shorter day but still involved a height rise through moor and grassland of over 1,000 metres (3,500 ft). Shira Camp was a flat area which was welcome.

Day three was a long and tough day taking us up to the Lava Tower at 4,600 metres (15,000 ft) and back down to Barranco Camp at 3,900 metres, more or less the same height as our starting point. Day four started  with the Barranco Wall, a 257 metre rock face which requires some scrambling. We carried on  to Barafu Camp at just under 4,700 metres, sometimes known as base camp.

The Barranco Wall

The Barranco Wall

Summit Day

Day five was the summit day, We started at midnight for what turned out to be a 15 hour day which was physically tougher than anything I had done before. The altitude affects you, generally it is a headache or sickness, with me it was my breathing. I was slow and Nainesh and Kay went ahead, they were not sure whether I would reach the summit. At the glacier rim, Stella Point (18,885 ft), the guide said I could count it as the summit as I had reached the rim (apparently over 50% of climbers stop here), but I knew I had to reach Uluru summit. It felt like a fairly flat walk around the summit rim but it is an extra 500 ft of climbing. At the summit I was out of it, not knowing where I was.

Above the clouds

Above the clouds

The descent started, it was 11km (7 miles) still to go to Mweka Camp. I began to feel better on the descent and the enormity of the achievement started to hit me. I had made it, reached the ‘roof of Africa’. It felt great, what a place, what a day!).

Final Thoughts

Finally, some additional notes that I made. The sun was intense and a considerable amount of snow has melted in recent years. However, it can be very cold at nights, and I would recommend a warm sleeping bag. I found the climb really tough, and just wanted to go home afterwards, so I would recommend doing the climb at the end of the holiday. I may also have been suffering from drinking some dodgy water, as most of this is collected from mountain streams. We saw a number of helicopter rescues which cost $5,000 dollars for an eight minute trip down the mountain. You can insure against this cost.