This past December, Ian and I tackled climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was our first really long hike. We did Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo a couple years ago, we’ve climbed Adam’s peak in Sri Lanka, and of course we’ve done day hikes, but nothing of this magnitude.
We figured that since we’re pretty inexperienced hikers/climbers/trekkers we would opt for the 8 day hike. Well Ian says that the reason we chose this 8 day Lemosho route is because 1)we had the time and 2)for acclimatization But also, I think our inexperience was a factor too. This Lemosho route has one of the highest rates of success for summiting.
I’d been pretty nervous about the whole endeavor for MONTHS leading up to our trip. I was worried that I wasn’t fit enough, I was worried about not making it to the top, I was worried about not acclimatizing properly, malaria, the bathroom situation on the climb, etc. I was talking to everyone I know who had attempted the climb. Everyone had the same advice: Just enjoy it, take it a day a time, just know in your head that you are going to make it.
Anyway, the day of our flight arrived. Everything went pretty smoothly until we arrived at the Kilimanjaro airport. Our baggage didn’t make it.
This threw us both for a loop. A panic loop. Our climb was starting the very next day!! What were we going to do?! Luckily, b/c Ian was so crazy when we were packing (he was paranoid (with good reason, apparently) that our luggage wouldn’t make it to Africa with us, so he made us pack as much ‘technical gear’ in our carry-ons as we could), we ended up having most of the bare essentials: waterproof pants and jackets, an insulating layer, warm hats, gloves. And we had worn our enormous hiking boots to prevent them from taking up too much space in our bags, so all that was good. Of course, I only ONE t-shirt and ONE pair of underwear and ONE pair of sucks, so all that = gross.
We talked to the Zara reps and basically, they told us that we should go ahead and start our climb, as planned. When and IF our bags showed up, then they would have some porters bring them up for us. Okay. Of course we did that. You don’t fly to tanzania, PAY to climb that mountain and then just give up the first second the going gets tough. So we rented some extra gear, and before we took off, I asked to stop in Moshi to buy some underwear and sun hats. And off we went.
We started our hike in the rain forest. Chirping birds, bright green foliage, jumping colobus monkeys, and mud surrounded us. That first day we hiked about 7 hours – apparently b/c it was the rainy season, the car couldn’t take us as far as they usually do. After we walked for about 3 hours, our guide said, “See this gate? This is where we NORMALLY start on the Lemosho route.” It was dark by the time we arrived to Big Tree Camp. But I’ll tell ya, it was super nice to finally sit and then to eat something. Yum.
The next day of hiking was one of my favorites. We started off in the rainforest again, but we moved into the moorland and the heath, and then we moved on to the Shira Plateau. All of the scenery was beautiful and it kept changing.
That second day, we had a fabulous view of Kibo. At least, we had a great view for a few hours before the fog rolled in. It was so crazy watching the fog come in b/c you could literally see a wall of fog coming at us – it reminded me of that scene in Catching Fire (sequel to Hunger Games) where that terrible fog attacks Katniss and her crew. Freaked me out.
We stopped here at the lava tower for lunch – mind you this was after trudging through snow. Chunks of snow kept collecting getting stuck between my shoe and the strap of my gater. It was truly a white Christmas though, full- on snow was falling! Leaving the lava tower was quite an adventure. The snow stopped eventually but we had a super steep descent into the Barranco Valley. It was gorgeous. By this day (our fourth day) we got super close to Kibo. and again, the scenery was beautiful: rocks, streams, water falls.
Day 4/ Day 5: I’ll be honest – I had a hard time, mentally. I just kept thinking that if I could make it half way through the climb, the second half would be easy peasy. WRONG!! This is a tough climb. And it is made tougher when you only have one t shirt! But we both persevered. and eventually we did end up making it to the summit. The day we summited was SO hard though!
We left for the summit at midnight on the sixth day. The camelbacks were endless! Endless, endless camelbacks. At around 6:30/7:00am we FINALLY made it to Stella Crater. It felt like such a huge accomplishment. Our guides, Raymond and Wilburd had even brought us hot tea, and when we reached the sign that said, “Welcome to Stella Crater,” they popped out that thermos, served us tea, and we all celebrated together! I can’t even express how hard the climb was from Barafu Camp to the Crater. From Stella Crater to the peak was just gravy, comparatively speaking.