Climbing Kilimanjaro. It was an idea that Remco Kuilman and his father had and carried out in June 2018. They left for Tanzania and reached Uhuru Peak via the fantastic Lemosho Route, the highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Roof of Africa. In this blog post Remco takes us back to the adventure that both he and his father will remember forever.
by: Remco Kuilman
The Lemosho Route was our choice because of the good reviews and the relatively high success rate. Once on the way to the starting point of the route a large part of the porters were picked up. Many of them come from Arusha. Arusha is a city about 80 kilometers from Moshi. Both towns are popular starting points for Kilimanjaro ascents.
The first day the hike is fairly easy. Not many altimeters are made yet and there is the possibility to walk in the shade through the rainforest. You will spend the night in the Mkubwa camp. This camp is still in the rainforest. Chances are you will meet monkeys here. In the evening it can cool down quickly in June and a jacket is certainly necessary.
The other people, who also camp that night in Mkubwa camp you will probably meet for the rest of the week. They all follow the same route, some opt for seven days, others for eight. It is nice to have a chat with everyone.
Day two is a tough day, via Shira Camp I to Shira Camp II. Shira Camp I is almost 1000 meters higher than the overnight accommodation. In four challenging hours, you walk there for lunch. After lunch, you walk another four hours. This part is significantly less strenuous. The difference in altitude between Shira Camp I and Camp II is only 250 metres (3850M). In the afternoon you constantly see the top of Kilimanjaro on your left. Very cool!
Singing Porters and the Barranco Wall
The next morning starts with a musical performance by the porters. Singing is deeply embedded in the culture, and you can see in almost all groups that the porters occasionally make a show of it. Mzungu was our lead singer with our group. A fantastic guest who knew how to combine dancing and singing. If you just sit through it then the porters will make sure that you get some energy again.
If you take the Lemosho route you will have lunch the third day at Lava Tower. Lava Tower is a camp at 4600m, another steep climb. A perfect opportunity to acclimatize better, because after having lunch at Lava Tower you descend to Barranco Camp which is at 3900M.
On the way to the Lava Tower, you'll notice that you're walking at altitude. The guides also start practicing hiking at a very slow pace. Based on our breathing they determine whether we should hike faster or slower. It is important that you can maintain one calm pace for a long time. During the climb to the summit, it is important that you keep moving. In the night to the summit it is cold (-10 to -20 C) and there is fear of freezing symptoms when you take too many breaks.
On day four, from Baranco, you have to climb the Barranco Wall. Where actually the whole trekking to the top is not technical, the Barranco Wall is really a hands and feet game. In the end, everyone here will come up just fine. It does seem that in the high season you sometimes have to wait for each other here. From Barranco, you walk to Karanga camp. This camp is at 3995M elevation.
This is the last camp where there is running water. Not that that matters to you, because you never have anything to do with running water. This is only important for the porters, they have to carry water from this camp to the next camp. They carry the water for themselves and for cooking and washing. Every morning and every evening we were given a bowl of hot water to wash us. You only carry the water you want to drink during the day. A Camelback is useful for on your packing list.
Day five you walk from Karanga camp to Barafu camp, also called base camp. You will arrive at Barafu camp in the early afternoon. While you're served your lunch, you'll see people entering the camp from above. They come from the top. Of course, you can have a chat with them but our guide advises against that. He thinks it's better to go blind. I saw two guys I had met coming down, they had shortened the trip by a day halfway. Both had reached the top but were of course tired.
In the afternoon you get time to rest.
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At 18:00 there is another dinner served and then we were awoken at 23:00 to 'breakfast'. So we were ready to leave the camp at 24:00.
We had clear rules. 1) you feel bad (altitude sickness) you report it and don't keep it a secret, 2) we walk slowly, very slowly but long stretches in a row, 3) if one of them doesn't make it, the other is allowed to go ahead. Especially rule one is important for your own health, there is no helicopter that can land for a while should it go wrong.
Rule two has served us well. We indeed hiked slowly but in the end, we were faster than most groups because we hardly rested. After every hour of hiking, we allowed ourselves to stop for a maximum of 1-1.5 minutes. Just before sunrise, we were at Stella Point. Stella Point is the crater rim of the volcano. When you are here, you can see the top and it is only 1 kilometer and 100 altimeters. Eventually, because you hike so slowly, you will take about 45 to 60 minutes on this last part.
Snow on Uhuru Peak
Around half past eight, we were on a beautiful snow-covered Uhuru Peak. After +/- 10 minutes the guides want to start the descent, there is still a chance that altitude sickness will strike.
The descent was quite difficult for us. There was a lot of ice and snow when we were there, which meant that it was slippery and it was difficult to descend. Good crampons are recommended when there is snow. This makes the descent much easier.
Arriving at base camp the porters were waiting for us with a delicious lunch and some songs as a token of appreciation. We ourselves took about 4.5 - 5 hours to descend. If there is less snow, this will be many times faster. Eventually ascending to Uhuru Peak and descending to the camp took about twelve hours. Incidentally, you are not there yet, you descend that day to Mweka Camp.
We only arrived here at half past eight in the evening, my father fell through his knees at every step but made it on the adrenaline from top the camp was reached. Deliciously satisfied you go into the night.
The last day you stroll down in about three hours. You don't do a round by the way, you end up at a different gate than where you started, this applies to all routes. All in all, climbing Kilimanjaro is a fantastic experience that just has to be ticked your bucket list!
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Tips and remarks for your Kilimanjaro climb:
- Bring a thin aluminum mat to sleep on, it reflects your body heat and ensures comfortable nights.
- Bring a thermos for the last night. There is a chance that your Camelback will freeze during the climb. Drinking something warm during a break is really nice.
- Bring good sunscreen and vaseline for your lips.
- If you quickly suffer from cold hands/feet buy heatsticks to warm them up.
Price of the climb
Climbing Kilimanjaro is an expensive affair, but if you reflect on it, it's actually extremely cheap. Per climber (tourist) there are about five porters with it. We were with the two of us and had two guides, nine porters and a cook with us. These eleven people work full-time for you for a week. In addition, half of the price of your Kilimanjaro climb consists of fees for permits. In the end, there is very little left for the staff. These guys work mainly for the tips. In this blog post, you can read more about the tippign ceremony and giving tips to porters, guides and chefs.
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