Tag Archives: Kilimanjaro

Last leg

Monday 3rd August 2015, 10.10am (day 1,439)

Last leg, 3/8/15

What goes up must, of course, come down, a job that from the summit of Kili takes another day-and-a-half of walking. The final few hours, down from Mweka camp to the park gate, was done, for us, in pouring rain, something I’m very glad we didn’t have on our ascent through the forest on day one. Anticlimactic? Of course, a bit, but it was always going to be. I got down in one piece with no ill effects and all in all must count it as one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

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The roof of Africa

Sunday 2nd August 2015, 6.40am (day 1,438)

Roof of Africa, 2/8/15

So here it is, the culmination of this walk, the highest point in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world, Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro (5,895m or 19,341 feet above sea level).

You were getting a photo of it for today even if it had been as flat and featureless as a bowling green, but in all honesty this was the most beautiful, spectacular summit of any mountain I have ever visited. Believe me though, the effort it took to get here was intense. I don’t mean the five days of walking which had proceeded it which — if one can avoid altitude sickness (and I did) was not all that difficult — but the final climb up the ash slopes of Kibo, done between about 11.30pm and 6am, because during the hours of daylight it would be a) too hot and sunny and b) next-to-impossible anyway because one needs the ash to be semi-frozen in order to have a chance of ascending it. I had heard reports of people saying that one took about three steps up and then had to rest for about twenty seconds before having a chance of moving on, and dismissed them as exaggeration, but I can assure you they are not. That is really what it was like.

But once up there… time it right and one is there at sunrise. The light gradually reveals a wondrous landscape of delights, all over three-and-a-half miles up in the air. Here, the summit itself is on the far right of the picture, just caught by the sun which has also (I love this) projected a shadow of the whole summit cone onto the far horizon, neatly laid over Mount Meru, Tanzania’s second-highest peak, which at 4,565m or nearly 15,000 feet is no dwarf but from here is quite overshadowed (literally) by Kili. On the left is one of the mountain’s remaining glaciers, although don’t expect it to be around for much longer as within ten to fifteen years the ‘Snows of Kilimanjaro’ reported by Hemingway will most likely be gone — maps and pictures that show the whole summit area as covered in ice are now obsolete. Still, it’s a landform I’ve never been so close to before, and added an unearthly, or at least an un-African, element to the scene. The full moon above, which had illuminated our climb, is just the final touch.

What a place. Will I be back? Who knows, perhaps. I probably would do it again. If you do get the chance, and fancy putting in the work, I highly recommend it.

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Steve at Barafu Camp

Saturday 1st August 2015, 6.10pm (day 1,437)

Steve at Barafu camp, 1/8/15

Barafu camp lies at 4,600m, or about 15,100 feet, and is ‘base camp’ for the final ascent to the summit of Kili, which rises behind this point. One arrives there around lunchtime and is supposed to get some sleep in the afternoon and evening because the final climb is done overnight. But the views are amazing, and I was not the only one defying advice and being up and about later on as the sun went down behind the shoulder of Kibo (and what must be one of the world’s most spectacularly-sited toilets, visible to the right).

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Bird in the Karanga Valley

Friday 31st July 2015, 1.00pm (day 1,436)

Bird in Karanga valley, 31/7/15

Did not see a huge amount of fauna on Kili, though with so many people around this is probably attributable to animals’ shyness rather than depopulation as such. There were flocks of big white-necked ravens, with impressive beaks, however, and also quite a few of these sparrow-like birds. This one was pictured in the Karanga valley, which we dropped into just before the end of walking on day 4, here at about 3,700m (12,140 feet).

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The porters, and Kibo

Thursday 30th July 2015, 9.25am (day 1,435)

Porters and Kibo, 30/7/15

In no way was this climb of Kilimanjaro a solo effort, and I mean that beyond just the fact I went up as part of a group of walkers. We had four guides, then also a team of porters, who took most of our luggage up the mountain, not to mention the tents, cooking equipment and other such gear. These guys (and occasionally girls — saw two or three female porters during the week) put in an astonishing amount of work and without them the climb would not have been possible for us. Here, some of them are pictured on day 3, which was one of only two fully sunny days during the week. Kibo, the main peak of the Kili massif, is in the background — getting closer… We approached it today through this Mars-like landscape.

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Shira Camp, in the rain

Wednesday 29th July 2015, 4.35pm (day 1,434)

Shira camp, 29/7/15

Day 2 ended at Shira Camp, 3,810m (12,500 feet, or 2.37 miles) above sea level. It probably looks nicer than this in decent weather, but most of the second half of this day was spent in the rain, a slightly dispiriting experience. Should you ever climb Kili, don’t necessarily expect it to take place in some kind of glorious African sunshine — a lot of the time the weather was rather reminiscent of the Lake District.

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At the Machame Gate

Tuesday 28th July 2015, 11.00am (day 1,433)

Machame gate, 28/7/15

There are various routes one can take up Kilimanjaro. Ours was known as the Machame route, named for its starting point, one of the gates to the Kilimanjaro National Park. This point stood at 1,800m (just over 5,900 feet), so was already higher than I had ever actually walked before. As you can see, it was popular with these critters, blue monkeys, this one using this information board as a vantage point to scope out the potential for stealing the food of the other critters, the hundreds of walkers, porters and guides getting ready to start on the climb (one thing about Kili — you don’t do it for the solitude).

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Packing for Kilimanjaro

Thursday 23rd July 2015, 1.50pm (day 1,428)

Kili kit, 23/7/15

OK, we’re finally here. I’m off tomorrow for the first stages of a trip that on Sunday 2nd August should culminate with me reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 feet (5,895 meters). I’m not taking the laptop so there will be a two-week hiatus in the blogging, but hopefully not in the picture-taking — I have a backup camera just in case…  I’m certainly ready, in fact I feel like I am just hanging around and am very keen to get on with it. So let’s do it. I’m back late on 6th August, will probably be spending all day on the 7th sorting out the social media, so expect to hear from me again then. In the mean time, if you would like to support my fundraising cause, the Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team, feel free to visit my sponsorship page: every little helps and all monies raised will go to the CVSRT.

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Where I’m going next year

Wednesday 9th July 2014, 5.30pm (day 1,049)

Kilimanjaro map, 9/7/14

After yesterday’s fun with the elephants, spent the day working in Nairobi and had very little chance to get a decent photo of anything.

But I did buy this map, and for a reason. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in the world that one can just walk up (as opposed to needing specialist mountaineering skills) and I’ve already paid a deposit to do exactly that, on an organised trek, around this time next year. So if I’m still blogging then — and I hopefully will be — here’s an advance notice of what to expect…. Isn’t this a great-looking map? Let’s hope the reality matches the anticipation.

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