This trekking expedition was organised through Exodus. I was accompanied by the usual culprits, Richard Pratt, Hayden Measham and Rod Shaw.
|First view of Kilimanjaro from the air|
A slow start, departing the hotel after 1000 by Land Rover for a rough 2.5 hour drive north on dirt roads to reach the Nall Moru gate at 1950m. Adding a total team of 46 people (porters, cooks, assistant guides and chief guide Meke), we walked up through small villages, coniferous woodland and cultivated fields, mainly of maize, before reaching the rainforest belt, which was darker and a lot damper. ‘Pole pole’ (Swahili for ‘slowly, slowly’) was the order of the day in order to help acclimatisation for the big climb ahead. Eventually we reached the ‘heather zone’ with stands of heather and broom which towered above us, restricting views to the track ahead.
|Setting off on the Rongai route to Kilmanjaro|
After a poor night’s sleep, we were away by 0830 for a rather dull 3 hour walk up though giant heather, with limited views until we reached the more open moorland zone. Even here, views were restricted by mist. We had lunch at the ‘Second Cave’, with fog all around us. A lot of groups stopped here, so it was quite a crowded spot. As the day progressed, the sky cleared a little, giving tempting views of Mawenzi and the heavily eroded Hans Meyer Peak (5149m). For noting: this peak needs a special permit for climbing and the climb involves much steep and loose rock…not for the faint hearted!
|Mawenzi, seen from the trail below the Kikelewa caves|
|About to set off from camp at Kikelewa Caves, 3600m|
|Porters on the trail|
|Vegetation en route to Mawenzi Tarn|
|Acclimatisation walk on Mawenzi to 4465m|
|Camp at Mawenzi Tarn 4330m|
|Crossing The Saddle from Mawenzi to Kibo|
|View to Kilimanjaro from The Saddle|
|Camp at Kibo Huts, 4700m|
Awoken at 1130 and on the hill an hour later. No wind, thank goodness. The group moved well up to about 5000m, but one of our party then had to bale out due to sickness induced fatigue at this point.
|A seven hour slog to the summit...not a lot of fun...|
|Dawn breaks over Hans Meyer Peak|
|Gillman's Point, 5685m...trying to force a smile!|
Our guides soon turned us around, and we descended at great speed, quite literally ‘skiing’ down the loose scree, losing 500m very rapidly. We reached camp in less than two hours for a much needed rest and some quick food.
|Looking back up the interminable scree slope to the summit crater rim|
By 1400, everybody was down and had grabbed some rest, so we set off for our last camp of the trip, Horombo Camp 3720m, 2.5 hours below us, descending across alpine desert and dropping into the heather zone once more. Another early night!
An early start from the busy Horombo Camp, the final morning involving a descent down a well made track known as the Marangu Route (or ‘Coca Cola’ trail to many, due to it being the most popular ascent route). Down through the heather zone again, pleasant easy walking on a well made surface, before reaching the Mandara Huts at 2727m after three hours, for a quick rest break. The final descent took us down through the rainforest, giving us occasional sightings of large colobus monkeys. We exited the national park at Marangu Gate, after a total descent time of 5 hours, a good effort!
|Exodus team looking forward to a beer...|
Waited at the hotel all morning, the experience enlivened by an earthquake which shook me on the balcony for about 20 seconds…quite normal around here apparently! Then homeward bound, via Kilimanjaro International and Nairobi.
Kilimanjaro is a straightforward mountain walk, and, until you reach the summit crater, is not the most enthralling mountain experience. Using the quieter Rongai route from the north means that crowding on paths and at camp sites is less intense than other routes, but this is not a place for isolation. Most climbers start the ascent on a Sunday, so if you want a more personal experience I’d recommend you seek itineraries that start up the hill on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
Altitude sickness affects almost everybody, and most attempt to mitigate this with the use of Diamox. It’s up to you, but I’d always vote for trying to climb without any ‘artificial aid’ - however, it seems that the age of the purist is fast disappearing!