Tanzania: Kilimanjaro - The highest freestanding mountain in the world
January 1, 1970
by Kristoffer Thun
- Capital – Dodoma
- Currency – Tanzanian shilling
- Beers – Serengeti, Kilimanjaro, Tusker
- Language – Swahili and English
If you don’t have a goal, you don’t know where you going. My goal was to reach the summit on Tanzania: Kilimanjaro within seven days. This is not an easy task and it takes both mental and physical strength to get there.
When I was driving in my taxi from the airport I saw this enormous mountain pops up in otherwise flat landscape. You cannot imagine how big it is before you actually see it with your own eyes. But I can say this when you first gaze at the horizon you have to look a little bit higher than normal to actually see the whole thing. The driver told me that it is not so common to see the whole mountain because of the clouds usually block the view.
After I been dropped off at my hostel for volunteers in Moshi (which is the town near the foot of Kilimanjaro). My guide came to the house to check if I had all the necessary equipment. He told me that it is common among people that come here that they lack of right equipment. But everything is possible to rent for a small amount. I rented extra pants for the summit for $15 that I had under my hiking pants.
Equipment that are important when climbing Kilimanjaro that you should not forget. This is not a complete list of things but something I found out to be especially important.
- Well used Hiking boots
- Socks and underwear
- Duffel bag (easy for porters to carry)
- Hiking poles (I used it most of the time for downhill hiking)
- Hiking pants
- Winter gloves
- Layer on layer cloths (no cotton)
- Sun screen (the sun is very strong when you reach above the clouds)
- A comfortable small backpack for your stuff (such as camera, bars, water).
- Warm sleeping bag (very cold at night)
- Sleeping pad (air is preferred, because of very rocky surface)
- Head lamp with extra batteries for the summit, inside and around the tent.
My route for this hiking was the Machame (also the most popular one) rout which is a seven days journey from Machame gate. This is good route as your body has easier to adapt to the height and you will see more of the landscape around Kilimanjaro. As I entered the Macheme my guide left me alone outside in packing place with tables and benches near the gate. After a while my guide came back for me and he told me you have to sign in. I got briefed about this and they keep track of everyone who enter the park and how far you go. They want you to do this on each camp you come to. They want you sign full name, country, signature but the important thing to know is that you should fill in your passport number (only at the entrance). There and then my adventure would start. I ate my lunchbox that my guide had given me earlier and then began the hike.
The journey begins
The Machame route I choose consists of five diverse climatic zones. The first day I experience the beautiful rainforest. You could feel the humidity, the fresh air when you breathe during ascent. This part is very easy to climb initially consists of simple paths, becoming staircases consisting of roots and thick branches. Sometimes I could see through the trees and the branches of a mountain peak (not the highest point, I was told). Not so much scenery, but enjoy the rainforest and if you lucky some monkeys (perhaps Colobus).
I ate all my meals in the tent during the accent. The first time when my chief came in with my food he gave me a soup with white bread. I thought to myself, is this all I get! But after I ate it all with hopes to become full. The chief came in later with another round of food to the tent. This time I got fish, potatoes with vegetables, I were so happy! When I was done with the food and satisfied, it is not so much left to do in the evenings more than to rest. So it’s good to have something to fiddle with in the evenings. I read books and watch offline shows on my phone.
Every day begins with the same routine you eat breakfast brush your teeth and go to the bathroom in one of the outhouses (which I can recommend to do before you start hiking). The outhouses can sometimes also be found along the way. For each day you walk the landscape changes and become more barren and with less vegetation. Sometimes I turned around and saw this amazing view with the sun shining over fluffy cloud cover and all the vegetation with small rock formations. It is beautiful landscape up here!
Many of the hiking path I took were easy to hike. But it is not the terrain that is the hardest part it is of course the oxygen level and the length the paths can vary during the day mostly it is rocky trails. But one day I had to use my hands to climb sometimes it was little tricky. I was climbing up on a steep slope rock which was also the most enjoyable part of the hike. During the hike, I sometimes had headaches, which the guide said is common and something that I do not have to feel concerned about. I choose not to take any medication due to I want to know when my body does not feel good.
I break to enjoy the view and drink some water.
The big night
After four days of hiking in different heights and camps we reached the Barafu Camp at 4,645 m. I remembered when I came up this high plateau of rocks and thought to myself now I am very close to the summit. I signed in as I have done before at the other camps and went with my guide to look for the tents. After a well-deserved rest and a big meal. My guide came to my tent and said that the weather looks good so we leave for the summit at midnight. With great excitement, I lay in the tent for a while before I then tried to sleep for a few hours.
Midnight, time to gear up with all the cloth I had, some bars, headlamp and walking sticks. In complete darkness me and my guide started walking but we were not alone the whole camp were on their way as well. In the beginning as I was walking up I could see all the lights (headlamps) from everybody far up on the mountain. Then and there I could actually see how many that were going up.
Wake up, kick ass, repeat I said to myself during this tough part. I am used to cold, but I was freezing despite all the thick cloths. As I approached the top, I began to lose balance and motor skills, and needed to use trekking poles more and more to maintain stability. In other words, I was suffering from altitude sickness which can be compared to being little drunk. It takes about 7 hours from the Barafu camp to the summit and it is always in the night (far as i have heard). But 06:30 I was one of the first persons from the camp to reach the summit and it was amazing. But when I reached the summit the sun just came up on the horizon. The sun’s rays hit the clouds similar to a blanket of snow as far as the eye can see with clear blue sky. Me and my guide stayed at the summit just about 30 min. Because of my altitude sickness the guide said that it’s time to head back down. It takes about 2 hours to get back down to the Barafu camp again due to my condition. These 2 hours felt like 4 hours and when I finally came down to the first camp I went straight to the tent and slept for 3 hours. Later when I forced myself to eat me and my guide went to the next camp down the mountain.
Kilimanjaro Summit 5 895 m.
The total cost for this adventure was $ 2 100 (excluding flight) from a volunteer company in Sweden.
Included in this price are:
- Accommodation (two nights in Moshi) with 3 meals a day.
- 2 Porters,
- 1 Guide,
- 1 Chief (3 meals a day and water)
- Park fee
Do not forget the tip to the guide and the others, I paid $150. But I was the only one in my group, which might have been lower if there had been a few more.