Thursday, January 21, 2016

My Climb to the Roof of Africa : Part 2

Last Wednesday I wrote about my climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I realized about halfway through the post that it was already ridiculously long, with much more to write, so I decided to turn this in to two posts. If you missed the first post you can find it here.

When I last left off we were camping at the base of the Barranco Wall. 

We were able to get a late start the next morning. We slept in until after 8AM, unheard of so far on our trek & ate a leisurely breakfast before breaking out an i-pod. Our porters (sherpas) & guides wanted to hear the original "Baby got Back" song by Sir-Mix-A-Lot, not the re-done Nikki Minaj BS, so I whipped out my i-pod & we danced, we danced until almost lunchtime.

We had an advantage the other hikers did not have, we were giving ourselves an extra day to climb the mountain. Our stopping point this day would be where most crews took their lunch break.

Once the other hikers were out of our way we  headed for the Barranco Wall. We had watched other hikers pick their way up it in the hours before, but now it was our turn. If you look closely in the picture below you can see TINY dots of people headed up the Barranco Wall. The climbing is so slow that a LINE of people will form. We were lucky enough to be able to wait it out. Our crew was the very last to leave Barranco Camp, save for an older gentleman and his small team.

 The Barranco Wall did not come easy, it was a lot of grabbing hands, helping each other up & slowly choosing the next rock to step on. So I was grateful to reach the top. The rest of the hiking was up & down & up & down again.We only gained about 1,500FT of elevation this day but I was oh so glad to reach our base for the night. Karanga Camp.

My brother & I
After our normal routine of dry clothes, snack, nap, dinner we were early to bed. The view the next morning could not be beat. I could get used to this. We dined al fresco enjoying the break in the fog & the view it yielded.

All of that came grinding to a halt when we heard an engine roaring up ahead. All of a sudden, in a flurry of Swahili all of our guides & porters began grabbing things that weren't tied down, others began rushing to a large flat area and setting up rocks in a large circle, clearing the middle from debris. A helicopter finally came into view, this was unheard of our guide Seth told us, Tanzania we were told did not own a helicopter. Nor were mountain rescues attempted this high. Someone with a lot of money must be having big problems.

Moments later the helicopter touched down, it was a Kenyan crew, having flown several hours from Nairobi, the capital. Just after they landed two guides ran over & after speaking rapidly to the co-pilot for a few minutes ran away just before the helicopter took back off. Engine sputtering.

We later learned the helicopter had landed at the wrong camp, the person they were attempting to rescue was an older gentleman stuck at Barranco Camp. The one left behind as we began our climb up the wall.

After quite the start to the morning we started our trek to what would be high camp. The last camp before our summit attempt. Our day was "short", only 3 - 4 hours of hiking. Once we reached our very rocky high camp we had an early dinner & discussed our summit logistics before heading to bed at 6PM. Alarms were set for 11PM that same evening to begin our summit climb.

Alarms went off at 11PM but instead of packing up all of our gear to move to our next camp, we got dressed & left with just our day packs as we would return to camp after we summitted. We quickly ate & grabbed a variety of snacks. The wind was biting and with no trees or vegetation to stop it, it was relentless. But I stopped when I saw this. Knowing just a few short hours later I would be looking down at our camp.

Following the lead of our guide Gunther we began plodding our way out of camp & towards the summit. I was cold, layered in every article of clothing I had brought with me, 5 upper body layers & 3 pairs of pants, I truly COULD NOT put my arms down.

Along the way we passed the merge point of another route, one that starts in Kenya and wraps it's way around towards the summit.

Pictured at the Tanzania // Kenya trail split with Gunther
I thought we would never reach the summit, it was starting to get light & it was nearing 7AM. Gunther decided it was time for a break. We sat down to have a snack & he told us all to turn around. And we saw this. The sun rising on Africa. 

As the sun began to rise we were able to see glaciers off to either side of our path. We were on a narrow path with little to nothing on either side.

After marvelling for a few minutes it was time to pack up & continue towards the summit. I was relieved to find it was just a few more minutes away.

Before I knew it, WE MADE IT!!!

Brother & I at the summit

RMI group at the summit
Our time at the top was short lived. Despite the sun the wind was still biting & the temperatures frigid. We headed back down to high camp. Our path looking much more steep in the light than I remembered climbing in the dark. The "climb" down was difficult as the path was made up mostly of loose rock and deep gravel. I skidded & tumbled my way back to high camp, where there were lukewarm pancakes waiting for me. Pancakes have never tasted so good.

Our day wasn't over there. We still had over 5,000 FT of elevation to drop to get to our camp for the night, Mweka Camp. I don't know about you, but down to me always seems harder than up. All of a sudden, our slow & steady guide Gunther took off, I swear he was sprinting down the mountain. I tried my best to keep up but it was quite the effort.

We celebrated that night in camp and our final morning was bittersweet. Our porters & guides sang us the traditional Kilimanjaro Mountain song in Swahili & it truly was an emotional experience. They were grateful for us, these crazy American's who wanted to pay to come climb their mountain, and we were so grateful for them, these crazy Tanzanian's willing to help us do it. 

Leaving Mweka Camp we still had about 4 hours of hiking to reach Machame Gate & our welcoming committee. The hiking was easy, a slight downgrade, and knowing we couldn't get lost, we split up, groups going at their own pace, based on how excited they were to drink a beer at the base.

We were greeted at the base of the mountain with beer & cold Coke & quite the lunch spread.

After lunch we piled back in the Unimog & headed for the hotel, ready for our first shower in over a week.

I'll be back in another week or two to share my safari experience, so I hope you'll check back in. In the meantime, I'm linking up with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud.


  1. What an amazing experience! To be able to just explore the awesome world that God has created through travel, photos, people, culture, and food is such a blessing.

  2. Congratulations on such an amazing accomplishment! These pictures are breathtaking. I can only imagine how it looked in person.

  3. Oh my goodness, what an amazing experience!! Congratulations on this feat and thank you for sharing those GORGEOUS pictures!

  4. That picture you took right before you started the summit attempt looks unreal. What an amazing adventure! It must have been just breathtaking to see the sun rise and then to finally get to the top!


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