Month: July 2013

Notes from the Trail: Kilimanjaro, Day Six

IMG_1974Karanga Camp to Barafu (Base) Camp
• Elevation: 13,106 ft to 15,331 ft (3995 m to 4673 m)
• Distance: 4 km
• Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
• Habitat: Alpine Desert

After a liesurely departure from camp we made our way from Karanga to Base Camp under pleasant temperatures. The short, 4-hour hike consisted of a steady march up a boulder-strewn slope, down one valley and then up the other side to camp. Base Camp is a motley collection of tents scattered among lava boulders on a steeply-sloped ridge. While it is reasonably sheltered from the wind, it is generally crowded, especially at midday with the crossover of trekkers preparing to ascend later that night and those who have descended from the summit that morning and are now resting up before continuing further down the mountain. (more…)

Notes from the Trail: Kilimanjaro, Day Five


Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp
• Elevation: 13,044-13,106 ft (3976-3995 m)
• Distance: 5 km
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Habitat: Alpine Desert

Because of our camp’s position beneath the Barranco Wall, the sun crested the mountain later than usual, and we woke to a very chilly morning, eager to get moving to build some heat. Today’s hike began in dramatic fashion with a steep ascent of the Barranco Wall. This was a 300 meter vertical scramble during which we had to pack away the trekking poles we typically use and rely on our hands to pull us up and around the rocks. It was slow-going and nerve-rattling at times, and we were humbled every time the porters would pass us with their heavy loads perched atop their shoulders and heads. How they manage to make these tough climbs with such apparent ease continues to baffle us. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that they were part mountain goat. We eventually made it to the top in about an hour, sweaty and ready for a break but exhilarated by the accomplishment.  (more…)

Notes from the Trail: Kilimanjaro, Day Four


Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp
Elevation: 12,500-13,044 ft. (3810-3976 m)
Maximum Elevation: Lava Tower, 15,190 ft. (4630 m)
Distance: 11 km
Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
Habitat: Alpine Desert

After another chilly night (Matt’s wrist watch indicated 35° F inside the tent in the morning!) we awoke to another beautifully sunny day. Mt. Meru was in full view with cotton ball-like clouds spread like a blanket below and all around the peak. The first half of our day was spent gradually ascending toward Kili.


Notes from the Trail: Kilimanjaro, Day Three


Shira Camp 1 to Shira Camp 2
Elevation: 11,500-12,500 ft (3505-3810 meters)
Distance: 14 km
Hiking Time: 5-7 hours
Habitat: Heather Moorland

Moving like a herd of turtles in a pot of glue, we departed from camp on the later side today at 9 am to make our way across the Shira Plateau (one of the world’s highest) to our next camp at Shira 2. The Lemosho Route is designed for gradual acclimatization, so the vertical gain today was a modest 350 meters. We savored the gentle ascent across the open plateau, which resembled the desert country of Arizona and Southern California and kept us in full view of Kilimanjaro all day long. (more…)

Notes from the Trail: Kilimanjaro, Day Two


Big Tree Camp to Shira Camp 1
• Elevation: 9,498-11,500 ft (2895-3810 m)
• Distance: 8 km
• Hiking Time: 5-6 hours
• Habitat: Heather Moorland

After leaving Big Tree Camp, today’s trail meandered its way up and down and through a montane rainforest similar to what we had experienced on Day One’s hike. The morning temperatures were crisp, but we warmed up nicely once we got moving. Even so, we were surprised to discover a layer of frost on the leaves in the lower valleys. (more…)

Notes from the Trail: Kilimanjaro, Day One


Londorossi Gate to Mti Mkubwa (Big Tree Camp)
Elevation: 7800-9500 ft (2360-2895 m)
Distance: 6 km
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
Habitat: Rain Forest

After a pleasant breakfast in the open-air restaurant of our hotel in Moshi, we were picked up by our guides, Rashid and Rama. At Rashid’s insistence we stopped by an outdoor gear shop in town to rent additional cold weather gear—snow pants and a heavy down parka. After freezing on top of Mt. Meru, we were easily convinced that the extra layers would make our experience on the summit of Kilimanjaro considerably more pleasant.