5 days to climb Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro was incredible. I was lucky enough to go on this trip with my brother. He is turning 50!! He always wanted to climb it and so did I! I really love going on adventures, so I jumped at the opportunity to go.

What you need to know:

  • You have to hike during the “dry season” July to October, or January to February.
  • You have to go through a company to climb the mountain. That is a huge income for the locals. They also carry your bags! You have to have a duffel bag. I used this duffel bag from Patagonia. I like it beacuse it is waterproof.
  • Take it seriously, altitude, and the cold!

Things extra things to bring:

We flew from SFO to Dubai (16 hours), then Dubai to Nairobi (7hours) then Nairobi to Kilimanjaro airport. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa; it is in Tanzania on the east coast of Africa. The peak of the mountain is at 19,341 ft (5,895m). It was a volcano! We decided to go on the Machame Route because it is more challenging. It usually takes about 6-7 days.

Day 1:

My brother wanted to condense the trip to only 6-5 days, so we skipped the first day. Usually, hikers get there and sleep, shower and prep for the hike. We skipped that completely. We got off the airplane and changed in the bathrooms at a hotel. We repacked our bags so that we had our day pack and our duffel bag. My brother and I piled into the van, full of guides, chefs, and our porters. It is great that they require them, it makes a great source of employment for the Tanzanians. The van was so heavy with all our gear and all the people it seemed that it might not make it up the hill to the first camp. We stopped at all these places to get chicken, get meat, to get veggies, and even more people. We finally made it up to start gate. It is so beautiful! It was like a rainforest. So many flowers and moss on the trees. There are even monkeys! After 6 miles we made it to Machame Camp. It was starting to get dark and cold. We walked faster than our porters, so we made it before our tent and stuff. We waited in the cold until they got to the camp. The first night we had our dinner in our tent! It was great!

Machame Camp. Our first camp.

Day 2:

We woke up early and started our hike up the mountain! It was straight uphill for 4 miles. It was so cool we climbing over boulders. The trees were getting shorter. Getting to the alpine altitude. It was so crazy watching these porters carry these bags on their heads on the boulders. The Shira camp is at 12,500ft. It was the first time we could see the peak! It is amazing, so many people were there. It was like a tent city! You could see tents all around us. The bathrooms weren’t great. They smelled so badly.

Day 3:

So far our guides were letting hike at our own pace, but on the third day, they wanted us to slow down. The say “poli poli” which is Swahili for “slowly, slowly.” It was like the mantra for the whole climb. We have to acclimate to the altitude, so we headed to Lava tower at 15,100 ft! The guides want you to go slow, so you don’t get altitude sickness. So if you are worried about it, do go slowly. Lava Tower is this giant plug from another volcano. We had lunch on at the camp. There were almost no trees at this altitude. We then headed down to Barranco camp at 13,044 ft.

Day 4:

We woke up, and it was foggy! We couldn’t see anything. We got back on the trail! This first part was really cool cause we had to cross a river and walk up a cliff face. It was relatively easy, but the porters with all the bags on their heads. I was so impressed that they could make it up the route. We then climbed the 6 miles to Barafu camp, also known as “base camp.” We got there on the early side so we could get ready for the next day.

Day 5:

Peak day! I was a little nervous. We had to wake up at midnight to climb to the top! It was pitch black, no lights, except headlamps. It was so neat to look up the hill and see the headlights zigzag up the mountain. It was like walking straight uphill on a treadmill on the highest level, in a walking freezer, with a high-speed fan blowing cold air on you, in the pitch dark. All you can see is your feet and the stars. We are hiking uphill for 6 hours!! We made it to the top head of the sunrise. We had to wait until the sunrise. It was so cold! My hair froze! We finally got a photo at the sign and watched the sun come up. It was unbelievable, I have never seen the sun come up below where I am. Usually, I’m at least eye level with the sun. We also got to see the glacier!

We then started to head down with the sun out. It was beautiful and hot! I was stripping all my layers! It was straight downhill on the sand. It was killing my knees; it was like skiing down the hill. We made it back to Barafu camp around 8 am and went straight to bed. We had to get up at 9 am to have “lunch” and start hiking back down the hill. Our guides wanted to make it home. So we aimed to get down to the main gate, but our legs were starting to hurt. We barely made it to Mweka camp 10,065 ft. But it was only 1 pm, so we decided to keep going to Mweka Gate 5,330 ft. It was so long! We were so tired! And we couldn’t move our legs, but we made to the bottom!

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