Mt.Kilimanjaro is the Worlds Highest Free Standing Mountain standing at 5895M/19341 Ft AMSL , the highest Mountain in Africa, the highest point in Africa-Uhuru Peak and is one of the Worlds Largest Volcanoes. When I climbed Mt.Kenya in 2006 , I resolved that it was only befitting to climb Mt.Kilimanjaro next. Its accolades were adequate enticement and when I got to see pictures of this beautiful magnificent Mountain Top, I was sold-We would officially have our date.
First forward to 2014 and finally I would have my date with the assistance of http://lobeliatrekkingtours.com/. I was lucky to be paired with a fellow hiker called James who was a great hiking partner. I will forever be greatfull to the whole team for guiding me from pre-climb to post-climb.
Day 1: Marangu Gate to Mandara Hut
Mount Kilimanjaro is found within the Kilimanjaro National Park which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We accessed it from the Marangu gate at about 9 a.m which gave us adequate time to hire walking sticks “snow poles” and all other ammenities we discovered we didnt have. I highly recommend getting the snow poles because they assisted me greatly during the whole hike. One then heads to the registration office where you have to present your original passport to pay for entrance fee.
Kindly note that one cannot hike without the use of the certified guides and porters. The route is quite friendly, we took about 4 hours to cover the 8 km and it was more like walking in a forest than hiking.
It was great when we finally arrived at Mandara hut and greatly suprised that the accomodation referred to as huts are actually quite spacious, clean and really nice rooms. We registered arrival with the rangers and soon after were fed a sumptious meal by the Lobelia team.
Day 2: Mandara Hut 2720m to Horombo Hut 3720m
The distance to be covered is 11 km and we took about 6 hours. The route is generally flat with one getting to enjoy the moorland environment and thus wasn’t too taxing. The weather was preety warm and we hardly wore our jackets prefering to stay in our thermal tops.
Arriving at Horombo was quite exciting and the feeling of accomplishment continued to grow. Here we met several other hikers and soon people were trading life stories.
Day 3: Horombo Hut (3720m) to Zebra rocks (4020m)
This day is referred to as the acclimatization day. This is the first day I would say I felt like I was hiking and no it wasn’t a nice feeling. That walk/hike is tiring, you actually feel the ascent and there after descent on the walk back. My muscles complained seriously, I was out of breath, I was exhausted and that day I criticised myself for not having physically prepared for the hike. My good genes were working but would have greatly appreciated some keep fit regiment. When we returned back to base, I slept-I was that bust.
Day 4: Horombo Hut (3720m to Kibo Hut 4745m)
The date with Mt.Kilimanjaro started feeling more real . We were getting tired faster, we were losing breath faster, our muscles were complaing, we were getting hungrier more and even the trail started being rocky and unfriendly.The carry on bags even started feeling like a burden even though all they had was our snacks and sweaters.
When we finally arrived at Kibo, we were super elated as the peak was getting closer. The huts here are bigger and hold larger numbers due to the high traffic.
Then it started to snow, like really snow-no one told me when it snows its like icycles slapping your face. All those times I watched people enjoying the snow falling had lied-it is not enjoyable. Imagine being slapped continuously on your face by ice – we stayed indoors, hudled in our beds trying to keep warm. No, I was not going to dance in the falling snow as I had always dreamt of doing -there before me was the disparity between imagery and reality.We had hot drinks to keep warm, supper was served at 5.30pm and we were instructed to be in bed by 6.00p.m. Aparrently, the next hike would begin at midnight and thus they needed us all rested. Honestly, this is one of the most rediculous thing I had ever heard. I tossed and turned, tossed and turned, counted sheep on the roof, analysed my whole life up to that point and still no sleep.
Day 5: Kibo Hut 4720m-Uhuru Peak 5895m-Kibo Hut 4720m-Horombo Hut 3720m
This is officially the longest day ever and the toughest part of the entire hike. Prepare psychologically.
Finally, at about 10pm my sleep started peeping from its hiding but alas, at 11:00pm we were woken up to start preparing. I was unimpressed-How, why-are they serious-I just started sleeping. The rationale for this is that 1-the darkness prohibits hikers from seeing the steepness and distance and thus get cold feet and two seeing the peak at sunrise is highly recommended. Oh well, we all woke up, had some hot drinks and some snacks, got prepped/advise, dressed-I was in three trousers, three thermal tops, three sweaters/jumpers, two pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves, head lamp, day pack or in this case night pack and at midnight our journey begun. Each hiking cluster left the huts as per instruction with a difference of about 15min between each.
The air was freezing cold but our determination was enough to keep us warm and going. We had been advised to walk in single file each behind their guide and it was a sight to behold – small flashlights littering the path. It was pitch black all around and safest to just concentrate on lighting the path where one would place their foot. I was exhausted and more so sleepy, but I was excited and determined to succeed.
At first the hike was alright, the pace steady and all we could hear was the wind whistling. No one was talking as it seemed everyone was in deep thought. However, as the hike proceeded the Mighty Mountain showed off why it is respected. Soon, the ground beneath our feet felt like sand, sand that shifted as you walked making you feel like for every one step you took-you retreated three steps back. This went on for the longest time and was really annoying as it felt like we weren’t moving an inch.
This went on until a place I later learnt is called Hans Meyer cave(5150m). The pace of the walk is slow and as my guide would say-“pole pole”-slowly. Along the way the order of the hikers would shift as others would take time to rest -like myself.The air was freezing cold and even the balaclava didn’t help. Breathing starts becoming harder and for the first time I was breathing in and out-consciously.The air becomes so cold that you stare at the floor-you are avoiding it getting into your eyes.
And then we got to a place called called Jamaica and let me warn you- Jamaica to Gilmans Point is the hardest part of the whole hike. The soft sand beneath your feet changes to rock, hard solid rock. The hike starts getting real as you now start ascending over boulders of rock and at times you have to pull yourself over the boulders of rock. The temperatures drop even lower, the air gets even thinner and your body starts to react. My fingertips officially started getting frozen regardless of the fact I had on two pairs of gloves, my face was super super cold, I kept feeling thirsty yet the water that I had diluted with glucose was not helping. I believe the lack of sleep and exhaustion of the previous day started catching up and I was not only tired-I was finished.
We all had chocolate bars that we are advised to take for energy-my taste buds could not stand it it-Imagine-my tastebuds rejecting chocolate. But slowly we trudged on, slowly we climbed over rocks, slowly we dragged our feet to a point it actually felt like we were standing. The mantra of one foot infront of the other changed to one foot next to the other and soon it felt like they weren’t moving. However, I was determined-I had to accomplish this mission.My guide was very encouraging, giving me morale, urging me on, cheering me on even with my slow movements.
He told me not to worry as other hikers passed us, told me not to worry when I just wanted to sit down, crawl into a ball and sleep, he urged me on. I could honestly feel the energy ebb out of my body, feel my muscles searching for oxygen, my nose was running, my fingertips felt numb, my toungue limp in my mouth but onward we kept.
Finally as the sun started to rise we arrived at Gillmans point 5681 m/18640 ft and I almost cried with joy.There we sat, sat, sat and looked at the monster that is Uhuru Peak in the Yonder. I could see lots of snow ahead of me and I was elated. We met other hikers, we all shared what was left of anyones warm drinks and we breathed. It was sad to see some hikers actually quit at this point, their bodies giving up.It was funny to have other hikers returning from Uhuru Peak finding us there like James. Ahead of us we could see Uhuru Peak and all we needed to do was walk around the crater mouth on the path created on the snow. Seeing lots of snow around us was also a beauty to behold. I was elated, I was excited that I slept on the snow, wrote my name on it and just enjoyed this rare spectacle before me.
I cannot explain where my energy came from, I felt like running to the peak-It was so near yet so far. When we got to a place called Stella Point almost an hour later, the place had super black rock but we could also now see glaciers-things I had only learnt as a young girl beconing. By now, my body was moving on auto pilot.
Glaciers are very beautiful- you need to see them for yourself. The galciers here were in several blocks covering large areas, they were so white that they reflected the blue skies above and ended up looking blue.They are a sight to behold and I took time to enjoy them. Pity we couldnt touch them but only see them in the yonder. It is also sad to note that global warming is quickly eroding this beauty so hurry and hike Mt.Kilimanjaro.
I arrived at Uhuru Peak 5985m, 19341ft AMSL,The Highest Point in Africa, the Worlds Highest free standing mountain, one of the worlds largest volcanos at exactly 9.00 a.m-three hours later than the normally expected time. I was elated, I was over the moon, I was shocked, I was excited and I was proud of my achievement- I had reached-no matter the time.Thank You Mt.Kilimanjaro, you are trully a gentleman.
Looking around the Snow capped peak, the volcanic mountains crater rim, the view-I could only sit, smile and look at all this beauty that is the creation of God. I jumped, I smiled, I hugged, I took pictures and just took enough time to enjoy my date. Mt.Kilimanjaro was just perfect.
We there after started the descent down which only took about 3hrs yet 6 hours to ascent.We had our lunch and soon after started the descent from Kibo Hut to Horombo Hut as it isn’t recommneded to stay at that altitude for long especially after having hiked Uhuru Peak.The walk back was Ok, I was actually walking with a spring in my walk-I was super proud of my achievement. I also confirm that it was wise to start the hike in the middle of the night, seeing the terrain by day-I believe most people would have given up at Kibo hut.
I however ended up hitting a rock enroute that somehow ended up damaging my nail bed. The toe became swollen, it started bleeding, it became distorted and the pain was almost unbearable. However, the journey had to be compeleted even with the new walking style-limping.
The snow also decided to show off and let me assure you, there is nothing gracefull about being slapped by ice/snow and having no where to shelter. When we arrived at Horombo, there was jubilation all round from majority of the hikers who had made it to the top with the new groups ascending the next day being given tips by us “the pros”. By evening I had acquired a new walking style with the limping and had now acquired a swollen face that had most people wondering if I had been involved in a fight.
Day 6:Horombo Hut-Mandara hut-Marangu Gate
Yes, this is your final day and I had mixed feelings. As a result of my injury the day before, I was bust and accepted to ask for help. There was no way I was going to walk all the way to the gate in that state and I guess my adrenalline had also decreased now that the mission was accomplished. They have rescue vehicles and ambulances to assist people and this time I willingly asked for help and thus rode all the way down. We were then rewarded with Certificates confirming that we had actually made it to Uhuru Peak. Once there, we had time with the porters and the guides who took time to sing for us which I thought was super special.Goodbyes are never all that fun but have to be done.I will forever be greatfull to the Lolibela team and all the Porters and Guides who work that route-it is indeed a difficult job.
Everyone needs to have “Hiking Mt.Kilimanjaro” on their Must Do . It is a difficult affair but not an impossible mission. Getting to Uhuru Peak, realizing you are at the Highest Peak in Africa at 5895 M, looking back at where you have come from and having overcome, standing to be counted as part of the few who have achieved this Feat is well worth it. Mt.Kilimanjaro you are indeed a perfect Gentleman and it was a pleasure to meet you.