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On this page: Days 1 to 4 | Days 5 and 6 | Day 7

Days 1 to 4: Machame Gate to Karanga Valley

Day 1: Machame Gate (1490 m) to Machame Camp (2980 m)

Our Party Members:

René, Gail and Kimberly Hochreiter, Judy and Greg Hunter, Mark Gillie (all South African) and Clarice and Alix Bricteux (Belgian).

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Our group on the first day through the Tanzanian rain forest: Mark, Greg, Judy, Gail, Kimberly, Alix, Clarice

After weighing in our luggage at Keys Hotel, Moshi, our party of 8 took the Kombi to Machame Gate, about an hour's drive away. Our porters took charge of our luggage, together with every other item imaginable, from tents to plastic tables and chairs to cooking equipment and even a vase of flowers for the dining table! We set off in our gaiters, shirt sleeves and 9 kg packs at 1 pm.  Our climb took us through the beautiful Tanzanian rain forest with plenty of muddy patches and we arrived just after 6 pm, after a fairly tiring climb.  After unpacking our (-25°C) sleeping bags and very comfortable mattresses, we enjoyed our first meal in the mess tent (the most delicious cucumber soup as a starter) and then settled in to our downhill sleep.

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Dinner in the Mess Tent at Machame Camp: René, Mark and Kimberly

Day 2: Machame Camp (2980 m) to Shira Camp (3840 m)

After a delicious breakfast of Maltabella porridge, omelette and toast, we left camp at 9 am.  The climb was quite tough, fairly steep and rocky at times, and we progressed slowly in order to acclimatise well.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the way and arrived fairly early in the afternoon at 2.45 pm.  Our site was flat and well-positioned in a protected hollow area.  We enjoyed a lazy afternoon drinking numerous cups of coffee and enjoying the cook's freshly made popcorn as well as dried fruit.  After an early supper, we retired to our tents and slept like babies.

Day 3: Shira Camp (3840 m) to Barranco (3950 m)

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Mark Gillie enjoying a cuppa at our lunch stop on the way to Lava Tower

We left Shira Camp at 8.45 am and finally arrived at our destination at 6.15 in the evening - a very long and tiring day.  The route up to Lava Tower (4630 m) was specifically taken in order to allow for acclimatisation.  We encountered some rain along the way and donned our waterproof jackets and trousers as well as covering our backpacks with waterproof covers.  René, Kimberly, Clarice and Alix did the extra 93m climb to the very top of Lava Tower (in the rain).  They left their sticks behind since this was true rock climbing - just what our intrepid group of 4 loved!  Then followed a fairly challenging downhill climb and thereafter a long walk into camp through  beautiful vegetation - earlier on in the day, at the higher altitudes, the terrain had been rocky and barren with little or no vegetation.  Barranco Camp was crowded with hundreds of climbers and porters.  The latter group outnumbers the climbers by 5 to 1.  After an excellent meal of chicken stew with rice, peas and green beans, we gratefully crawled into our tents and retired for the night.

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Barranco Campsite: René peeping out of our tent; Barranco wall and west side of Kilimanjaro in the background

Day 4: Barranco (3950 m) to Karanga Valley (4200 m)

We left camp at 8.45 am with our poles tucked up in our backpacks for the first hour of the trip which is up the Barranco Wall - a solid, 200 m rock face.  Fortunately, the path was filled with porters and climbers and there was such a traffic jam that we were forced to go extremely slowly and felt the steepness of the climb to a lesser degree.  At the top, we stopped for snacks (Spanish salami from the Bricteuxs) and enjoyed the beautiful view of Kilimanjaro covered in snow.  We descended to 3900 m and then, after a fairly steep climb, finally arrived at Karanga Valley (4200 m) at lunch time.  There were fewer campers since many climbers had pushed on to Barafu in order to summit a day earlier.  Today we had lunch in style at camp: coated chicken legs, chips and stir-fried vegetables, cooked perfectly.  We slept for an hour and then it was time to eat dinner: spaghetti bolognaise with pancakes, syrup and vetkoek filled with bananas - incredible what the cooks are able to conjure up at this altitude!

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Days 5 and 6: Karanga Valley - The Summit - Descent to Mweka

Day 5: Karanga Valley (4200 m) to Barafu (4550 m)

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Barafu Campsite with Mount Mawenzi in the background

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Kimberly, Gail and Alix taking a rest on the way to the summit; it is approximately 6 am and it is just starting to get light

This was the easiest day of our trip, fortunately so, since we were allowed some breathing space for the enormous effort we had to put in during the 24 hour period which comprised Day 6.  Barafu means "ice" in Swahili and this is a reasonable description of the environment - cold and inhospitable.  The campsite is perched on the side of the mountain with the toilets placed on the edge of a cliff, at least 30 m above the tents - a slow, tiring and tedious climb each time one needs to pay a visit.  Lunch was served at about 2 pm and we were then encouraged to have an hour or two's sleep.  Supper was at 6 and this included a wonderful surprise - a birthday cake for me which had been carried up the entire mountain! We were given our final instructions for the summit bid by our three guides, Regie, Lazaro and Bokari.  We returned to our tents, got all our equipment ready and then tried (in vain) to sleep for a few hours before the wake-up call at 10.30 pm.  After tea and biscuits and many last minute arrangements, we were finally ready to leave at midnight on our quest for the top.

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Getting closer to Stella Point: Gail (in front), Judy, Alix and Kimberly followed by the rest of our partyClick here to view enlarged version
Proud Hochreiter Summiteers: Kimberly, René and GailClick here to view enlarged version
Heim Glacier seen from the top of KilimanjaroClick here to view enlarged version
Proud Summiteers: Judy, Greg, Lazaro, Clarice, Alix and Bokari in the foreground

Day 6: Barafu (4550 m) to Uhuru Peak (5985 m)

We went at a fairly slow pace and the first hour of the climb was not too difficult.  I was comfortably dressed in thermals, fleece trousers, two fleece tops and finally a Gore-Tex jacket and waterproof trousers.  I had inner gloves, very warm outer mittens, two pairs of socks and used my hand and foot warmers to keep my Camelbak from freezing.  The tube of the Camelbak, however, did freeze nearer the top, and then it was necessary to drink only when we stopped from the insulated bottles inside my  backpack.  As we got higher, it became increasingly difficult to breathe.  At 5200m, one member of our party, Mark Gillie, decided to turn back since he was losing his balance and finding it difficult to breathe.  At that stage, I also felt quite strongly that I should be turning around, however I pushed on and with the help of the group and our guides, who placed me in the first position, I was able to continue.  Bokari took my backpack from about 5400 m to Stella Point (5750 m) which was a great help.  Unfortunately, the protein and Mars bars which had been brought along for sustenance and energy along the way also froze up and these had to wait until the descent before they could be consumed.  As soon as it became light, we switched off our head torches and once the sun rose, we all seemed to receive a surge of energy and managed to make it to Stella Point.  At this point, I felt totally exhausted and overwhelmed.  After a good break, we pushed on to the summit (another hour's climb) but fortunately, the hardest part of the climb was now behind us and we arrived at the top at 8.15 am, fairly elated but also extremely tired.  We remained at the top for 45 minutes which was a little too long as one is advised to take photos and then to descend immediately.  It is an awesome feeling to be standing at the topmost point of Africa with Mount Meru very prominent in the distance and the huge Heim Glacier dropping off on the south side.  On the northern side is the Kibo Crater, a magnificent geological feature, seen from Stella Point all the way to the top.

Day 6: Uhuru Peak (5895 m) to Mweka Camp (3100 m)

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Long Walk Home: Mount Mawenzi in the background

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Clarice on the way down

If the trip up seemed demanding, there was far more to come until we finally crept into our sleeping bags at 10 pm that evening!  The descent takes a different route and consists mainly of scree (mixture of sand and stones) which is extremely slippery and, for me, quite nerve-wracking.  Our party split up into two groups for the descent and those who went first managed to sleep for about an hour and a half after they had returned to Barafu.  Judy, Greg and I got back to camp at about 2 pm, managed to get 20 minutes sleep and then it was time to pack up, have lunch and move on again in order to reach Mweka Camp (3100 m) by nightfall.  We left Barafu at 3.45 pm and unfortunately, René, Judy, Greg and I only reached Mweka at 8.30 pm.  We walked in darkness for about an hour and a half (fortunately we all had head torches) but the route was treacherous once darkness had fallen - muddy and slippery with loose rocks dotted all about.  We had only one thought in our minds and that was "sleep".  We went through the motions of washing, ate dinner without much enthusiasm and then collapsed into bed knowing that we had a 6 am wake-up call the following morning. 

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Day 7: Mweka Camp - Mweka Gate - Moshi

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Rain Forest on the way down to Mweka Gate

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Last view of Mount Kilimanjaro

Day 7: Mweka Camp (3100 m) to Mweka Gate (1980 m)

In the clear light of day, we were able to see what a beautiful campsite Mweka was with lush, green vegetation and thick undergrowth.  Now that we had slept well, we felt good and could begin to enjoy a feeling of elation and pride at having "made it"!  The trip down to the gate was very slippery and muddy but the rainforest was quite beautiful and we felt invigorated and exhilarated all the way down.  We arrived in good time before the checkout queue had become too long, we celebrated with cokes and then returned to Keys Hotel in Moshi where the most glorious shower awaited us all.  We enjoyed a last lunch with our guides, Regie and Lazaro, who had taken such excellent care of us, and we were presented with our certificates: We had "successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro the highest peak in Africa, right to the Summit - Uhuru Peak - 5895 m".

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Website designed & updated by Gail Hochreiter
Page updated: 29/06/2015