Showcase Sunday: Summiting Mount Kilimanjaro

This is an expansion of a previous post from October 13th, 2018 titled Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro In 10 Photos.

Back in 2015, while living and working in Africa, I decided to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.  At 5,895m, or 19,341 feet Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, and the tallest free standing mountain in the world.  It is located in the beautiful country of Tanzania.

I firmly believe you need to challenge yourself throughout life. The preparation for this goal and its accomplishment has helped me to grow as a person.  Because I spent the entire previous year at sea level, I chose the Lemosho route, which was 8 days, and allowed the most time for adjusting to the extreme altitudes. 

Most of my six months training consisted of hiking around the neighborhood or taking to a treadmill or stairstepper with my pack and an altitude mask.

Here we are on day 1, getting ready to leave.  The porters are weighing their packs. The maximum amount they can carry is governed by law.

This is what a typical camp looks like. Early on we had forest cover at Mkubwa Camp on the first night. While later it was just open sky and barren landscape.

This is day 2 of our trek, with my guide in the foreground and the peak of Kilimanjaro in the distance. The area is known as Shira Plateau, which sits at about 11,500 feet.

We passed this little clearing with all kinds of stacked rocks. I’m not sure if people do it for good luck, or just to pass the time.

The second night at Shira Plateu Camp at 13,650 feet.

While hiking Kilimanjaro you pass through five distinct climate zones.  Each has its own weather patterns, and flora and fauna. It ranges from thick jungle at the base, to arctic conditions at the peak.

Giant groundsels might look like trees, but they are not trees at all. They are actually related to sunflowers. As the plant grows taller, the leaves dry up and lay down against the trunk to keep it warm.

While the way to the peak is mostly hiking, there are a few spots to climb as I am doing here.

Moira Camp is located at 13,650 feet, and it was the first opportunity to actually sleep above the clouds.

Porters are a hard working bunch of folks.  Their job is to carry a lot of stuff up the mountain and get to camp before you do.  They make about $10 per day, and you normally tip them 100-200%.  If you decide to hike the mountain, go with a company that ethically treats its porters!

Day 5. That huge line leading into the horizon was the trail we had just covered.

Kilimanjaro is one of those few chances you get to walk above the clouds.  Here my guide is standing on a ledge above the cloud banks, with the nearby Mount Meru in the distance. While a shorter mountain, Mount Meru is a more challenging technical climb.

Barranco Camp on day 6.
Barafu (Base) camp on day 7. We rested here until midnight and then departed for the summit. On the way back down, we had about 2.5 hours of rest before having to hike 14km to Millennium camp.

If you time your trip correctly, you can arrange to summit during the full moon. Because the moon is so bright, you couldn’t see many stars.

As we were making our way to the summit, I caught this photo of nearby Mount Meru during the sunrise.

Sweet success!  If all goes well, you will reach the summit after sunrise.

Taking a little break with one of the guides fairly close to the summit.

This glacier once covered the peak of Kilimanjaro.  Now only a small area is left and that is anticipated to be gone in 20 years or so.

The full moon was still visible just after sunrise.

I started to get altitude sickness on the way down from the summit strangely enough. I felt as bad as I looked! It was a long miserable hike down to Millennium Camp, which was our final camp prior to returning to civilization.

As we entered the thick forest after leaving Millennium Camp, I was able to get one last peak of Kilimanjaro.

After 8 days of hiking, Mweka Gate, and the welcoming sight of civilization.  Hot shower, here I come!

Summiting Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime experience, and with the possibility of altitude sickness, success is not guaranteed.  Either way, it’s definitely a goal worth pursuing.  I am a huge proponent of maintaining goals such as this throughout your lifetime.

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