To the roof of Africa

After my 8 day run around Kilimanjaro I was enjoying the big king size bed and the hot shower in the hotel in Moshi, where I stayed one night before literally heading back where I finished my run – the Marangu Gate – to start my 6 day climb.

Day 1: Marangu gate (1,800m) – Mandara Hut (2,743m) – Elevation Gain: 915m
The 8km walk, slowly gaining in altitude, followed along a narrow trail through the rainforest was only interrupted by a short picnic lunch at halfway point. After just over 3 hours we reached Mandara Hut our first overnight stop. Whilst climbing high altitude it is recommended to sleep always a few hundred meters lower then the highest reached point on the day. So after lunch in the late afternoon, Muty (my guide) and I took a short walk to Maundi Crater to enjoy the great views to the east over Taveta and to the northwest to Mawenzi Peak. The A-frame huts at each camp along this route can accommodate up to four people each with a total of currently 70 climbers at any given time (guides and porters sleep separately in a common hut). I could see construction going on to eventually double the capacity along the shortest route to the top of Kilimanjaro. Apparently over 50,000 climbers try to reach the top every year!
Oxygen Level 92 / Puls 57 – we would measure this every day until the top. I drank 4 l of fluid and had to pee 6x the first night!

Day 2: Mandara Hut (2,743m) to Horombo Hut (3,720m) Elevation Gain: 977m
After breakfast, we left Mandara Hut and soon thereafter the rain forests to start trekking through a rocky and moon like landscape with desert-like plants towards Horombo Hut. Shortly before arriving at Horombo we trekked out of the clouds into blue sky and our first view of Mawenzi and Kibo peaks. Kibo is the name for the highest peak of the whole volcano called Kilimanjaro. Arrive at Horombo Hut at around 3pm after 5 hours of trekking I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing before heading of on my own for an hour walk to a higher altitude. Although extremely busy, the Horombo Huts are quite a nice spot to acclimatize. The accommodation is catering and provide lodging for over 120 hikers ascending, descending and acclimatizing plus many more porters, cooks and guides. In the late afternoon the clouds came rolling in again and by dinner time it was almost hard to see your hand in front of your face! In the communal dining hall I made new friends, amongst them a Turkish couple, where I discovered that Cihan’s wife Feray already started suffering from altitude. Luckily I had plenty of Diamox to share around and next morning Feray was feeling much better again. One of the side effects of Diamox is the extensive peeing and as a result interrupted sleep at night. My guide suggested to take the last Diamox at 3pm so by bed time we probably have an empty bladder and could sleep better – worked a treat ☺. Oxygen 90 / Puls 60 – drank 4 l of fluid during the day plus teas for dinner

Day 3: Horombo Hut (3,720m) towards Mawenzi Hut (4,220m) and back to Horombo Hut
Elevation Gain and Loss: 500 meters. Day three is an acclimatization day. The 5 km out and back hike reward us with magnificent views of Kibo and Mawenzi and took us 3 hours. The afternoon and evening was used to relax at Horombo. Oxygen 93 / Puls 63 I feel good, the 10 days running around 2,000m prior this climb together with Diamox has made the trek sofar rather comfortable and easy

Day 4: Horombo Hut (3,720m) to Kibo Hut (4,750m)
Elevation Gain: 1,030m After breakfast we left Horombo Hut to hike through the reminder of the moorland and slowly raised towards the alpine desert of Kilimanjaro’s upper altitudes. After hiking for about an hour we had to cross Maua River and afterwards the terrain became flatter and the vegetation began to disappear. After lunch break we continue on a steady incline for another two hours through Kilimanjaro’s Saddle. Although the environment on the way to Kibo is a bleak desert with little vegetation and exposed to icy cold winds, we were compensated with many stunning views of Kibo and Mawenzi peaks. I reach Kibo Hut after 4:30 hours and 9km of slow but comfortable hiking. Breathing at 4,700m is getting hard and we were told to rest and prepare for your midnight climb to the top. Oxygen level dropped to 89 with puls raising to 64 – all good readings compared to a low 65 oxygen for Feray, who was not the only one suffering from the effects of high altitude. After some dinner (at this altitude most people have lost their appetite) and a short nap we got woken up at 11pm to get ready for the mid-night assault to the top. With temperature way below zero by now I started wearing all available clothing and this was the moment I could replace my favorite underwear with a pair of thermal leggings.

Day 5: Kibo Hut (4,750m) to Uhuru peak (5,895m) and back to Horombo Hut (3,720m) Elevation Gain: 1,145 meters/ Elevation Loss: 2,175 meters
The 6 km to the top of Africa took me 6 hours with the return hike down to Horombo Huts (15km) being done in 3 hours! Around midnight we started for the final ascent to Uhuru Peak, the roof of Africa. The hike begins with a demanding five hour hike to Gillman’s Point on the crater rim. Although this is considered to be the easiest of the three crater ascent paths, it is still extremely difficult. The first major rest stop, William’s Point, lies at 5000 meters and is approximately a two hour hike from Kibo Hut. Feray and a few others sadly had to turn around here due to feeling unwell. After another thirty minutes or so I started the rocky switchbacks that will continue all the way up to Gillman’s Point (5,681 meters). As the only light I had was my head torch it was difficult to guess how far I had climbed or how far I had to go to the rim and like all Tanzanian, Muty was very vague with his time or distance estimations. About half way up I had to stop for a 5 minute breather – we continued a bit slower but continuously pushed up and after 6am we reached the rim of the huge crater when at the same time a small golden rim appeared on the horizon announcing eminent sun rise – perfect timing!
The hike from Gilman’s to Uhuru Peak is a gradual climb of 200m elevation and as far as hikes go, not very difficult. The altitude, however, makes the hike long and tiring. It took us another 90 minutes to reach Uhuru – the roof of Africa and the top of the worlds highest single standing mountain. It is hard to describe ones feelings or even the view …. for me it was a child dream come through. The feeling of achievement is obvious in everyone’s faces – standing on the top with nowhere else to go, above the clouds, without any vegetation, animal life or noise as far as you can see and the sun raising over the clouds bringing much needed warmth back into our cold bodies – was very special and gratifying. My climb also included a special mission – bring and leave some ashes on the roof of Africa of our beloved neighbor Elaine, who passed away a few months earlier and loved this continent. I found a deserving little spot for her just behind the summit.

One does not linger unnecessary at almost 6,000m altitude and after the obligatory photos we turn around and made our way down – meeting a few tired faces still struggling on their way up. The view heading down were different and equally magnificent. The six hour climb to the top took us 1 hour back and after a short stop for snacks at Kibo Hut, I asked my guide Muty if he want’s to run down with me. He declined but together we made our descend back all the way to Horombo Hut in a short 2 hours for the 11km. Being down at 3,700m my Oxygen level was back at 93 and Puls at 64

Day 6: Horombo Hut (3,720m) to Marangu Gate (1,800m)
Elevation Loss: 1,920 meters. After breakfast, I was ready to finish the 19km fast to get under that hot shower and we descended to Marangu Gate in less then 4 hours! Again passing through Kilimanjaro’s cloud forest seeing quite a few monkeys on the way. Had to watch my step during the descent, as the trail in the forests was slippery.

After a catch up celebration dinner and drinks with Cihan and Feray in Moshi, I was looking forward to the famous island of Zanzibar – beach, beer and relaxing….finally.


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