Kilimanjaro - September 2003



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The trip up Kilimanjaro took four and a half days via the Rongai route , and a couple of days to get down. The Rongai goes up the drier north side of the hill, away from the crowds, and has an extra day for acclimatisation. Kili has two main summits: Mawenzi peak, which is very rocky and difficult to climb, and the more benign Kibo Summit, which holds Uhuru Peak - the highest point in Africa at 5896m (19,340ft). Altitude is an issue on Kili, as the oxygen levels at the top are half those at sea level, hence the need for a slow ascent.

The return is via the busy Marangu route, eventually tracking through the rainforest.

An amazing experience (and a bit of hard work). I may be back!

Kibo Hotel in Marangu. Even Jimmy Carter has been here (is that a recommendation?) The dining room. Many have passed this way before. The gang. Jennifer, Eddie, Lucy, Samwel (head guide), Eduardo, Mary, Byron, Michelle, Sue, Jude, Ivan, Donald.

Packing up for a long and rough ride to the park gate.

You have been warned! At last, we set off - slowly, slowly.
Camp one at 2500m/8900ft. Kibo Summit behind. It seemed so close... Ritual hot drinks at sunrise. Frost on the ground. Our huge team of porters striking camp. Mawenzi Peak behind - more of that later...
Lunch enroute to camp two. Tables and chairs!! (Rift Valley below). Camp two at 3700m/12,150 - above the clouds. 14,000 ft, en-route to camp three. I've not been higher than this before.
Mawenzi tarn by Camp 3. A misty afternoon. .Acclimatisation trek from camp 3 'just a few metres more...' Camp three at 4330m/14,200ft. Mawenzi Peak in the evening sun - well over 5,000m
Camp 3 the next morning. Fantastic weather but very cold. No headaches yet.. Finally a clear view of Kibo - crossing the saddle toward camp 4. Ice fields in sight, very windy and dusty. This is technically desert. Rest point on the saddle. Yes we're going to have to climb that tonight!
Camp 4 'Kibo huts' at 4,700m/15,400ft, with the view back to Mawenzi Peak in the clouds. This is 6.30am the next day at the top of the crater wall (5680m/18,600ft), after a midnight start. The sun hits Mawenzi Peak (remember that?) before it breaks the horizon. Temperature this morning dipped at minus 15. Finally sunrise over the clouds from the crater.
Inside the crater, with the northern icefield. Southern icefield and clouds More ice. Mount Meru can be seen just poking through the clouds behind,
At last, the top. 5.896m (its been remeasured since the sign went up!), or 19340ft. Fall down and breath slowly! More ice from the summit.. ..and yet more. No sense of scale here, but this must have been 150m thick.
Time to come down. An awesome view from the crater wall back down to camp four, and the saddle. Mawenzi behind as ever.. Scree running back to camp four. Seven hours up, two hours down! Later that day - way way way past camp four, down to Horombo Huts (3700m/12,000ft), and finally rest. Kibo Peak behind showing the southern ice.
Brilliant giant senecio (6 -12 feet high) Samwel directing operations. The porter team receiving tips from Ivan.
Last day's walk back to the gate. Down down down. Giant Lobelia - a Kili speciality Rainforest on the descent. The south of the hill is much wetter.
Rest at Marangu Huts. Only a couple of hours to go now. Tada!! - Marangu Gate and the end of the park. Back at the hotel, Byron and Samwel finally find the bar.

Samwel and another porter (John, Richard? - help me out guys..) over dinner.

Now here's a funny thing. Samwel claimed to be the son of the head guide who helped Hans Meyer up the hill on the first ascent in 1889. It seemed unlikely from the dates (long story) but compare...

...with this picture of that guide at about Samwel's age. It has to be Samwel's father - and he did live to be 125!