Jambo (“hello” in Swahili) friends and family. The Barbers have returned safely and successfully from Mt Kilimanjaro. I plan to update this post at a later date to include more details but, for now, the highlight reel…
We took a bumpy one hour bus ride from our hotel in Moshi to Machame Gate(1800m). At the gate, we signed into Kilimanjaro National Park and a monkey nearly made away with Casey’s lunch before Dan–our fellow climber–saved the day. Finally, we began our 4.5 hour trek through lush rainforest to our first camp–Machame Hut (3000m). Our guide Stanley was constantly reminding us to go “polé polé” (slowly slowly) to allow for better acclimatization. This proved to be a struggle for myself at times and a saving grace for dad.
The second day of the trek marked the beginning of our routine–eat, hike, eat, repeat. The trek to Shira camp (3700m) took approximately 5 hours and was rainier, steeper, and involved more rock climbing than Day 1. What we found most amazing was that all the porters were completing these same hikes with 15kgs of luggage on their heads! On top of all that, they were leaving after us and arriving before us in order to have our tents set up, private toilet tent (a godsend) assembled, and our dining tent ready with tea and popcorn upon our arrival.
Before departing on the day’s hike we treated ourselves to Starbucks instant coffee–courtesy of mom–and took some festive Christmas Day family photos. As the saying goes “climb high, sleep low,” we hiked for 6.5 hours through what is known as the Alpine Desert to as high as 4500m until reaching Barronco Camp (3900m). The weather on the mountain can change on a dime; we experienced sunny warmth, hail, wet snow, and rain, all in a day’s hike. The most entertaining moment of the day was watching a 57 year old French man sprint past us on a steep downhill over loose gravel leaving his guide in the dust. We found out later that this same man had also bought weed in town prior to the climb and was asking his guide where he could smoke.
The fourth day was a short 3.5 hour hike to Karangu Hut (3930m). It also marked our first day with no precipitation of any kind-YAY. The hike began with a free rock-climbing segment on “Barranco Wall” which we really enjoyed. Stanley told us that, in the past, tour companies only allowed their porters one meal per day and so the porters used to call Barranco Wall “breakfast wall.” He assured us that, now, porters unions exist to ensure this is no longer the case.
Day 5 & 6
It was a short but very steep 3 hour climb to Base Camp (4600m). Upon arrival, we crossed many people who had just descended from the summit in a wide range of physical conditions–from elated and energized to dusted and downright out of it. Before and after our early dinner we had to squeeze in a few hours of napping in preparation for our 11PM departure for the summit.
We got away a bit later than planned at around 11:30PM to head for the summit. We were decked out in 3-4 layers on the bottom, 5 on the top including a winter coat, hats, neck warmers, mitts, and headlamps. In total it took us 6 h 45 to reach the Uhuru Peak at 5895m. The climb to the summit was extremely long and difficult and NEARLY drove Paul to the point of cardiac arrest (surprise surprise). That being said, watching the sun rise from the tallest free-standing mountain in Africa with the whole fam jam made it all worth it.
The descent from the summit to Base Camp took approximately 3 hours. At Base Camp we were allowed to sleep for 2 hours before continuing our descent and departing for ANOTHER 4 hour hike to Mweka Camp (3000m). The entire family had the sleep of a lifetime–the first one above 0 degrees in a week–after 14 hours of hiking.
We enjoyed/suffered through our last camping breakfast bright and early before completing our descent to Mweka Gate (1800m). The final hike was moderate and oh so enjoyable knowing our first shower in a week was finally on the horizon. At the bottom we celebrated with a round of Kilimanjaros (the local beer) before heading back to the hotel and bidding our guides adieu.
I found a comment in the guestbook at the bottom of the mountain that I feel perfectly captures the feelings of a just-finished Kili climber:
“Definitely a great experience and religious awakening…not because I found God, but because I walked through Hell.”
And if you find yourself thinking that what we did was impressive in the slightest… Karl Egloff–a Swiss-Ecuadorian–set the record for the fastest ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro in August 2014, running up and down the mountain in 6h 56m 24s.