Mount Kilimanjaro Trip Report (#3824)
- Signed By: Bruce S. Allen
- Date submitted: March 07, 2004
- Number of People Encountered:
In appreciation to those who on this site commented on their experience summiting Kilimanjaro, and in hopes that this report might help others, I submit the following.
Our team consisted of Leigh Anne Neel, Lael Martin (both from El Campo Texas), Joe Hogel of Chicago, Danny Belflower of Macon Georgia and me, Bruce Allen, also of Macon Georgia. We booked through Born Free, departed the US on January 13, arrived London and had three day rooms in the Renaissance Gatwick which allowed us to nap before leaving for Nairobi on British Air, and also allowed us to have a great meal at Ye Olde Six Bells Pub which is just a short walk from the hotel through the cemetery of an old church.
From Nairobi we flew to Arusha and were met by Ranger Safaris, overnighted at Mountain Village Lodge in Arusha where we stored the climbing equipment and then took off by road for safaris at Ngorongoro crater, visited Olduvai Gorge and stayed at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. Lots of animals on the game drives there and since all of us normally live at about 500 feet MSL, it allowed us to be at 7500 feet for a few days at the crater rim. From there we spent two days at the Serengeti Serena Lodge in the national park and again had good game drives. We then flew Precision Air back to Arusha. I highly recommend Precision Air for internal Tanzanian travel. Speaking as a commercial pilot myself, I was very impressed with Precision Air's service, and aircraft.
In Arusha back at the Mountain Village Lodge we traded our safaris bags for our climbing bags then set off to begin our climb using the Machame Route. We met our main guide, James Keny, from Marangu and our two assistants Richard Frank and Good Luck also both of Marangu. They work for Babylon Safaris and were excellent. I highly recommend that you try to get James and Richard and Good Luck for any future trip. They and their porters were always friendly, concerned for our safety and health, polite, and fixed amazingly good meals (I never missed a meal and returned home weighing exactly what I weighed before leaving America, 179 pounds). They were truly some of the most accommodating and professional guides that I have ever had the pleasure of working with, and they have my deep appreciation for their fine work.
Now to the actual climb. First day was through wet, muddy forest for six hours then camping at the Machame campsite. The next day we spent another 5 or 6 hours getting to the Shira campsite which is exposed and can be cold and windy. We always had three tents (one for Leigh and Lael, one for Joe and Danny, and one smaller one for me). The guides slept in their own tent and any porters who couldn't fit into that tent slept under rock overhangs. We were originally scheduled to spend two days there to acclimatize, but as we were all doing well James suggested that we move the next day to Barranco. This was very wise because it allowed us to break up the difficult Barranco to Barafu segment into two days by overnighting at Karanga Valley. Thus when we made it to Barafu we had had the previous two days of 4 hour walks instead of two days of 8 hour walks. This was a very wise decision in retrospect.
At Barafu we ate dinner at 5 PM, went to sleep at 6 PM and were awakened by James at 11 PM for a light breakfast of coffee and cookies. Then at midnight on Wednesday, January 26, 2000 we began the climb. We had a good moon and hardly used our lights. The wind was about 50 MPH and with the temp, the wind chill was about minus 30 degrees F. I had put the small Grabber Mycoal hand warmers in my gloves and above my toes in my Vasque Sundowner boots. I had also put these small hand warmers around each of my three, half-liter water bottles, and in a zip lock bag for my small camera, film, and backup disposable camera. Because of this, when Leigh, Lael, and I reached the Uhuru Summit at 9:05 AM, my cameras and water were not frozen. Richard and Good Luck, the assistant guides, summitted with us and were kind enough to take photos of each of us, our group, and even of me holding the Georgia State flag (a gift from my friend Representative DuBose Porter) and the Welsh Red Dragon flag (a gift from my friend Gordon, Lord Parry of Neyland Wales) by the Uhuru Summit sign. There is little doubt that the most difficult part of the climb is the segment just before Stella point. From Stella the walk to Uhuru is easier.
After about thirty minutes at Uhuru Peak Lael, Leigh, Richard, Good Luck, and I began the agonizing six to seven hour descent to the Mweka Campsite where we rejoined Danny, Joe, and Guide James who had beaten us to Mweka. After an overnight we walked to the Kili Park exit and all five of us were glad to receive our certificates documenting that we successfully reached the highest point on the African continent.
Koi, our Ranger Safaris driver took us back to Arusha, from where we left by Precision Air for Zanzibar to recoup for two days at the Karafu Beach Village. Stonetown was not much to see and the road to Karafu is awful, but the Karafu Beach Village is very nice and worth the time it takes to get there. The food was excellent.
So we finally flew out of Zanzibar to Mombassa, then to Nairobi, then London, then back to our homes and respective families who because of poor phone and email connections and slow post cards had gotten virtually no communications from us for about ten days.
Let me close this saga by giving a few suggestions:
1. Ranger Safaris, Born Free, and Babylon Safaris were excellent and I recommend that you use them.
2. Take a Pur Scout water filter and purifier. Do not count on boiled or bottled water.
3. For the climb you need a good zero rated synthetic sleeping bag, a pad, and two pairs of pants, shirts, socks, and inner socks. Also take one set of fleece to sleep in and another set to wear under your parka, ski pants and other clothes for the final ascent. Gloves with liners are essential. I also recommend the REI synthetic underwear as it can be washed and dried quickly. I recommend that you pack this and other items in a large white-water rafter's dry bag with shoulder straps, mine is from REI. That way your stuff will stay dry no matter what the weather and it is easy for the porters to carry.
4. Take about twelve small hand warmers and use them for hands, toes, camera, and water bottles. Otherwise when you make it to the top your water will be frozen and your camera also. Be sure to put all camera equipment in a ziplock bag. Those who just carried them in their pockets found that their body humidity froze the mechanisms.
5. Carry one walking staff in one hand and a water bottle in the other. That way you will be balanced and will easily be hydrated. I drank at least three liters per day (not counting food).
6. Eat every meal whether you are hungry or not.
7. Those who took Diamox seemed to me to have an easier time with the altitude. I took 250 mg each morning and 125mg each day at 3 PM so the diuretic effect would not keep me up all night. Remember that Sulfa drug allergic people may react to Diamox and that it is normal for Diamox to make your fingers feel like they tingle.
8. For all the days except the night ascent (when you will be in balaclava, ski cap and parka hood), I highly recommend that you wear the large tan colored sun hat marketed by Solumbra. It protects you from sun, wind, rain, glare, and is very sturdy.
Climbing Kili is great. Just plan well, listen to your guides, use common sense, and above all hope that you are as lucky to have as wonderful traveling companions as I had. Each brought special talents to the group and each had a great ability to laugh and be kind during the tough times. Now, all I need is to get my eighteen rolls of film back from the developers. Cheers
Bruce S. Allen