a scroll down journey report - kilimanjaro 2008

it was in november 2006 when i was relaxing in a lodge at the ambosli national park,
kenya, looking at the big mountain in front of me. the locals told me about the myth of the mount kilimanjaro and soon i realised, it's not just a "stone" in the plains. the kilimanjaros charm covered me soon and so i decided to climb this mountain once in my life ... 22 months later, it was no longer a dream, it was reality! on the 3rd of september 2008 i stood in front of the mount kilimajaro sign .... congratulation, you are at the uhuru peak 5895 amsl

uhuru peak

now, question - if you could choose to go for whisky or coca cola, what would you take? whisky? i ask because there is more than one route to climb the kilimajaro and most people choose the route marangu (coca cola route) because you stay in huts and the trail is well prepared. for the ones which like it more adventurous, there is the machame route (whisky). on the machame route you sleep and stay in tents, you don't have a shower for six days ;-)  and the trail is much more tricky and you need to bring good conditions and some mountain/climb experience with you. the ascent and descent is not the same route, which is another plus in my personal opinion.

from 0 to 5895 in four and a half day - whisky pure!
the trekking over the machame route is around 100 km in total. 62 km ascending and 38 km descending. four and a half day uphill and one and a half downhill ;0)! no shower, no television, no newspaper .... what a great new experience in my life - to make it short, i had not a moment on this route where i missed anything that’s going on in the rest of world and enjoyed every single step.

day 1
the day starts early with a briefing, followed by breakfast and a 50-minute drive from Moshi to the Machame Village (1,490 amsl) where the guides and porters prepare and pack your equipment and supplies. we received a lunch pack ;-0). after registering at the park office, we started day one and our ascent into the rain forest. we were very lucky to have no rain on the whole trip, but heavy rains on this side of the mountain often transform the trail into a soggy, slippery experience, so good foot gear, trekking poles and gaiters are useful.


we enjoyed a lunch stop halfway up and later we reached the machame camping area in the late afternoon. the porters arrived at the camp before us and prepared our tents. one for eating and relaxing and one tent for sleeping. after having tea we explored the camp and made an extra effort of 150 amsl higher for a better acclimatisation. in the evening, the porters boiled drinking and washing water for us, while the cook prepares dinner. one thing you have to know, you feel stuffed with all the food you get all day long - and, the food was excellently cooked! no worry, you will loose weight in the next days, the altitude is working heavily on your body. the night temperatures dropped below the zero sign and in the next morning we had a white tent roof.

day 2
we started early after having a perfect breakfast at the machame camp, and climbed for an hour to the top of the forest, then for 2 hours through a gentle moorland. after a short lunch and rest, we continued up a rocky ridge onto the shira plateau where we saw for the first time the kilimanjaro and the great western breach with its stunning glaciers. we were now west of kilimanjaro on the opposite side of the mountain from the marangu route.

great western

after a short hike in direction west, we reached the shira campsite. we did a short one hour acclimatisation exercise this evening and visited the shira caves and shira camp, which was the camp for the hikers from the shira route. tea, dinner and hot water as usual were served.

shira campsite

day 3
after breakfast, we hiked east up a steepening path above the highest vegetation toward kilimanjaro and looming mass. after several hours, you walk through a rocky landscape to reach the prominent landmark called lava tower at 4,630 amsl.

lava tower

it was very foggy, cold and a place we didn’t see very well. the photo shows two porters from our group (below our group - guide, assistance, cook, waiter and 6 porters!).


of course we met some more couples on the way up, but most of the time we were alone. i have to admit, i really enjoyed this, because it is a great opportunity to go offline from the normal business stress. after a lunch stop near Lava Tower, we started descending for 2 hours below the lower cliffs of the western breach and breach wall to barranco camp at 3,950 amsl. there are numerous photo opportunities on this hike, especially if the walls are festooned with ice. we were, hmm, not very lucky this day, too much fog until we arrived at our barranco camp. before dinner we could see the famous great barranco walls, which gave us a memorable sunset while waiting for your dinner.


once you see the wall (in the background), you will acknowledge, tomorrow you will climb this wall - good night for today!

day 4
after spending a night (brr, i guess around -10°) under the imposing great barranco wall, we climbed this awesome obstacle, which turns out to be easier than it looks. there are some parts in this wall where you really better look twice how to manage the path, but as said, it’s less tricky than it looks from the camp. once you climbed the wall successfully, topping out just below the heim glacier, you can now appreciate just how beautiful kilimanjaro really is.

heim glacier

believe me, i felt very small out there. the outlook, the feeling was just amazing and not easy to bring into words. another view in the opposite direction was as well spectacular. watching out there into the blue, it's a never ending horizon - right hand the mount meru.

deep blue

the route then heads down through the karanga valley and goes over intervening ridges and valleys to join the mweka route, which will be then the descent route. we have now completed the south circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. for now, all eyes are still on the summit (we are coming soon, uhuru peak ;-0)), so we turned left and hiked up the ridge for another good long hour to the barafu hut. the last water on the route is in the karanga valley; there is no water at barafu camp, even though barafu is the swahili word for the famous snows of kilimanjaro are far above barafu camp near the summit of the mountain.


the tent will be pitched on a narrow, stony, wind-swept (wind means very windy!) ridge, so make sure that you familiarise yourself with the terrain before dark to avoid any accidents. we prepared our equipment and warm clothing for the summit climbing tonight. yes, it was a very long day until now, and we knew, we got some dinner, then some hours to sleep (but you can’t really) and then the big day became reality. we made sure to have all equipment (gloves!) with us and replace or check our headlamp and camera batteries, and to prevent frost bite we carried our water in a thermo flask. we went to bed (in our tent we used -12° comfort zone sleeping bags, which was perfect from my point of view) by 7 pm and tried to get a few hours of precious sleep. i will not hide this photo, made on barafu camp around 6 pm. the mount mawenzi is another peak (5150 amsl) close on the route marangu.


day 5 (3 september 2008)
our waiter came around 11:50 pm to inform us to prepare our “take off”. we were not sleeping, it was to windy and we heard other groups, which started before us. after some steaming tea and biscuits, we shuffled off into the dark, cold and windy night. the 6-hour climb northwest up through heavy scree between the rebmann


and ratzel glaciers to stella point on the crater rim was the most challenging part of the route for most climbers. we saw many people returning, knowing they had not made it. so we kept our pace “pole, pole” until we arrived at stella point (5,685 amsl). we stopped for a short rest and a chance to see a supremely sanguine sunrise. it was 6 am and perfect sky!

near stella

at the stella point we joined the top part of the marangu route. but we did not stop here too long, as it will be extremely difficult to start again due to the conditions and freezing temperature. we started our last, short (30 minutes) part hiking along the rim to uhuru peak. on the summit,we enjoyed our accomplishment and knew that we created a day that we will remember for the rest of our lives.


after a 2 to 3-hour descent from the summit back to barafu camp, we had a well-earned but short rest. then we collected our gear and hiked down a rock and scree path into the moorland and eventually into the forest to mweka camp (3,100 amsl). here some amazing photos from the descent:


the mweka camp is in the upper forest, so you can expect fog or rain in the late afternoon. the way down was easy, but very dusty due to the lava stones. so, we were very happy to know, we will have a shower after 6 days the next day! of course a dinner and washing water was prepared and the camp office sells drinking water, soft drinks, chocolates, and kili beer! we were tired after our day 4 and 5, both are long walks, with a high alpine touch. we both were very lucky on the top, we did not have any troubles with the altitude sickness or thin air. we did not take any medicine to climb the uhuru peak, only 2, 3 aspirins to prevent headache.

day 6
after the breakfast, it was a short, scenic, 2 to 3-hour hike back to the park gate. at the mweka gate, we signed our name and added details in a register to receive the summit certificate. from the mweka gate, we had a drive back in our base hotel to have a shower and a beer with our guide! feel free do ask me for further
informations on this challenge of the myth of the kilimanjaro.

the kilimanjaro map
the map below show you the possible routes to climb mount kilimanjaro.


if you plan to climb once in a lifetime the kilimanjaro i recommend the following:

2, 3 sets of wind and water proof clothes (one set for -20°), very good climbing shoes and socks, soft shoes for around the tent), thermal shirts and underwear, gloves, cap, hiking stick (you can rent them there), one small backpack for your day pack, one big backpack for your stuff (will be transported by the porters and things you don’t need on the kilimanjaro, leave them in a secured place in your hotel), thermo flask, flask, lamp, knife, candle, fire, sleeping bag (comfort zone at least around -10°), silver/thermo foil for the tent floor and to protect your clothes), toilet paper, sunglasses, ipod or a book, playing cards, food like chocolate, energy drinks (powder), energy bars or sweets, medicine (aspirin, water cleaner, stomach blocker)

this trip was amazing to do a lot of photographs, as well on the game drives before. make sure you have enough flash cards and batteries with you, on the trip you have no chance to load your batterie! consider, if you leave the batteries outside in cold temperature, they go low immediately. best you can do, put them into your pants. consider the size of your camera and the lenses, you have to carry them all day long!

we started 12 weeks before our challenge and started in switzerland and austria with several hiking trainings. sometimes we did a very hard training to get better condition on steep tracks, sometimes we were just focusing on the pace and long walks. we never had a conditional problem on the kilimajaro, i believe it was because our legs were well prepared. we went up to 3900 amsl to have at least 2, 3 times a feeling, what thinner air also means. i guess you can not train your body for the altitude, it works or not. i guess its a matter of motivation and preparation.

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enjoy and stay tuned!