Hoooollly. I cant even begin to explain how amazing climbing Kilimanjaro was and how hard it was. it is an experience that i will definitely NEVER forget!
it is a 6 day excursion to get up and down the mountain. we started climbing the rongai trail (1950m) in the afternoon on day one after getting picked up by our TEN guides/cook/porters. we all squished into a jeep with my mom and i with plenty of room in the back and then the porters all piled on top of each other in the front haha. we climbed for about 4.5 hours to our first camp. we were camping in tents the whole time and it was still quite warm the first day. the elevation was about 2600m. the porters always start walking after us, they fly by us, and have everything set up by the time we make it to the camp! the terrain at this point was a heavy forest. we had a smooth path to walk on so it was quite easy.
we got up early the second day to begin our climb to the next camp. it was about 3.5 hours and still not too difficult, but we went slow to give ourselves time to acclimatize. we were at about 3450m at this point.. the campsites were always hilarious. we had our tent, a outhouse tent and a eating tent. and then the guides had a tent, there was a sleeping tent and then a cooking tent where all of the porters would stay in all day. 8 people squished into a 4 person tent! our meals consisted of breakfast (usually porridge, eggs, bread and tea), lunch (usually chicken, fruit, muffin, tea, juice, boiled egg, fries), tea time (tea, popcorn and sometimes peanuts), and dinner (usually vegetable sauce, tea, rice/pasta, fruit, and crepes). considering we were camping on a mountain, i was very impressed with the food! the walking today was still on a path and the area was quite forested still.
the third day we started early again but it was only about a 2.5 hour climb. it was short, but there were a lot of rocks that we had to climb up for a portion of the hike. we were at about 4330m now. it was getting quite cold at this point, but the weather had been good. april is the rainy season in tanzania. we had a good amount of rain, but luckily it would rain once we were at the camp or during the night. this day was the only time we had to get our rain gear out to walk and it was just a light rain. at this point, the trees were starting to disappear and there were a lot more rocks and small bushes. the path started to disappear as well and it was more of a worn walkway.
the fourth day we got up early to begin our climb to base camp! we got up early as usual, and started the hike which was about 3hours. it was a fairly easy climb and the terrain was all rocks pretty much by now. at the kibo huts (base camp) the elevation is 4700m here. we were told after we made it to base camp that it was considered an evaluation day. if we could make it there without any altitude sickness, then we should be fine for the summit climb. it was very different at the kibo huts. (we still stayed in tents). there were lots of people which we were not used to. after we arrived at the camp, we had lunch and then rested until dinner. the summit climb would begin at 12 midnight so we had to sleep when we could! we had an early dinner and then went right back to sleep. my mom and i both couldnt sleep much at that time. im not sure if it was from the altitude or from the excitement!
we got up at 11:30am, had a snack and then got ready to climb. both guides did this part with us. our guides were quite interesting. by this point we figured out that the head guide would walk with us, and the assistant guide would take care of us around the camp (serve food, etc). However, 10min into the walk on the first day, our guide stopped and said something like, “i will just be a minute, you can go on ahead”..we didnt mind, but it seemed a little strange, thankfully the assistant guide caught up with us and stayed until the guide was back.. which was about an hour later! we are never quite sure what he was doing, but it seemed to happen often haha. it wasnt until the summit climb that we realized how valuable they were, they were very good, encouraging, lied when nessisary (how much longer to the top) and played a huge part in helping us reach the summit! i knew then first part (5 hours to gilmans peak) would be the hardest and if i could make it there, the rest was smooth sailing, but it wasnt so easy.. the peak seemed to never get any closer and the mound of rocks we had to climb only seemed to get longer. i finally had to just look at my feet and no where else. about the last hour before making it to gilmans, i was completely taken over by the altitude..i was like a walking zombie and it took everything in me to move one foot in front of the other and to keep my eyes open..my heart was practically beating out of my chest and i found it harder to breath.. im surprised i didnt tumble down the mountain at the rate i was going!
finally we made it to gilmans which is about 5685m and it took about 5 hours. not too bad!! we could see into the summit at this point. the rest of the walk i could handle, it was not nearly as steep as the first part, and there were people passing who were on their way down saying “congratulations, you have almost made it!” it was about 2 hours to uhuru peak (5895m) which is the highest point on kilimanjaro. when we were approaching the sign i was almost in tears.. 1st, because i was going to cry if this was not it and we had to walk farther, and 2nd because i couldnt believe we made it! it was such a relief and so rewarding to finally get there. we didnt spend long at the top, we just took our pictures and then headed back down! thankfully that bit of adrenelin was enough to get our energy up a bit and make it down in good time. it was actually a lot of fun going back down. from gilmans point to base camp it was a straight line of loose dirt. where as on the way up, we zig-zagged back and forth to acclimatize. we practically ran down the mountain, and i fell on my butt a number of times.. it was like sliding down the hill haha.
we made it down in 3 hours… in comparison to the 7 it took to get up! there was a glass of cold juice waiting for us at the bottom and it was the most amazing thing i have ever had!!! we still werent too tired yet becuase of the high of making it to the top! we ate lunch and then were able to have a nap before decending even more in the afternoon!
we got up to leave to a lower camp around 12 noon. we took the marangu route on the decent which is the busy one with huts instead of camping. we made it to the hurombo huts (3720m) in about 2.5 hours and it felt like we were running! it was so much faster going down hill! it was really cool to talk to the people who were on their way up because they were all interested if we made it and wanted advice on what to expect! we wished them all good luck! were were camping again even though there were huts, and it was our last night on the mountain! it seemed to go so fast! as soon as dinner was finished, it was straight to bed, we were super tired!
we got up early again on our last day down. it was a 5.5 hour decent and we stopped for lunch half way down. we were walking much faster again! although going downhill was nice, it was quite painful on the legs, my muscles were mush and my feet were killing me! we were finally back at the bottom around 1pm. we got our certificates that said we made it to the top and then piled into a van to head back into town.
the rest of the evening was relaxing and we went to bed early to rest up for the safari that was beginning the next day!