Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro located in Tanzania, stands at 19,341 ft. (5,895 meters) above sea level. Not only is Kilimanjaro the highest mountain in Africa, it is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. It is one of the “7-summits”. There are many different routes to the top of the mountain. We have decided on the Lemosho Route. This is a longer and quieter way to the summit, and will give us the most time to acclimatize to the elevation.

The climb will take 8 days. We will be hiking through a variety environments, which includes four different climate zones. Each unique zone provides changing scenery and gives opportunities for a variety of different photographs.

  • Rain forest zone (~2,600 ft. – 9,800 ft.) We will start out in a tropical rain forest. The humidity is high, and there is often light mist or rain. There is a good chance we will see Blue and Colobus monkeys. Since we will be on the Western Lemosho area, there is a possibility we will see elephants, buffalo or large antelope.

  • Low Alpine zone (~9,800 ft. – 13,800 ft.) Once we have made it through the rain forest, we will make our way into a semi-arid grassland and moorlands. We will be hiking through heather, small shrubs, Senecios and Giant Lobelias (apparently they look like deformed palm trees.) Luckily, the weather will be much less humid, though the temperature in the evening is going to be much colder.

  • High alpine zone (~13,800 ft. – ~1,650 ft.) This is zone is an arid desert, and from the pictures I have seen isn’t too inviting. During the day, the temperatures are high, and will often lack any cloud cover. You are susceptible to getting a sunburn. During the night, temperatures will fall below zero. From here, however, we should be able to see the summit!

  • Glacial zone (~1,650 ft. – 19,340) This is the final zone we will have high altitude arctic conditions. Due to the elevation, we shouldn’t see much, if any, wildlife. Just like in the high alpine zone, we will have high temperatures in the day, risk of sunburn, and freezing nights. This is coupled with the added discomfort of high winds and low oxygen levels due to the elevation

When climbing a mountain like Kilimanjaro, there are local laws, requirements, logistics, and other hurdles that you need to understand and plan accordingly. Over the last 8 years, I have been climbing mountains in the Pacific Northwest Cascade Range and Rocky Mountains. I have never climbed at altitude. We needed to make sure that whoever leads us has the experience to ensure a safe and successful trip.

After some searching and recommendations, we contacted a guide company based out of Portland, Oregon called Embark Expedition Co. After a few phone calls and meetings, we were set. They would lead us to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro and then take us on Safari. All we needed to do was train and show up in Moshi.

Day-by-Day on the Lemosho Route

February 26th: We start hiking from the Londoroosi Gate, through the rainforest. We will hike for 3-4 hours until we reach our first camp, Mti Mkubwa, which means “Big Tree” in Kiswahili.

February 27th: We continue on the trail into the Low Alpine zone, cross some streams, and make our way to the Shira Ridge to Shura 1 camp for the night.

February 28th: We will hike east across the Shira plateau toward Kibo’s glaciered peak. We will arrive at Shira 2 camp on moorland meadows. From our camp, there are some more small hikes around camp to help with our acclimatization. Shira is one of the highest plateaus on earth.

March 1st: We will continue east up a ridge, towards the peak of Kibo and Lava Tower. This is called the “Shark’s Tooth.” Then onward to the Arrow Glacier before we head back down to the Barranco Hut for the evening.

March 2nd: Acclimatization day, we leave Barranco and continue on a steep ridge.  We will pass the Barranco Wall, and arrive at the Karanga Valley campsite.

March 3rd: Leave camp for the Mweka Trail, heading up to Barafu Hut. From here we will be able to see the summit from many different angles, so I will have opportunities for getting some awesome pictures…weather permitting! We will also be able to see Mawenzi and Kibo peaks from our camp.

March 4th: This is Summit Day! If you have ever done any alpine mountain climbing, this will be familiar. Sometime between midnight and 2 A.M., we will pack up and start climbing up, heading to the summit. The summit is situated between the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers. Footing will be sketchy. This will be the most demanding portion of the climb.

At Stella Point, we will stop and rest, and hopefully the weather will let us see the sunrise. Also, hopefully, I won’t be too tired to get some pictures. We will still have around another hour of climbing before we reach the summit. Soon, we will come to Uhuru Peak, the highest point on Mt. Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa. If I am quick enough, I might even get to see the sunrise from the top.

From the summit, we have to descend around 10,000-ft. to camp Mweka, which is located in the upper forest. Tonight will be our last dinner on the mountain.

March 5th: Back in the rainforest, we will head to the Mweka Park Gates.

After a shower, dinner, and a good night sleep in Moshi we will head out on Safari, but that is for another post.

What gear do you need for Mt. Kilimanjaro? Thursday I will review what I will be taking.

6.3mm, 1/200 f2.8, ISO 100, Sony DSC-W55, Handheld

6.3mm, 1/200 f2.8, ISO 100, Sony DSC-W55, Handheld

Back in 2010

I made my first Alpine Summit on Mt. Hood in Oregon in July 2010. Since it was my first, it needed to be something unforgettable. I chose the Sunshine Route, not a standard first timer route. We started on the north side of Mt. Hood, crossed the Eliot Glacier, and climbed several steep pitches before we reached the summit. From there we headed back down the south side of the mountain where the ski lodge is located.

9.4mm, 1/160 f9.0, ISO 100, Sony DSC-W55, Handheld

9.4mm, 1/160 f9.0, ISO 100, Sony DSC-W55, Handheld

I have picked two pictures that I was reminded of while writing this post.  The first picture is of the Sunset from our first night in camp. We were above both tree line and clouds. It was cold and windy, but amazing.


The second picture I took while attached to a snow anchor on the side of the mountain. The view is looking down the Eliot Glacier with one of my fellow climbers taking up the rear.