Aug 09 10
It has been on my list of “things I really want to do” for a while now, so I took the bull by the horns and decided to climb Kilimanjaro this spring. This mountain has been described as “An Everest for Everyman” due to the accessible summit. It is also a fascinating Mountain; its Uhuru Peak is one of the world’s seven summits, it is the biggest volcano to break through the earth’s crust and Kibo is a 1.5 mile wide crater. My enthusiasm to set out on a Tanzania holiday was also definitely fuelled by the celebrity coverage with the comic relief climb in March; I found it amusing that Chris Moyles had no real difficulty getting to the top although he was by carrying more weight than the others, and if twig like Cheryl Cole can get to the top, then I surely could!
I have done a couple trekking holidays in the Atlas Mountains already but felt that this was going to be quite a challenge as the highest peak of Kilimanjaro is 5891m, which means having to acclimatise. The breathable oxygen on top of the mountain is less than half that at sea level; therefore it is vital to pick a trek which suits your level of fitness and experience. This type of activity holiday ticks all the boxes, I get to see some of the most amazing scenery in the world, climb the highest mountain in Africa and also have a couple beach days in Zanzibar after the descent. I had decided to look into solo and singles holidays as wanted to meet new people when doing the climb. I met up with the other 12 trekkers in Arusha on the first night and as I was travelling on solo, it was great to see that others had also come on their own. It was an even mix of boys and girls and we immediately got on.
On our third day we headed for the Kilimanjaro National Park and the start of the Machame Route; this trail is considered to be the most beautiful and scenic route to the summit. The treks are fully supported, and although tough, this particular route enabled me to acclimatise easily over the next 6 days. Everybody in our group seemed focused and relatively fit for the ascent; we were told by our guides that it was important to take it steadily and rest as much as we could at night as altitude sickness was not directly related to fitness and could affect any of us.
Our first couple days walking went well, we started in the rain forest area of Machame Hut at 3000m and then on to Shira Camp at 3940m when we embarked upon an 800 m vertical climb over nearly 9 km. What made these couple days really special for me was the amazing eco system. Due to the mountains equatorial location and high elevation every climate type found on earth is represented. It was quite a surprise to experience 4 seasons within 6 days, rain forests, alpine meadows, open moor lands, desert uplands and finally snow and ice at the summit. The scenery was quite frankly stunning, and the time passed fairly quickly.
We were all feeling fairly tired however by this point in the trek and needed to get lots of sleep and to eat as much of the delicious camp food as possible for energy. A couple of the girls experienced bad headaches and one poor guy was very sick so he was given an injection which helped. A hard day followed when we climbed a further 7 hours up to the northern edge of the summit and then descended to the Barranco Hut which lay in a sheltered spot under fantastic cliffs; that evening after a 12 km trek everybody pretty much ate and headed straight to bed!
It was the following day when we really got a sense of how amazing the glaciers were. As we crossed the ridges making our way to the Karranga Valley 4100m I looked up at the spectacular peaks of the Decken, Hein and Kersten Glaciers and realised that it was worth the climb; they are melting quickly. The night before the final ascent we were all quite apprehensive but excited as we were starting our climb at midnight! It was quite a shock being woken at just after midnight to set out in the dark on “summit morning” but after a seemingly long 6 hours I staggered to the summit (5745m) just as the sun was rising, the views were incredible. The sense of achievement and exhilaration will stay with me forever, what a fantastic trip.
This is a guest post by The Adventure Company, an activity holidays and trekking holidays specialist providing adventure travel to destinations all over the world.