I started the climb back on August 7 from Machame Gate (I was taking the Machame route). It turned out that I was the only trekker – so it was just me, and 6 support crew (1 guide, 1 chef, 4 porters. That’s a lot of people for one person to summit a mountain!)
The first leg took me from Machame Gate to Machame Gate, and from there the next day to Shira Camp, where we get our first taste of “high” altitude (i.e. over 3000 metres). I had just spent 4 days in Addis Ababa, which sits around 2500 metres, so the first two days were easy. Which probably explains why I was the first tourist to arrive in Shira Camp.
The day after we hit Shira Camp, we hiked to Barranco, via Lava Tower. The side trip to Lava Tower is important for acclimatization – you hit over 4600 metres, before descending back down to just under 4000 metres at Barranco.
The next day, our fourth, saw me tackle the Barranco wall (aka the Breakfast Wall, because you do it right after breakfast). I have to say – I loved this part. I loved scrambling over the rocks, hugging them as I swung a leg out to land on the next “step”.
From Barranco, our goal was Karanga Camp (which in my mind will always be Kangaroo Camp). Being the speedy trekker than I am, my guide and crew decided that we should push on for Barafu camp – the camp before the summit.
Did I mention that my guide thought I could summit a day early?
So on day 5, at 5 am, I made the push for Uhuru Peak – the highest peak in Africa. After what seemed an interminable age of zig-zags up the cliff face, we finally (and I mean finally – there were six or seven false summits!) came up to….Stella Point. The second highest point in Africa. Another hour of staggering found me at Uhuru Peak. Where I promptly fell against the sign while my guide too my photo. 5895 metres is nothing to sneeze at.
We quickly descended, and I found a mild-to-moderate case of altitude sickness come on. No headache, which is normal for me in high altitudes, but nausea. And back at Barafu, where I gratefully fell upon my sleeping bag for a quick nap, I actually vomited upon waking. Classy as always.
We pushed on from Barafu that day, to Millennium Camp – a new campsite that was installed in 2000 as a relief measure for all the people wanting to celebrate the New Years on Kilimanjaro, but who couldn’t take the altitude. Needless to say, I was in my sleeping bag early, exhausting after the 7 hour hike to the summit, and 3 hours descent.
The next morning we pushed on down to Mweka Gate – a leisurely 4 and a half hour hike down slippery, rocky paths. I seriously started to consider that they should award certificates for getting down the path safely, rather than for making the summit!
Oh, and the certificate for making the summit? I have one of those!