Kilimanjaro Full Moon Climb
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We settled in a hotel in Moshi town and began the preparations for our adventure. The tension was palpable. The moment of truth was upon us. After our extensive briefing last night, today marked the beginning of our experience.
” Take it easy, Pole! Pole! ”
During, my morning breakfast, I could stop thinking of the advice we were given, “what you do here down here determines what happens at the summit. Take it easy, Pole! Pole!
Storing away all the non-essential stuff for our hike, we departed for Machame gate on a 45-minute drive.
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Day 1 – Machame Gate (1828m) - Machame camp (3020m)
Upon arriving at the gate, we began the check-in formalities at the National Park. Our duffle bags, tents and other camping essential were dispatched to our porters.
Starting out on a steep incline, we made our way through the forest. I was amazed by the agility and speed of the porters as they passed chanting words of encouragement “Pole! Pole!” Remembering to pace myself, I stopped along the way to take in my surroundings and take pictures. Finding a balance between feeling hot and then next minute you are cold was challenging as the rain clouds rolled in. I arrived at Camp just before 16.00 pm to finish my first day of the hike much to the delight of my hiking partners who cheered on as they had made it back earlier.
Day 2 – Machame camp (3020m) - Shira camp (3847m)
After my first night of sleep on Kilimanjaro, we set out with much excitement till we came across the challenge of the day. It was up and up and up—uneven rocks everywhere on our trail. And in comparison, to yesterday, today we were exposed—no shade for cover from the scorching sun, or from wind gust. No wonder why, the plants (moorland) looked battered.
Although the day was short, it was gruesome, and I was glad when it was over. Arriving at the Camp, I was completely worn-out. As a reward though, our Camp was set on the magnificent Shira plateau. The views were breath-taking!
Day 3 – Shira Camp (3847m) to Lava Tower (4642m) to Barranco camp (3984m)
Today felt like being transported to another realm. After leaving the Camp Shira, we hiked to Lava Tower then down to Barranco Camp. This was to get us acclimatized and give ourselves a chance to adjust to the altitude. With smooth passages, a challenging and steady ascent to the Lava Tower, the morning promised to be challenging. Hiking through the rolling clouds and surrounded by the semi desertic vegetation made it feel like being on another planet.
Arriving at Lava tower shortly after lunch was a relief. I enjoyed my warm plate of pasta while feeling tiny against the mighty sharp rocks that surrounded us. After lunch, we left for Barranco under a rainy and gloomy sky. On the program for the afternoon, slippery stones, muddy soil and cold-drenched clothes.
It was a constant battle of the mind and body. Upon reaching Barranco in the evening, all I did was get cleaned, dry my hiking gear, dinner and went to bed. I WAS WIPED!
Day 4 - Barranco camp (3984m) - Karanga camp (4040m)
Frosty morning, my body felt like I was beaten for days. The encouragement from the staff porters always put a bit of fuel to get us going. Oh, and the warm hearty breakfast while admiring glimpses of the summit of Kilimanjaro was the motivation I need this morning. But first, there is a wall to get over.
Barranco Wall. The name sounds like a bad guy in a movie.
Climbing the wall, more like scrambling and following our guide’s lead we made it to the top. What a sensation! I have to say though, I surprised myself with this new found energy and will.
Day 5 - Karanga Camp (4040m) - Barafu camp (4681m)
At this altitude, every movement feels like it’s a physical activity. The mornings are brutally cold. Ice crystals form on the surface of my tent and plants at the camp. I used my water bottle filled with boiled water to keep myself warm. Then, add a slice of orange and lemon to it and drink it during my hike.
Today is a short day before our summit to Kilimanjaro. The stride is more controlled. The air is thinner, making my breathing heavier. Like you were doing an intense workout. I arrive shortly before midday to our Barafu camp. With the freezing rain battering for the last two hours, I was drenched from head to toe. We gathered in our dining tent, shared our apprehension over a warm lunch. For the rest of the afternoon, we all slept.
Day 6 - SUMMIT ATTEMPT! Barafu camp (4681m) – Uhuru Peak (5895m) – Mweka (3090m)
At 09.45 pm we were woken up!! Ginger tea with some biscuit. The stage was set. A bright full moon with a few scattered stars shone on the sea of clouds beneath us.
The ambience at the camp was quiet. The calms before the storm. Not the storm of rain and hail but of the herculean task ahead of us.
“Pole! Pole! You are doing good.”
Game time! We set off at midnight. Today’s goal is to summit Uhuru Peak and descend back to our camp. The first few meters were easy as the terrain was mostly flat. I was not moving very fast; the high altitude and harsh cold winds did not help. But little by little, we made progress. Gideon, my guide, would whisper to me words of encouragement; “Pole! Pole! You are doing good.”
The climb to Stella point was a battle. A steep incline to the edge of the peak of Mountain Kilimanjaro. The loose volcanic soil did not help. Taking mini-steps and occasionally stopping to pace my breathing rate with my footsteps. At times during my breaks I found myself dosing off. My body was giving its best but it was trying to shut down. Gideon quickly realized this and encouraged me; “Don’t sleep! Don’t sleep!”
We reached Stella Point at 5400 meters. An accomplishment in itself. But we were not done. The finish line, Uhuru Peak, was in sight. Yet it was over a kilometre and a gradual climb from Stella point. I was determined to finish. Walking past glaciers, with wobbly legs, I pushed through for the next 45 minutes and made it to Uhuru Peak. I was emotional, hugged everyone, cried and snapped photos for souvenirs.
After staying for 35 minutes at the summit, we made our way down to Barafu camp. Riding high from the summit accomplishment, I tried to keep some energy for the way down. The descent to camp was not technically challenging to navigate. However, heavy rain, muddy and slippery grounds, fatigue all added up to make the journey back to the camp a laborious one. A quick nap then we set off to our final camp at Mweka, where we were done for the day. Mission accomplished!
Day 7 - Mweka camp (3090m) - Mweka Gate (1641m) – Sal Salinero Hotel
Today, we leave for Mweka Gate. People are zooming by, eager to get off the mountain. On the way down, I take time to reflect on the journey. A sense of relief overcomes my thoroughly battered body. I feel like I used every ounce of energy I had on that ascent. Arriving at the gate, we sign the official registry attesting our accomplishment.
We arrive at our hotel after seven days of being away from civilization. Our angels (porters, guides) made this journey an unforgettable one. We capped off our time together with the tipping ceremony; a way for us to show our gratitude and appreciation for all they did for us during our one-week adventure.
I was back in my room and overwhelmed by what I had just accomplished! Here I was, sitting amongst my thoughts; unpacking my belongings and with my emotions running high. One of the biggest take-aways for me on this journey; was the small steps that I took to reach the summit. Amidst the challenges, the battering weather, the body aches and fatigue, I pushed through. I could not have done it without
, the constant support from my team, family members and a strong will to propel myself to unimaginable heights. I was grateful for the whole experience. Exhausted, it felt great to take my first proper shower in seven days. Afterwards, I packed my stuff and prepared for a recovery holiday on the white sands of Zanzibar.
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