2009 Kilimanjaro Climb

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Climb

Unfortunately we weren't able to blog much while in Africa. Besides the lousy computers, immediately after the climb we went on safari, then went pretty much straight home. Now that we are both back in the U.S., here are a few images from the trip and a brief description of how it went.

We left the town of Arusha in the morning of the 9th and after a two hour drive, arrived at the Machame Gate mid-day. Several other expeditions were leaving at the same time. In the following picture, porters are lined up to have their gear weighed before heading up. The porters are only allowed to carry 20 kg each, which compounds the number of porters needed for each trip, leading to around a 5:1 ratio of porters and guides to clients.

The trail starts in a hot muggy, rain forest on the south side of the mountain at around 1,900 meters. We arrived at our first camp at Machame (3,100 meters) after around 3 hours.

The next day was mostly cloudy, but was nice because it kept the unshaded trail cool. We reached our next camp at Shira (~3,800 meters) in 2 hours flat. Already we were starting to see how funny the Machame Route was. Instead up going straight up the mountain, it traverses all over the place and goes up and down losing and gaining thousands of meters of elevation. However, we left the rain forest this day and the terrain opened up and provided great veiws of the surrounding mountains, and our first good view of Kilimanjaro itself. This night we got some serious rain (and a river under our tent) but fortunately we stayed nice and dry.

Shira Camp with Mt. Meru in the distance:

Day 3 involved gaining nearly 800 meters to Lava Tower (4,600 meters), then descending all the way back down to about 3,900 meters to the Barranco Camp, with a little up and down in between. We made the lava tower high point in under 2 hours and make a quick climb of the cool little tower. Descending to Barranco took about 30 minutes.

Lakpa approaching Lava Tower:

The next day was the clearest and most beautiful yet. The sun stayed out nearly the whole day and the surrounding views were incredible. We left Barranco at around 9 a.m. and shuddered at the fact that there were hundreds of people making their way ahead of us up the steep Barranco wall just out of camp. Luckily it was easier to pass people than we thought and we made quick progress up to the top, only to be greeted with a series of descents and ascents that eventually dropped us all the way back to around 3,900 meters again, before starting back up to make the more gradual ascent to Barafu High Camp at 4,600 meters. Lakpa pulled this day off in 2.5 hours - it took me about 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Waking up at Barranco Camp with the Breach Wall behind:

Lakpa in front of the Breach Wall:

A near full day's rest was welcome at Barafu as we knew we would be getting up early for the summit attempt. We wanted to time it so we would be on the summit right at sunrise - so we left at 2:30 a.m. hoping for a 4 hour summit time. Summit morning was quite windy and colder than expected. We ended up having to hike up in everything we brought. On the way to the summit, we passed over 200 people, and counted another 50 or so ahead of us. With 5:1 porter/guided to cliet ratio, this puts over 1000 people at each camp every night. We were suprised at how many people were on the mountain, but we were both pleased at how clean the camps were under these circumstances.

We summited at 6:10, 3 hours and 40 minutes after leaving and just before sunrise!

Lakpa Rita Sherpa on the summit of Kilimanjaro on February 13, 2009, successfully completing his Seven Summits:

The diminishing ice cap and Mt. Meru in the distance:

Looking toward the crater with what's left of the summit ice cap:

That day we descended the Mweka Route in a couple hours to the Mweka Camp at 3,100 meters, back down in the rain forest. The Mweka Route is a more realistic route - it goes straight down (or up), but it is only allowed to be descended. I can't complain too much about the Machame Route though, it is a very scenic route and one gets to see a lot of the mountain.

On the final day (day 6) we descended the last bit of trail in less than 2 hours to the Mweka Gate (1,700 meters). Here we were greated by the Big Expeditions staff who threw us a great little welcoming party and made Lakpa a cool banner.

We'd both like to kindly thank Big Expeditions who outfitted our trip on Kilimanjaro (and on our Serengeti safari). Nicholas and his wife Angela put together an awesome and flawless trip for us. Julius our guide, Samuel our cook, and Franky our assistant guide were all top notch.

We'd also like to thank our sponsors (see the last post!)

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