Day 1: Machame Gate (1800 meters) to Machame Hut (3050 meters) (approximately 5-6 hours walk). You leave Arusha for trip to Machame Gate (1800 meters), which takes about 1–30 hours. The road to the gate gets much steeper and narrower around Machame village. Cultivated areas of banana and coffee surround the settlement. You prepare for your climb under rain shelters while your guide and cook organizes your porters for the trip and sorts out their loads. You sign into the park visitor’s book and then begin your climb.
You set off from the gate, at a sensible pace, at around 11:00. The scenery through the rain forest is interesting and constantly changing. You walk gentle paths through large trees with a fair amount of undergrowth. After half an hour or so the path narrows and ascends considerably following a sometimes narrow rocky ridge. The vegetation becomes much denser with giant ferns every where. Moss and creepers hang off every available purchase.
Around lunchtime you pass into an area of larger hardwood trees and less dense undergrowth. As you continue to climb the trees get lower and become interspersed with giant heather some 30 ft high. You usually arrive before your porters’ do but after a short half an hour or so your tents arrive, which you set up to get a working understanding of them. The Machame camp is a shared campsite, as your all of the campsite used on the mountain and other climbers usually camp some distance apart. Toilets are the "drop style", dinner and overnight at Machame Hut campsite.
Day 2: Machame Hut (3050 meters) to Shira Hut (3800 meters) (approximately 5 hours walk). You are woken with tea 6:30 in your tents. The views reach as far as the neighboring heather covered ridge some 200 meters away. Breakfast is at 7:15 and then you leave camp at 8:15 climbing a steep path winding back and forth across a narrow rocky ridge. The path twists and scrambles among the rocks and blackened heather. Towards midday you reach a short rock step that opens out on top to "picnic rock", the normal lunch stop on route to Shira.
You are treated to fantastic views towards the eroded peaks of Shira with wispy edge of the cloud sea breaking on the ridges and valleys. After you are packed lunch, you traverse diagonally left up towards the Shira ridge above. You are now into the moorland zone with giant lobelia and groundsel appearing around you. At the top of the Shira ridge you reach the highest point for the day of 3840 meters before the path flattens and drops slightly towards Shira camp. You arrive at your Shira Cave campsite, your campsite has fantastic views in every direction, Shira’s peaks and plateau, Mt. Meru and a golden sea of soft clouds with the setting sun glinting off Kibo’s ice fields.
The day ends lying in the tents looking out over the cloud towards Mt. Meru after the sun set over Shira. As the sun sets the temperature drops rapidly under the clear skies. When the skies are in darkness the stars are apparent in their full glory. The unfamiliar constellations confirm you are in the southern Hemisphere and with Kibo silhouetted against the sky the view is quite awesome. Dinner and overnight at Shira Hut campsite.
Day 3: Shira Hut (3800 meters) to Barranco Hut (3955 meters) via Lava Tower (4610 meters)(approximately 6 hours walk). As per your new routine, you have tea at 6:30 and breakfast at 7:15. The sun rises behind Kibo’s crater casting a cone shaped shadow that sweeps towards you, from across the clouds. You start to day climb at 8:30 walking directly towards Kibo up a broad rocky ridge. The slowly changing views just keep getting better as you get noticeably closer to the snow–covered summit.
The barren looking Shira plateau stretches out to your left and the icy glaciers reflect the early morning sunshine straight ahead. The vegetation has now died right back as you climb into the desert zone over 4000 meters. A steady climb takes you to the foot of Lava Tower, a 50 meters high lump of rocky sticking up from the rolling ridges around the summit cone. Your short scramble to the top of the tower will get the heart rate pumping but the views make the effort worthwhile. The top of the tower, at 4610 meters, is the highest point of the day and from the top the clear mountain air makes Kibo looks so close.
You scramble back down for lunch before setting off again. From the tower is generally down hill to the Barranco Hut campsite, with some steep descents into the valley. You travel ever closer to the Western Breach wall with its huge cliffs topped with glaciers. You are now on the southern circuit path as you descend passing forest of giant groundsel and lobelia that give the feeling you have entering the land of the giants. Barranco is the most spectacular campsite this far.
Day 4: Barranco Hut (3955 meters) to Karranga Valley (3950 meters) (approximately 3 hours walk). Today is extra day we have added to your itinerary for acclimatization. Instead of traveling direct to Barafu, we have splint the climb to overnight at the Karranga Valley, approximately half way. The sun very quickly warms every thing up enough to encourage you to pack up your gear and set off for the day’s climb at 9:00. The day’s first and main obstacle is the imposing looking lava face of the great Barranco Wall. The rough, craggy, sheer looking wall looms quickly after a short walk across the valley floor. You pass a huge boulder and start to climb past a forest of giant groundsel to the foot of the wall. Once on the wall the worst that is encountered is some easy scrambling.
A stiff climb for 30 minutes or so and the steepest sections are behind you. A further 30 minutes on easier, but still steep, slopes and you finally reach the top of the wall at an altitude of 4180 meters, your highest point for today. The reward is probably your best and closest view of Kibo’s glaciers. The morning sun shines across the rim of the crater reflecting off the icy slopes. The crystal clear air and bright sunshine makes the gleaming glaciers look close enough to touch and perfect in infinite detail. To the left, perched are top the sheer cliff of the western breach, the diamond glacier "drips" over the cliff with giant, long icicles reaching down to the Balletto Glacier on the shelf below. To the right of these the Heim, Kerstien and Decken glacier Buckie over their uneven rock bed.
You cross two valleys traversing around towards Karranga Valley. The barren landscape is desert like with a few hardy plants sheltered in gaps under and between rocks. The Karranga Valley is a little deeper than those you have crossed during today’s climb, but smaller than the Barranco Valley. You descend to a flat area towards the head of the valley above a cascading stream. Your camp is again set up for you when you arrive. After a welcome lunch, you can lounge around in the sun resting, reading and taking in scenery. The valley is similar to Barranco in that it is relatively lush with many of the giant size mountain plants about. Dinner and overnight at Karranga Valley campsite.
Day 5: Karranga Valley (3950 meters) to Barafu Hut (4610 meters) (approximately 3 hours walk). The morning soon warms once the sun arrives for the morning’s climb up out of the valley towards Barafu. You leave just after 9:00 crossing over the stream and cutting diagonally up the steep slope out of the valley. Once out of Karranga valley the terrain becomes very barren. You cross another couple of shallow valleys moving around the mountain until, after a final steep climb, you reach the Barafu ridge. This ridge top marks the point where the south circuit path, which you have been following for a couple of days, joins the Mweka trail that climb’s all the way up to Stella point on the crater rim.
As you head up the Mweka trail following the boulder strewn ridge you get your first view of Mawenzi with it’s jagged rock spires partially covered in cloud. For the first time you are on a path that will only lead up until you can climb no higher. Each step now can be marked off against this goal bringing it ever nearer. The acclimatization working, as you suffer no headache on the approach to your highest point on the mountain so far. You arrive at Barafu Hut Camp just after 12:00 after 3 hours walking. This is another short day due to your extra night at Karanga and it will hopefully give you plenty of time to rest up.
Barafu hut is perched on a narrow rocky ridge top and has only limited camping space available. You set up camp on an available space at the top end of the camp perched on a raised ledge near a cliff top. Some 15 ft from your tent door is a cheer drop of a couple of hundred meters or so. You have lunch and then sort most of your gear out for tonight’s summit. The top of Kibo and Mawenzi cloud in as normal from midday to mid afternoon when the views clear, and become spectacular in all directions. An early dinner is prepared at 17:00 and then you will go to bed to get some sleep before your wake up call at 23:00. Wake up arrives with tea. Dinner and overnight at Barafu Hut campsite.
Day 6: Barafu Hut (4610 meters) to Mweka Hut (3100 meters) via Uhuru Peak (5895 meters) (approximately 12 hours walk). You leave Barafu hut at midnight. You set off under clear starlit skies staring down at the circle of your light from your head torches. The first half an hour of the climb is steep, but a short respite is gained as the trail then levels out for a while. This however is short lived as the path soon steeper considerably for the remainder of the climb. You stop for the first time after about an hour and there after at about one hour intervals. The stops are kept to no more than 5 minutes to prevent the cold taking hold. The temperature is estimated to be about 15 degrees C with only an occasional light breeze, as you get higher up.
The climb from Barafu to Stella is supposed to take about 6 hours. Looking up and to the left you can just make out the lighter color of the Rebmann Glacier. Shortly afterwards the sky begins to lighten in the east and soon you will no longer need the torches to climb. After a little under 4.5 hours you should make Stella Point in about 40 minutes. A glance behind you confirms that you are now above the top of Mawenzi and are therefore well over 5000 meters. Suddenly you can make out that you are level with the glacier to your left and you are getting very close. The distance is still hard to judge as you trudge upwards through the steeping scree.
After approximately 5 hours, you steep up to Stella point at 5794 meters. As you look over into the crater for the first time you are surprised by the extent of it. Although it is still in darkness your eyes are sufficiently accustomed to make out the huge crater with the ash pit rising up in the center. After the month of preparation and anticipation words cannot explain the feeling of exhilaration. It is an awesome sight that you fell privileged to witness. You feel strong and well able to manage this last hour, on easier slopes, to Uhuru Peak. Eventually you climb onto the highest section of the rim.
It is difficult to tell which part is higher as the summit area is almost flat. You approach each slight rise eagerly and then you see it, up ahead through the gloom, a sign perched on a slight rise on the lip of the crater. With the feeling of being "on top of the world" you step up to the sign and smile. The huge crater stretches out before you from here you can pick out the ash pit and the eastern and northern ice fields across the crater. The Furtwangler Glacier is visible within the crater below you. After about 20 minutes you should leave the summit and start to head back to Stella point, before any hypothermia can set in, resulting from the oblivious cold.
You agree and after signing the summit log, start to head down. Shortly after starting your descend the first chink of the rising sun appears above the horizon. The whole eastern sky is lit by a golden, fiery glow. The horizon is visible so far in either direction that the curve of the earth can be clearly seen. The light is now sufficient for photography without the flash. The rear edges of the summit glaciers make a good shot as they turn orange reflecting the first rays of sunlight. The sun soon noticeably increases the temperature and it is at this point that you at last remember to check the thermometer. It reads 10 degrees C. The views as the sun raises, both across the crater and of the surrounding glaciers, is superb.
Eventually you arrive back at Stella point, the sun is now high and bright and you try to take in the last views of the top before beginning your descent. The descent seems particularly exhausting, as it is hard to descend slowly, as the scree is very steep and moves a lot underfoot. The best way seems to be to take large paces and foot ski down. This however takes a lot of energy at this altitude and you need to take many short breaks. Now you will begin to feel very tired. However the descent is at least very quick and you get back to Barafu in an amazing 2 hours and 30 minutes. You can then collapse into your tent as you have had no real sleep in 24 hours and have climbed for 8.5 hours at night to high altitude.
You drift off into a deep slumber for 2 hours and have lunch before you then descend to Mweka Hut. You loose altitude quickly down the Mweka route, passing through the desert zone and into the moorland zone with the heather growing taller as you drop lower. For the final hour the descent becomes much steeper. You are extremely thankful to finally reach Mweka Hut campsite (3100 meters) after 3 hours. Our tent has been put up ready for us to collapse into, totally spent after a long day. The campsite is just about at the level with the top of the cloud and as the afternoon wears on the cloud lifts up around you to obscure the sun. Dinner and overnight at Mweka Hut Campsite.
Day 7: Mweka Hut (3100 meters) to Mweka Gate (1800 meters) (approximately 4 hours walk). Your final morning on Kilimanjaro begins in the normal fashion. Tea in your tent at 6:30 and followed by breakfasts at 7:15. You start to descend from the camp and soon drop into the cloud persistent drizzle. You descend through the rain forest. As the path widens into a vehicular track you realize you reaching the gate at 1800 meters. Your porters await you at the gate, you will go to the park office to sign out and receive your summit certificates. If all went well on your climb to summit, you qualify for a Gold Uhuru Peak Certificate. You then get a final lunch before departing.
Price: USD 1450 per person.
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