The best season to climb Kilimanjaro is mid-June through mid-October. This gives one the least chance of serious rain while in the climb, which can be very uncomfortable. February and March are decent month to try as well, though expect some moisture! Although the mountain offers many routes, common ones being marangu, umbwe and machame. The Machame Route, possibly the most beautiful and the most varied of them all.
Day 1: Drive from your hotel to the Machame gate where you will meet your porters and guide (unless you have already met your guide at the hotel). Sign in at the gate and begin the 5 to 6 hour walk to Machame Hut 9600'. The walk takes you initially up an old logging road and wind through dense second growth forest. As you hit the single-track trail you begin to notice that you are traveling on a ridge system, a fact betrayed by the sound of water running to either side of you or the steeping grade on either side as well.
Often it is drizzly or rainy here and it is very rare not to have to fast-step around patches of mud. When you notice that it is getting drier as you go you are almost there. Suddenly you will find yourself in the heather zone! Large wispy light green heathers and the distinct musty smells of the zone hit you, a few more minutes and you are there. The hut is for the ranger's use only, your porters have gone ahead and made camp and will have tea and a snack ready for you soon.
Day 2: Wake up around 7:00 am and have a hearty breakfast. Today is steep waking that takes you out of the Heather Zone and into the moorland. The walk carries on up a steep rocky ridge that, weather permitting gives fantastic views of the area below and the Shira Plateau, also of the summit! One climbs some steep area of rock and finds oneself looking at a long transverse through moorland and rocky drainage's. The flora is that wild and strange moorland mix of bright flowers, lobelia and senecio. The camp is made in the vicinity of Shira Hut (at 12,000', again for ranger's use only). Great views of the Shira Plateau and the summit massif reward your 4 hour walk.
Day 3: Wake up early and head for the Great Barranco valley. Today you practice the old mountaineer's adage of "climb high, sleep low". This helps the process of acclimatization tremendously and you will feel the positive effect of it upon reaching camp that evening. You climb on a smooth, rocky ridge to the base of the Lava Tower group and have lunch in the vicinity at around 13,800'. This is the Alpine desert and the reason is obvious. No one descends back down to 12,000' in the heart of the Barranco valley. Forest of scenario, fields of lobelia, the Breach Wall above you (sight of what R. Messner called the hardest climb he had ever done), and the deliciously cool running glacial melt streams around you. It takes about 4-5 hours to reach this alpine paradise.
Day 4: Wake up early as this is a big day. Climb out of the Barranco valley via the wall to the East. It is a steep and fun hike that takes you directly back to the altitude you reached yesterday, and then down again. Up and down you go as you head to th South-Eastern side of the mountain towards the Barafu hut (16,000'). It is long and tough but your body is acclimatizing and you are getting there. When you reach the Karanga valley and begin heading up from there, the countdown has begun. Eventually one finds oneself on th Mweka ridge heading up to the high camp at Barafu. You might meet people on their way down from the top today. This hike has taken you 6 hours and you are amazed at the sight of Mawenzi to the East still looking very high and dusted with snow at nearly 17,000'. Eat early and bed down. Make sure that all of your gear is well organized and ready for the start in a few hours.
Day 5: Wake up at 12:00 am This is difficult and cold. Choke down as much porridge and biscuits as you can, slurp down the tea. Get doing and take the time to find the rhythm that will carry you the next few thousand feet of the summit. It is dark and cold, but with any luck there will be no wind and you can move steadily up the hill. Pause for a drink and a sweet any now and then. Look back at the lights of camp and see how far you have gone, watch Mawenzi, when it is lower than you then when you are well on your way. Keep an eye out on your left to see when you draw even with the ice of the glaciers next to you, this is a great sign of your progress.
About sunrise you should be near the crater rim, exhausted but nearly there. Keep going, 45 minutes away is the summit. You are now there, it is all downhill now, take a breath, smile, enjoy for a few minutes and get going down before the clouds roll in. Down is hard but you are still elated from your success, you pause at the Barafu hut for rest and lunch and then head down back through the desert, moorland and into the heather to reach Mweka Hut at 9,800'. You have done it. This day takes anywhere between 10 and 18 hours.
Day 6: Wake up leisurely and enjoy the smell of the heather zone as you laze your sore legs into a cup of tea and carefully pack up the jog downhill. 3 hours finds you at the gate where you collect the certificate of reaching the summit.
- Sun hat (baseball style cap is the best)
- Balaclava style face mask
- 2 woolly or synthetic hats
- 2 Gore-Tex or similar jacket, rainproof with hood
- 2 pile sweaters
- 2 sets light long underwear (synthetic or silk, capilene or polypropylene is good)
- 1 set medium or heavy long underwear
- 3 T-shirts for lower hiking days
- Down vest is great for warmth
- 2 sets long underwear
- 1 pair good ski-style or mountain paints, waterproof
- 1 pair pile trousers
- 2 pairs shorts
- 4 pairs underwear.
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