It started with an Instagram post & a comment…..
So in 2021, my biggest accomplishment was definitely climbing mt. Kilimanjaro with my sister. It all started with an instagram post made by a Kenyan tour company, about joining them to hike mt. Kilimanjaro on an all women’s trip. This post was made in July 2021, and by November 2021, my sister & I were done prepping for hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro & ready to tackle the beast.
Preparation – The preparation involved frequently hiking on a weekly basis (high elevation hikes), and staying in good shape generally. I was somewhat nervous because I live at 200m above sea level, but my hiking trip in Peru (November 2021) (highest elevation being 4600m) restored my confidence. It is highly recommended to properly train for high altitude in order to avoid getting Altitude sickness and worse cerebral or pulmonary edema.
When December 1st arrived, I packed my bags and left for Nairobi, where I would see my family and hang out for 4 days before going to Tanzania.
Trip to Moshi, Tanzania – We boarded a bus to Moshi in Nairobi (bus stop across from Jevanjee gardens). This bus left at 0800 and dropped us off at our Hotel doorstep at 1800. The bus stopped 4 times, 2 bathroom/lunch breaks, 1 border stop at Namanga (lasted an 1hr to get everyone’s documents checked) & 1 other stop in Arusha to drop off 2 people. The other transport option to Moshi or Arusha Tanzania, is taking a flight straight to Kilimanjaro International airport.
We spent one night in Moshi, Tanzania, where we met our guides (Jonas & Oscar) and had a small briefing of the trip & what to expect. Moshi is a small tourist town that caters to all the needs tourists may have. If you don’t have appropriate hiking gear, you are certainly going to find everything you need in this town. Our hotel (Zebra hotel) was ok, so I wouldn’t recommend it. I saw other hotels that looked much nicer & probably offer more.
The next morning, after spending the night in Moshi, our tour company (which I would totally recommend btw) took us to Lemosho gate, where we weighed our luggage (weight limit for porter bag is 23kgs) & registered. We then started our journey right after lunch, hiking for 3hrs (7km) to Mti mkubwa camp. Day 1 was hiking through the rain forest, so you best believe it rained half the way there. This portion of the hike was a walk in the park. Beautiful scenery with occasional Columbus monkeys swinging from tree to tree & interesting birds.
Camping at Mti mkubwa (2650m) was ok. Since the camp site is in the middle of a forest, we heard a lot of animal noises all night long, making it hard to fully sleep. The temperature was perfect at this camp though, and our chef made us a delicious feast that made us forget about sleeping at mti mkubwa.
It started with sunshine and the guides singing songs as we trekked up to Shira 1. The mood was light, our small group had just gotten well acquainted with each other, and the skies were blue. Our hike on day 2 lasted for 5hrs, with multiple bathroom breaks, as 3 of us were taking Diamox (acetazolamide – acclimatization medicine). The slogan for this day was “pole pole” (Swahili for slowly slowly) & “wali nazi” (Swahili word for coconut rice, which means “everything is good”). We arrived at Shira 1 at 1200, ate lunch, played cards, walked to the river & back, then had a restful night. This camp site was by far my favorite of them all. It was flat, beautiful and I spotted the Milky Way after dinner. The sky was dotted with millions of stars, a beautiful sight to behold.
Hiked from Shira 1 to Shira II (3600m). The way there was pretty flat, since you are slowly ascending on a plateu. At Shira II, the sunset and views are incredible. You can see Mawenzi peak on one side, and Mount Kilimanjaro peak on the other side. Our hike on this day was only 4 hrs.
Shira II to Baranco camp (3800m) via Lava tower (4600m). This was acclimatization day. It rained heavily on this day, and the small streams crossing the trails became swollen with water, but we managed to make it to the campsite in good time. Total hiking time was 7 hrs with an hr long lunch stop at Lava tower. Lava tower to Baranco camp was the most beautiful portion (excluding the summit).
Baranco camp to Karanga camp. This day was fun due to the technical challenges of climbing a “wall”. The trail to Karanga camp from baranco involves ascending a very steep wall, that has become known as the “breakfast wall”. The views from the breakfast wall are amazing. This is also where you “kiss the rock”. The kissing rock is a rock that juts out on the breakfast wall & the only way to get across is by tightly hugging it to prevent falling off the trail.
Karanga camp to Kosovo camp (4900m) via Base camp (Barafu camp). This day was long but not hard. We made it to Kosovo camp in time for lunch. On this day, we were expected to be a little sick and loose appetite, but none of us became sick. We ate, played cards and were in bed by 5pm. That night the winds were strong & it snowed a little.
Day 7 (Summit night)
We woke up at midnight and started getting ready to summit. You are required to wear almost all your hiking clothes. A base layer of thermals, then a fleece jacket & one pair of warm hiking pants, then on top of that, your puffer jacket & your summit pants (warm ski pants), & lastly on top of everything, your summit jacket (a good ski jacket able to withstand minus degrees temps). For the face, we all had a baclava & a warm hat. For feet, 2-3 pairs of warm socks & your hiking boots (I recommend a good pair of waterproof hiking boots). Last but not least, liner gloves, & ski gloves on top.
Summit night was BRUTAL! We had barely slept, our pace was supposed to be extra slow due to altitude sickness, and the winds were crazy on the trail, making it feel colder than it actually was. I unfortunately started falling asleep on the trail, so when we stopped for a break, I asked our lead guides if I could walk a bit faster with one of the other guides. He reluctantly agreed, but once we had walked for about 2hrs, I started to feel the altitude sickness hit me. I became nauseous, colder, fatigued (literally unable to walk for more than 2 minutes without pausing for a break) & the worst of all, my muscles started cramping. I asked my guide if we could turn around several times, but he pushed me on, and I am glad I made it all the way to the summit. It was worth every step I made.