On a midsummer night, my friend Gaddo and I had an idea: let’s go to Africa, let’s go climb Kilimanjaro! We found a good offer to fly to Kilimanjaro Airport and, just after 24 hours, booked our flights. We immediately arranged with Chief’s Tour: we booked the Kilimanjaro climb and a safari to Ngorongoro Crater.
The total price is quite high: $1600, plus tips for the porters, chefs and the two guides (the total tip was $300). However, it must be admitted that organizing such a trip is not easy.
Landing at Kilimanjaro airport, we arrived in Moshi, where Chiefs Tours arranged a great hotel for us, the Q Wine. After a lavish dinner and drinking Kilimanjaro beer in front of Mount Kilimanjaro we were ready for our trek.
Kilimanjaro’s Machame Trail begins at Machame Gate. The trail is on dirt and you are always covered by thick forest-thanks to the trees we didn’t even realize the rain.
We were quite frightened by these 1200 meters
, but in fact the climb through the forest is easy and steady. Only when the vegetation begins to thin out do the slopes become more challenging, but they are nothing transcendental. When you arrive at Machame Camp by now the vegetation consists of small shrubs.
From a landscape point of view, the forest is very beautiful. The sunset was my favorite part: the Meru volcano with typical African postcard colors is unforgettable.
After dinner, I suffered quite a bit from the cold: to be honest, I have never suffered so much from the cold as at those times. Thinking back today, perhaps I was not mentally prepared for the fact that it might already be cold on the first night of the trek.
The second day involves another 900 meters of elevation gain, in only 5 km of walking-so we were already mentally prepared to see some steep sections. All along the hike you can see Meru Volcano, Mount Shira and the imposing peak of Kilimanjaro.
You walk along a steep lava ridge, and the vegetation gets lower and lower as you climb. Having finished the steep part, there is a small stretch of rocks left before reaching Shira Camp: even from here the sunset is wonderful.
The walk was rather quick.
: we had time to have lunch and dinner at Camp and see some small rock formations during a short afternoon walk.
This stage is divided into two parts:
the first uphill
and the second downhill.
In fact, a detour is made during this day to get to Lava Tower Camp (which coincides with the end of the uphill portion): to get to the 4600 meters of this Camp, one climbs through now nonexistent vegetation along a decidedly steep ascent in places.
The reward, besides excellent acclimatization, is the distinctive lava cones to which the Camp owes its name.
From Lava Tower Camp we descend to Barranco Camp: along this descent it is possible to find a few streams and in fact the vegetation grows quite luxuriantly.
So we arrive at Barranco Camp, just below 4,000 meters:
I personally suffered a lot this day.
, and I had some doubts about reaching the summit.
My doubts about the success from the project were also due to the start of the fourth day: in fact, in the first hour or so we have to climb the so-called ‘Barranco Wall,’ which has some easy climbing passages. As you climb, Barranco Camp gets smaller and smaller, to become tiny once you reach the top of the Wall (it is about 200 meters of elevation gain).
From here you reach Karanga Camp after a few ups and downs.
. Camp is located at 4050 meters, so about the same altitude as at the start: this Camp is used for eating, deservedly so!
From Karanga Camp we have to climb another 600 meters to get to Barafu Camp: it may have been the acclimatization, it may have been the great anticipation for the fifth and fateful day, but it took us much less time to cover these 4 km than the 4 hours we had planned (
2 hours and something
Perhaps this is the most uncomfortable camp of the five in which we slept: we would have been in the tent very little anyway, since we were scheduled to wake up at midnight.
This is undoubtedly the most anticipated day: in fact, on this very long day, it is possible to conquer the top of one of the seven summits.
It is essential to follow the pace of the guides: it seems like a leisurely pace, but it is steady and has proven to be a great help at higher altitudes. In fact, the climb is steep from the beginning: in the first hour we managed to climb 300 meters. Just above 5,000 meters the climb thankfully becomes a little less steep.
At one point, exactly when the first light of dawn begins to peep through, a peak, called Stella Point and located at 5750 meters, can be seen in the distance. To get to this summit you have to walk on a gravel path, which I personally suffered a lot. Once we arrived at Stella Point, the satisfaction is already so great: seeing the sun rise above a sea of clouds was a spectacular icing on the cake.
From Stella Point, in fact, it is possible to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro (Uhuru Peak, 5895 meters) thanks to a few easy ups and downs. By now I was out of breath, but getting to the top was a great thrill! As you can easily imagine, the spectacle from up here is majestic: the glaciers, the desert of stones and the sea of clouds are an unforgettable sight.
Given the altitude, one cannot stay for long at the top. As far as I am concerned it was really tiring going down to Barafu Camp:
these 1300 meters of descent
(walked along the same trail as on the way out) I remember them endless. Once we arrived at Barafu Camp we had time to eat something and get some sleep.
From Barafu we continue downhill to Mweka Camp, which is at 3,000 meters, where the vegetation is again lush. This means that in one day we went up 1300 meters and down 2900 meters. At Mweka Camp the porters, chefs and guides generally do a small musical performance to celebrate success.
Day 6 is an easy walk to the Mweka Gate. One last view of Kilimanjaro in the trees and some monkeys made the final farewell unforgettable! Once we arrived at the Mweka Gate, we greeted our escorts and received the ‘climbing diploma,’ which I jealously keep.