Arriving in Arusha, Tanzania in a late March afternoon, we saw for the first time in nearly 18 months the ‘Beast’ that was ahead of us, rising majestically from the plains of Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro itself.
The southern face of Kilimanjaro has much more snow than we saw last time, this being a colder part of the year, but the skies are clear and the view to Kibo and Mawenzi is unobstructed. From this distance we’re unable to see the glaciers on top, but of course we know they are there, awaiting our arrival in around a week.
As one of the three hikers who have conquered Kilimanjaro in the past, I can hear sounds of shock, and trepidation, from the voices behind me in the bus as they suddenly realize the scale of what they are about to attempt.
Even from 60km away, Kilimanjaro is an imposing sight, and their gasps will no doubt increase in intensity and anxiety as we drive towards the base of the mountain in the next few days.
Arusha National Park
Before we began our climb, a rest day is spent with a mini-Safari to the Arusha National Park.
Arusha National Park is a large open-range safari park, often overlooked by tourists, despite offering the opportunity to experience a diverse range of habitats and inhabitants within a hour or so of the city of Arusha.
The entrance gate leads into shadowy forest inhabited by inquisitive blue monkeys and adventurous black-and-white colobus monkeys, whom seem to ignore our jeeps. In the midst of the forest stands the spectacular Ngurdoto Crater, whose steep, rocky cliffs enclose a wide marshy floor dotted with herds of buffalo and warthog.
Rather clean and enthusiastic, we gather outside the Kibo Palace Hotel before heading off – a physical state we won’t see again for well over a week!
Starting on the west of the mountain at the Lemosho Gate, we hiked for 6 days and nights around the northern (close to Kenya) side to the Third Cave site, before finally arriving at the School Hut base-camp, from where we would begin our midnight summit push.
The Lemosho route is widely considered to be the best route on mount kilimanjaro. Lemosho, a relatively new route, is favoured due to its beauty, remoteness and success rate, and we followed the newer “Northern Circuit” variation – taking us around the northern face of Kilimanjaro before re-joining the normal route at the Third Caves camp.
Our previous experience on Kilimanjaro introduced us to Tanzanian Time – where distance and time seem to be described by locals in a less-than-accurate fashion – possibly to not terrify hikers with the distances covered. However on our return, the National Park authority have erected more accurate signs throughout the park, which is a welcome addition. Our actual hike was 48km over 32hrs – a little faster than the posted times.
Starting at the Lemosho Gate (2100m), our ascent was spread over 6 days to ensure acclimatisation to high altitude – using the climb-high, sleep-low technique. The chart above excludes the first day of hiking.
From the second day of hiking, Kilimanjaro towered high above, snowfalls much further down than we had expected, adding to the anxiety all hikers felt as we circled around over the next few days towards base-camp.
At around 9:15am on March 29th, we successfully reached Uhuru Peak (5895m), the summit of Kilimanjaro and the highest point in Africa.
Of our team, three of us (myself, Cam and Srijuth) were crazy enough to make this our second trip to the top of Kilimanjaro in less than 2 years.
Brothers in Arms – myself and brother Aidan at the conclusion of this amazing adventure.
Of course, no trek to the summit can be completed without our friendly, helpful and constantly-singing guides and porters.
At the end of a successful trip, our guides and porters sing the traditional Jambo Bwana song to celebrate our combined achievements. Whilst the guides and summit porters are professionals and undertake the climb regularly, it is still by no means easy for any of them.
- Date: March 21- April 2, 2015
- Tour: 7 day Kilimanjaro climb – Lemosho Route (Northern Circuit variation)
- Location: Tanzania, near Kenyan border in East Africa
- Nearest Airport: Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO)
- Ecosystems: Bushland, Forrest, Heath, Alpine, Arctic
Some photos courtesy of the Telco Together Foundation, Team Kilimanjaro and Srijuth Wimalajeewa.