KGN X KILIMANJARO
In March 2018, KGN took the bold move to hike to the roof of Africa! We travelled to Tanzania and made it to the top of highest mountain in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world.
Below is a snippet of our amazing experience at Kilimanjaro:
Day 1: Arrival
We arrived in Moshi and from the very start, there was no escaping the overwhelming presence of the giant mountain, as we travelled through the small villages lined with coffee and banana plantations, our eyes tracked Kili from every angle. We spent the day exploring the local area, visited a coffee plantation and enjoyed a picnic overlooking an incredible waterfall. As we went to bed that night, the mountain was visible in all its glory from our bedroom windows. The realisation that after months of training and planning we were actually going to start the climb in the morning finally set in.
Day 2: From Machame Gate to Machame Camp
And the adventure begins. We transfer from the hotel to Machame Gate for registration. There is a sense of nervousness coupled with excitement in the air, as our bags are weighed, packed and repacked, water bottles filled and introduction to the porters complete, we are finally checked in and ready to go. Sure-footed, we start our ascent along the forest trails winding our way along the paths of lush greenery and rainforest. Our journey is punctuated with conversations with our guides; reminders to ‘Pole, Pole’ (go slowly slowly in Swahili in order to conserve our energy and allow our bodies to acclimatise), taking in the beautiful scenery and just an all-round palpable buzz of excitement. After 6-7 hours, we are 3000m above sea level and arrive at Machame Hut Camp where we spend the night.
Day 3: Machame Camp to Shira Camp
After breakfast, we start walking. Today we leave the rainforest behind and cross a small valley and ascend to a steep rocky ridge covered with heather. Morale is high; we crack jokes, take plenty of pictures and get to know the different personalities amongst the porters. In true KGN style, we are dubbed ‘Team TBE’. Our route runs a long a river gorge, after 5-6 hours we arrive at Shira Camp. After having our daily oxygen level checks, we settle down for the night, temperatures head to below freezing and we can feel it is a lot colder than the previous night. Our lead guide preps us for the next day, advising it will be a long and tough day.
Day 4: Shira Camp to Barranco Camp via Lava Tower
Today we climb up to 4600m to have lunch at the base of the Lava Tower, which will also allow us to acclimatise. No doubt, this was a tough day; the stark reality of climbing Kilimanjaro kicks in as altitude starts to takes it effects. Conversation today winds down to basic necessities but we remain focused and resolute. As we lunch at Lava Tower, it becomes clear that one of our team is sadly unable to carry on, altitude has taken its toll and his oxygen levels are dangerously low, we reluctantly bid our farewells and head in different directions. We descend to Barranco Camp; the scenic journey offers great opportunities to take some beautiful photographs. Throughout the climb, we encountered five major ecological zones and incredible changes in scenery. We were below the clouds, above the clouds; we trekked through rainforest, bushland, heath and moorland, alpine conditions and arctic zones. Sometimes it was hard to believe we were on the same mountain, but is testament to the magnificence and beauty of nature.
Day 5: From Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp
Mornings at camp were the most serene; the morning sun above the clouds provided much needed warmth and energy, and invigorated us for the day ahead. Today was short but fun, we scrambled to the top of the Great Barranco Wall and then travelled over scree to the Karanga Valley, which sits beneath the icefalls of three glaciers. We stayed at Karanga Campsite overnight. We are now well accustomed to our somewhat monotonous but familiar routine at camp; we arrive, freshen up and are provided with snacks and hot drinks; popcorn and milo is our favourite combination; followed by some time to relax before dinner is served. Three course meals are the norm, although altitude does affect our appetite it is important we eat and drink to maintain our energy levels as summit night is creeping closer.
Day 6: From Karanga Camp to Barafu Hut
Today we spent 3-4 hours hiking to Barafu Camp. At this point, we had completed the Southern Circuit, which meant we had plenty of views of the summit from a variety of angles. At camp, we had dinner and were supposed to rest and relax but that nervous excitement was back. Had we really made it this far? Were we really going to start the summit? Was this even real? After 6 gruelling days we were tired but optimistic, feeling the effects of altitude but staying strong, without our creature comforts but finding solace in nature, missing our friends and families but showing each other immense love and support, the KGN team spirit was in full swing.
Day 7: Barafu Camp to Summit to Mweka Camp
We were woken up at 23:30 with tea and biscuits. We started our summit with the full moon shining majestically bright in the night sky; it felt so close, almost as if you could touch it. Through heavy scree, we hiked up to Stella Point on the crater rim. This was the most mentally and physically challenging part of the whole trek, although we were a team and together we were also alone and making this journey solo, everyone had something to contend with; cramps, headaches, exhaustion, nausea.; you name it, we went through it. At Stella Point we stopped for a short rest just in time to witness the magnificent sunrise, we were now only an hour away from Uhuru Peak, the summit, the highest point on Kilimanjaro – what we had trained so hard for. An hour at that stage felt like a lifetime, we were so close but still so far. We were now in the Artic Zone, hiking through snow, contending with temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius, battling extreme altitude where oxygen levels are roughly half of what they are at sea level, making breathing slow and laboured. Through sheer determination, courage and KGN mentality, we dug deep within ourselves, placed one foot after the other and slowly but surely made it to the roof of Africa. At the top, we were met with breath-taking views, but the realisation that we had made it and achieved our goal was one of those moments you cannot quite put in to words. We embraced and congratulated each other, half-dazed half elated, trying to take in the sheer enormity of what we had just achieved. KGN at the top, KGN at the summit, KGN at Uhuru Peak! We did it!
It was not over though, we now had to descend. Exhausted and running on what felt like empty we descended down to Mweka Campsite for lunch. The weather was against us, heavy rain and loose scree made for challenging conditions but we finally got there. Later that evening, after a gruelling 16-hour day, we enjoyed our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep.
Day 8: Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
Our final day of the trek. Still in awe of what we had achieved, we departed after breakfast to descend the final 1300m. Our guide and porters were truly the best, their support and guidance was invaluable. At Mweka Park Gate, we collected our summit certificates from the Park Headquarters, something we display with pride at KGN HQ.
KGN ON SAFARI
So how do you treat yourself, KGN style, after climbing the highest mountain in Africa? Go on Safari of course!
For the next three days we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves on game drives through the fascinating wildlife arena of Ngorongoro Crater a ‘must see’ safari destination, we were in a real life Jurassic Park. The world heritage site is home to more than 25,000 large mammals and we got to see all the ‘Big Five’ (buffalo, elephant, rhino, lion and leopard) The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world, so lush and picturesque it does not come as a surprise that it is often referred to as ‘Africa’s Eden’. At one particular picnic spot we literally felt like we were sitting in a painting – untouched, unadulterated natural beauty that actually took your breath away. We spent the evenings at a stunning safari lodge and admired the clear skies littered with glittering stars. The perfect end to the most incredible adventure, with the best team, creating the most amazing memories to last a lifetime. KGN does it the absolute best.