MT. KILIMANJARO & SAFARIS: 17 – 30 November 2016

My buddy Bill K. forwarded me an email  from “The Clymb” company that had some discounted trips in it.  I glanced at it a few times and somewhat last minute, decided to do a package deal of a 6 day climb of Kilimanjaro and then 3 one-day safaris.  The guide company was One World Safari in Tanzania.
I flew out of Boston on Nov 16th and arrived in Tanzania, Africa on Nov 17th.  Roughly a 24 hour trip from the time I left my house to arriving at the hotel in Arusha, Tanzania.  I flew in a day early to rest and make sure my climbing and hiking gear made it.  I met up with Zoe and Kelly who flew in a day later.  The first day we walked around Arusha  but were constantly asked by the locals to buy stuff.  We kind of gave up and went back to the hotel after stopping for an excellent meal at The Blue Heron.

On Sat, Nov 19th we met the guides and also met Elly and her mom Kathee who would be joining us for the climb of Kilimanjaro.
Our 3 guides were Naftal, Frank and Barnaba. These guys were great and were a big reason we were all successful in summiting the mountain.

In addition to the 3 guides, we had 18 porters to assist the team. Having a team of this size was unlike any other trip I have done and it was a bit strange. Generally we carried day packs for most of the climb while the porters carried the rest of our gear, all the team gear such as tents, food, etc. I carried all my own gear the first two days and then dropped down to a smaller pack for the rest of the climb.
We were picked up by bus Sunday, Nov 20th and drove about 2-3 hours to the Machame Gate at Kilimanjaro National Park. We should have been hiking around 11am but there was a mixup and funds were deposited in the wrong banking account so their bank card could not pay for the park fees.

After about 4 hours it was resolved and we started hiking fairly late.  The main entrance is at 5,900 feet/1,800 meters. There were a number of monkeys around which are always entertaining to watch.
After summiting, we climbed down and left via the Mweka gate.

This link has a much better summary of Kilimanjaro than I can explain via email:

Mount Kilimanjaro Wiki
The trail was not difficult and we rolled into the Machame camp (9,300 feet/2,835 meters) late afternoon.  It was getting dark when we signed in.  The porters had gone ahead of us and had the whole camp set up.  It was simple to get in my tent, set up the sleeping bag, etc. and then go to the dinner tent.  The cooks worked in this tent and one of the guides would have dinner with the five climbers.  The rest of the porters, etc. had their own communal tent to eat in.  They also had a different diet than us.
By the time we showed up, there were a lot of groups there and dozens of tents.  Our tents are the yellow ones with the big brown tent to the left for us to eat in.

The porters  carry their own gear and then the rest of the communal gear and some of our personal gear.  Many of them just lay the extra stuff on top of their pack and others carry it on their head.  It’s pretty amazing because they are so fast and don’t use trekking poles.  I saw one porter a day or two later high on the mountain who was hiking in sandals without socks.

Wednesday, Nov 23rd we were up around 6:00am which was our usual start to each day.  However, this time it would be the beginning of a long 36 hour period.  The first thing we saw was the Barranco Wall (this photo).  We could climb this wall first thing in the morning.  It was actually one of my favorite parts of the whole week.  It looks tough but was really pretty simple except for one spot where you had to “kiss the wall” to get around a big rock.

Here are a couple photos near the top of the Baranco Wall. 
 
This is a nice shot looking back down on the Baranco Camp Site from the Baranco Wall.  Our group was up and on the wall before most of the other groups were moving.
 
Notice the Porter with a duffel bag he is carrying on his head.  He also has a backpack on. A lot of times they would not even hold onto the duffel bag, they would just balance it on their heads and climb.  Pretty amazing. 
After the wall, we descended hundreds of feet before heading up again towards Barafu Camp (15,300 feet/4,673 meters) which would be our high camp for the trip.

I think we arrived at Barafu Camp around 2:30pm on Wednesday. We relaxed for around 3 hours before getting up for dinner.
I probably slept an hour at most.  After dinner, we all went to our tents and tried to sleep before getting up around 11:00pm for a snack.  We started climbing to the summit around 12:30am Thursday (Thanksgiving day).  I am guessing I might have slept a couple hours and rolled around for the balance of the “rest” time.
We climbed using our headlamps until the sun came up.  We climbed 3 straight hours before we even took a break.  This was not optimal for me because I learned on the AT that I need to eat something every 1.5 – 2 hours or I start hiking weirdly, stepping wrong and mentally checking out.  After a very short break, we started climbing again and went almost 4 straight hours without another break until we reached Stella point.  This is on the edge of the Kilimanjaro crater about 500 feet below the true summit.  We took a short break but we were all very cold and shaking…the wind was strong at this spot too.  I ended up putting another layer of gear on and had 5 layers on my upper body and 3 layers on my legs. It was still cold but that was also a function of not getting any real quality sleep for the past few days and not eating enough.

After a short break, we climbed another hour to the summit.  I don’t think we spent much more than 5 minutes at the summit because we were all beat and cold.  We headed down pretty quickly.
Here is a picture after we hiked down for an hour from the summit pointing at High Camp.

I think I was back at camp around 10:30am.  Unfortunately, the day was not over yet.  We were supposed to take a 2 hour break and then hike down 4+ hours to a lower camp for our last night on the mountain.  Luckily, the guides gave us a longer break of around 4 hours so we could get an hour or two of sleep.  We then broke camp and climbed down a couple hours to High Camp (12,800 feet/3,905 meters) and thus concluding our 5th day on the mountain.

On the way out we passed some “emergency stretchers” as picture below.  Our guide Barnaba had an interesting story of the very first time he was a porter on the mountain.  He fell into a coma at one of the higher camps due to the altitude and the porters had to carry him down and eventually they put him on one of these contraptions to get him off the mountain.

I found this summary below online.  The only difference in what we did was we went straight from the Barranco Hut camp to the Barafu Camp and skipped the Karanga Valley camp site.

Day 1: Machame Gate (1634 m/5,363 ft) to Machame Hut (2834 m/9,300 ft)
Hike time: 7.5 hrs
Elevation change: +1200 m/+3937 ft
Estimated distance: 10km/6.21 miles
Final elevation: 3100 m/10,170 ft

Day 2: Machame Hut (2834 m/9,300 ft) to Shira Hut (3749 m/12,300 ft)
Hike time: 7 hrs
Elevation change: +800 m/+244 ft
Estimated distance: 6km/3.75 miles
Final elevation: 3800 m/12,467 ft

Day 3: Shira Hut (3749 m/12,300 ft) to Barranco Hut (3901 m/12,800 ft)
Hike time: 5 hrs
Elevation change: +100 m/+328 ft
Estimated distance: ?
Final elevation: 3900 m/12,800 ft

Day 4: Barranco Hut (3900 m/12,800 ft) to Karanga Valley (3963 m/13,000 ft)
Hike time: 3.5 hrs
Elevation change: +100 m/+328 ft
Estimated distance: 4km/2.5 miles
Final elevation: 3963 m/13,000 ft

Day 5: Karanga Valley (3963 m/13,000 ft) to Barafu Hut (4,600 m/15,091 ft)
Hike time: 3.5 hrs
Elevation change: +600 m/+1968 ft
Estimated distance: 4km/2.5 miles
Final elevation: 4,600 m/15,091 ft

Day 6: Barafu Camp (4,600m/15,091 ft) to the Summit (5896 m/19,343 ft) and then to Mweka Camp (3100 m/10,170 ft)
Summit time: 7 hrs
Elevation change: +1300 m/+4265 ft
Estimated distance: 5km/3.2 miles
Final elevation: 5896 m/19343 ft
Descent time: 5 hrs
Elevation change: -2800 m/-9186 ft
Estimated distance: 12km/7.5 miles
Final elevation: 3100 m, 10,170 ft

Day 7: Mweka Hut (3100 m/10,170 ft) to Mweka Gate (1828 m/6,000 ft)
Descent time: 4 hrs
Elevation change: -1250 m/-4101 ft

Safaris

After summiting Kilimanjaro, we went back to Arusha for the night and then Zoe, Kelly and I were picked up for 3 straight days of safaris.  The first day was to Tarangire Park, the second day to the Ngorongoro Crater and the last day was to Lake Manyara.  Below are some links if you are really interested in details on each of the safaris we did.

Sat, Nov 26th:  Tarangire National Park
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarangire_National_Park

Sun, Nov 27th:  Ngorongoro Conservation Area
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngorongoro_Conservation_Area
http://www.ngorongorocrater.org

Mon, Nov 28th:  Lake Manyara National Park
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Manyara_National_Park

The top pops up on the Range Rover and you get a great view of the surroundings. In addition, the animals are desensitized to the vehicles and you can drive up right next to most of them.
A couple random observations on the safaris:

1.  Most of the animals were hanging out together like it was a Disney movie – they would be eating right next to each other.  My assumption is they were mostly vegetarians and just eating grass and bushes all day so they aren’t a big threat to each other.  The lions we saw were mostly sleeping or resting.  I suspect once the lions start hunting things get a bit more interesting for the vegetarians…

2. Almost all of the animals were eating, constantly, all day it seemed unless they were moving somewhere or resting. Their full-time job seemed to be getting calories into their system.

I forget what kind of tree this is but it was big and had enough space inside to sleep in.

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