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Climbing Kili (in '09) for MWCT (Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust)


divewop
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Mt. Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania, Africa and is approx. 19,340 feet high. It is the world's tallest free-standing mountain, and is called the "roof of Africa". A stunning trek, it isn't too terribly difficult if you are properly prepared. I admit, in some parts it is very challenging (the day before summitting) but if you're up to the task, it's well worth it.

 

Below is the route we took. The Western Breach option is the most difficult and dangerous on the mountain, responsible for 95% of the deaths and injuries. Climbers spend a night at over 18,000' elevation making altitude sickness a serious concern.

 

We took the toughest route, to challenge ourselves, and it's supposed to be the most scenic. Here's a brief description of our itinerary.

 

Shira/Western Breach/Mweka route - 8 days

 

Day 1 - Montane Forest (9,000ft)

 

We drive to Lemosho Glades in Kilimanjaro National Park where you’ll meet your crew and start the hike...From here we’ll walk a few hours through the undisturbed forest to our camp...Lunch will be provided during our hike and with luck you’ll be able to see Colobus monkeys and signs of elephant or buffalo.

 

Day 2 - Shira Plateau West side (11,300ft)

 

Today’s hike will take us through the Montane Forest and the Hagenia Zone...By taking our time walking through the forest, we should spot some of the plentiful game and bird life...Your guide will point out the unique environmental differences that characterize these separate equatorial zones.

 

Day 3 - Shira Plateau East Side (12,950ft)

 

Our hike today will take us across the Shira Plateau and onto the western slope of the Kibo Massif...Camp will be in the upper heath zone.

 

Day 4 - Lava Tower (14,300ft)

 

Today we’ll hike to a prominent rock called Lava Tower...This will be your first introduction to the alpine zone on Kilimanjaro, the only plant life being the hardiest of grasses and lichens...We’ll have a spectacular view of our final ascent route up the Western Breach.

 

Day 5 - Arrow Glacier (16,000ft)

 

With the Western Breach ascent route in full view we will spend a few hours climbing to the base of the route where we’ll make camp near Arrow Glacier. An afternoon hike further up the route before relaxing in the camp will help with acclimatization and improve our performance the following day.

 

Day 6 - Summit Crater Camp (18,500ft)

 

We’ll wind our way up the Western Breach (non-technical) for about the six hours to the crater rim...We can explore the inner crater and the ash pit before moving to our high camp on the crater floor.

 

Day 7 - Mweka Hut (10,500ft)

 

Summit day!..We will start our ascent to the summit (19,340ft) around 7:00am and reach the summit by 9:00am...After taking in the view from Uhuru Peak we’ll begin the long descent down to Barafu Hut for lunch and than to our camp at Mweka Hut.

 

Day 8 - Mweka Park Gate

 

We make the final descent to the trail head today.Here we will have lunch and say goodbye to our mountain crew.

 

 

For anyone interested in climbing, it is a great experience and if you don't think you can do it,

YOU CAN!!

 

A synopsis of the climb, according to me!

 

Let me preface this by saying that it is a totally subjective experience. **Do not try this at home.** :-)

 

I had agreed to do the trek for and with my friend, Luca, who runs Campi Ya Kanzi and the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust in the Chyulu Hills in Kenya. Luca and I became fast friends upon my first visit to his camp back in '03. I'd been wanting to climb Kili ever since my first trip to his camp where you can see her, in all her glory, from CYK. So, she'd pretty much been calling out to me every time I visited CYK. Finally in '08, Luca and I sat down and decided to do a fundraiser to raise money for a dental clinic for the Maasai of Kuku Group Ranch.

 

It wasn't until 6 weeks before the climb when I got a call from Luca saying it's a go. I panicked. I can't do this! I can't climb Kili! I'm scared! Waah! And I can't raise money in 6 weeks! Are you kidding me? Then Luca told me the story of how he recently lost some friends in a plane crash (on Kili) who were going to do the climb to raise money. Now, how could I say no after hearing that story?! And enough of the whining. Here's my chance. Just shut up and do it!!

 

I was scared to death, because I had never done multi-day trekking/climbing before other than back to back gorilla treks, and a few days up in Jackson Hole but no week long camping trips, especially with folks I didn't know. And at altitudes which I hadn't been before.

 

I also didn't like finding out very late in the game that 3 of the 7 of us climbers canceled, which included the only other girl who was supposed to climb.

 

I got to Kenya and met up with the two other climbers, both Italian, both guys, and only one of the two spoke English. Knowing that Luca was Italian as well, but also spoke English, I thought this was going to make for a very interesting journey. So here it was...three Italian guys and an American girl.

 

The three of us joined Luca at Campi Ya Kanzi for 2 days prior to the climb to rest up and relax and do a little hiking. Luciano and Maurizio didn't have to worry about jet lag since they came from Europe but I, of course, had to get adjusted to the time difference. But it's always been easier for me on arriving in Africa than departing.

 

I'd been panicking about the trek since I agreed to do it since I'd heard how tough it is. Living in Colorado, I took advantage of hiking and since I do it here anyway, I upped my training (in the six week period prior to the climb) to several times a week, even in the cold of winter because I knew conditions on Kili at the higher altitude were going to be similar to that of CO.

 

We were lucky and had a wonderful week of weather. Yeah, it was cold and we did have snow flurries one day at Arrow camp, (per one of the pics) but living in CO prepared me for cold; teaching me to dress in layers. I bought a balaclava, shell pants and shell jacket, mittens (which are warmer than gloves) and I had bought a -20 sleeping bag just in case. (The only thing I hate worse than being cold is being COLD!)

 

I found out Maurizio had been a champion skier in Italy and Luciano was in pretty good shape too, and Luca had climbed it twice before so I thought I was going to slow the boys down. Aaack! What have I gotten myself into?!

 

Of course, the 3 of them were talking in Italian the whole time, so thank gawd I decided to bring my iPod. I'd lived in Italy for 3 years as a child and was fluent upon leaving but lost it when moving back to the states and not being able to keep up with it. So, the iPod went on my ears several times throughout the week.

 

I found out soon into the climb, that I could hang with the guys pretty easily. By the end of the second day, I actually started easing ahead of the guys along with Herman, one of our two guides. We still maintained a very slow pace (pole, pole) but just not as slow as the guys. I'd arrive at lunch camps 30-45 minutes earlier and at afternoon camps the same.

 

By the third day, the porters were calling me "legs of antelope" or "gazelle" because I wasn't far behind them in arriving to lunch camp or afternoon camp. They'd High-5 me and tell me 'good job' so it inspired me to keep on keeping on, doing what I was doing.

 

By the fifth day, I was getting to camps about 45-60 minutes earlier than the guys. I had no problems adjusting to the altitude increase, and to the colder temps. The boys were starting to feel the effects of it.

 

Like CO, if it was going to cloud up, it usually did by noon. But at altitude, you go from clouds to sun and back several times during the day. And the last couple of nights in the tent, my thermometer was reading about 20 degrees, with ice crystals forming on the ceiling of the tent and our camelback hoses would freeze, which was a bitch the next day.

 

Overall, the climb was easier than what I thought it would be until the day before summiting when we had to climb the Breach. That was tough. Vertical as hell, and I actually thought we needed ropes at some points. But I wasn't going to quit...just did a little whining on the way to the top of the outcroppings. It was a glorious feeling once we got to the last one, up and over into the ice fields and to Summit Crater Camp.

 

During that climb, I did have to relinquish my backpack to one of the guides so I didn't get to hydrate properly which is the whole key to keeping altitude sickness at bay. When we got to Summit Crater camp (8 hours later) I had a killer headache and thought I wasn't going to be able to summit the next morning unless I got rid of it. I did take 2 advil and diamox to lessen my symptoms and the next morning, the 800 feet to the summit was a piece of cake by comparison. I was dancing on the last leg to the "roof of Africa" and had "Happy Feet" at that point.

 

Unfortunately, Luca and Maurizio succumbed to altitude sickness and couldn't summit which was a shame because we all came such a long way together and wanted to display our MWCT t-shirts in a photo for the foundation.

 

So, if anyone's going to do it...drink, drink, drink, and drink more water than you've ever drank in your life. And get your mindset right. Most of it is mental. Not summiting was never an option for me. I didn't go all that way and climb for 6.5 days to the summit to have to turn back.

 

The 1.5 day trek back down is harder on your legs than going up. Knees are shot, toes are jammed to the front of your boots. We got back to CYK and all our calves and thighs were sore from the descent.

 

If there was a reason for me to do it again, I probably would. But I'm not getting any younger so I know I'd have to prepare even harder. Although I don't have to buy anything now since I've got all the stuff. :)

 

The guys at African Outdoor Expeditions were wonderful. I'd climb with them again, anyday. Victor and Herman, our guides were fantastic and took great care of us, as did our porters and cooks. We were one big happy family at the end, and it was sad having to say goodbye, especially after sharing such camaraderie.

 

Before I end this, I want to thank everyone on here who sponsored me and donated to the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. I kept all of you in the back of my mind throughout the trek, knowing I was climbing for a good cause and knowing there were several of you who supported me and I wasn't going to let you down. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!!

 

If I did the climb again or if I recommended the climb to someone, I would definitely say to do the morning summit like we did instead of leaving at midnight and trekking all night to get to the summit by morning. Yes, you have to camp higher but the temp difference between 16,000 and 18,500 wasn't that big of a deal. And so many people are doing the nighttime summit trek. When we were on the way to Uhuru point, from afar, we could see about 10-12 people leaving to go back down. When we got there, we had the summit to ourselves, just the way I envisioned it.

 

And OMG, the STARS were UNREAL, especially at 18,500 ft. When night fell, yeah it got cold but you were so close to the sky the stars looked softball-sized and almost within your grasp to reach up and pull one down. That is one memory that will remain imprinted in my mind forever.

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Photos? Did you take diamox tablets to help with the altitude?

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I took a little bit of Diamox. The guide said I didn't need it so I listened to him.

The last day before summit day, when I relinquished my backpack and didn't hydrate properly,

I certainly did.

 

Photos...man, you're pushy! :)

Once I figure out how (per your links) and have more time.

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That's two Safaritalk members then whom have summited Kili: any more out there, or who are planning to?

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I remember reading it a while ago. And I remember what you said to me prior to the climb...that I wouldn't sleep the whole week. You were SO on the money on that one. I didn't sleep the whole week. But you do find the adrenaline to do it, to keep going, because you're living in the moment.

 

So, that's two of us who have climbed it. And, yeah, it will be interesting to see who else has. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? :D

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Climb Kili? Not this little black duck!! :rolleyes:

 

But I did support Luca in his climb so I was there in a spiritual sense.

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I sponsored a friend who climbed Kili for charity in June, and that's the closest I will get. I would love to do the climb but my lungs are no longer up to the job -- I have problems just sitting in unpressurised safari aircraft.

 

So Antelope Legs, well done!

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Indeed - very well done! I'm going to forward this report to my husband who's been dreaming about a Kili climb. Congratulations again! Hope you're thinking of changing your avatar/screen name to Antelope legs.

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Sangeeta - Ha! I don't think I'll be changing my name anytime soon but it sure did inspire me when the guys were cheering me on. I liked having some down time just to hang with the porters and staff.

Those guys really worked hard the entire week. We were so impressed with their efforts that we doubled our tips to them. And when we had the celebration lunch before we left, it was pretty emotional. It kinda felt like saying goodbye to a family.

 

Twaffle, I'm heading back to CYK in Sept. for a few days. Luca and I will be talking about another possible fundraising climb...this time to the Rwenzoris (Mountains of the moon) in Uganda. Not as high but a little more technical and challenging. Yikes! :wacko:

I'll keep everyone posted.

 

Until I figure out to load photos on ST, here's a link to my Kili climb album on FB (if GW doesn't mind).

 

Kili climb photos

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  • 3 weeks later...

well done must have been a wonderfull view

 

I would love to see kili but I don't cope with altitude on mt kenya or the lower reaches of mt meru

 

you took what you needed , it was concerning to see a photo in a book of a porter with a medium sized wheeled suitcase, well above the advised weight limit .trust that he got a good tip for carrying that

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