| 1) Introduction:|
I had wanted to visit Kilimanjaro for several years, however, time and costs had forced me to put off this trip for a while. Land costs that I had seen for this trip went up to several thousands of dollars (granted I'm not exactly a bargain hunter). Things changed when I joined the Sierra Club in 2001 and met Warren Storkman, who has been running relatively inexpensive, well organized trips to Nepal, South America, and Africa for years. I found out that Warren was making his 3rd visit to Kilimanjaro in a few months and after getting approval from my employer I joined his trip for January 2002. As an independent reference, I met Bob Evans (center of photo), a member of Warren's 2000 Kilimanjaro Expedition, during my October 2001 Mount Harrington PCS climb. Bob only had good things to say about the Kilimanjaro trip and (on a side note) is running his own Mexican Volcanoes trip in January 2002.
The number of people on the trip was reduced dramatically after the tragic events of September 11, 2001 however, in the end 15 of us still went on the trek. All 15 of us made it to Barafu High Camp (16,100 feet) via the Machame Route and of the 13 who attempted the summit, we all made it to the top, Uhuru Peak. While this was my first trip with Warren, several members of our group had been on Warren Storkman trips in the past. Overall, I had a great time and would have no qualms about going on further trips organized by Warren. This was Sarita's first mountain trekking trip, she made it to the top, and of the trip she says, "I too had a fabulous time and would definately go on another Storkman adventure."
Note on Elevation Readings: The elevation readings for this trip report were taken using an unscientific mix of 2 Suunto Vector altimeters (one on hiker's wrist and another attached to shoulder strap) and a Garmin GPS12 so don't assume they're absolutely correct ;-) See "Section 3: GPS Waypoints" for our GPS data.
Note on Temperature Readings: Most of the temperature readings were taking from a Suunto Vector altimeter watch attached to my pack's shoulder strap so that the watch body was about 2.5 inches away from my chest. While this is better than on my wrist, the temperature readings seem to be a bit high, especially given that it was reading over 32°F in the snow on Day 3 (37°F) and on Summit Night of Day 6 (48°F). Either disregard readings these or do a suitable adjustment for now (use your judgement). Eventually I may run some tests to see how far off this method is and do a correction calculation, but don't hold your breath ;-)
Note on Huts and Camps: On the Machame Route, all trekkers stay in tents and generally there are only 1 or 2 metal uniports at the designated huts (Machame, Shira, Barranco, and Barafu). These areas are called huts even though most people, including porters stay in tents, e.g. Machame Hut. Areas which do not have uniports are called camps, e.g. Fisher Camp, Karanga Camp, and Barafu High Camp. Some tour operators do not provide tents to porters so they must either stay outside or in caves (some housing 20-50 people). The practice of having porters stay in caves is now discouraged by Kilimanjaro National Park since a recent cave collapse.
2) Day By Day Account:
|Date:||January 12, 2002|
|Hiking Time:||11:40am - 4:30pm|
|Starting Elevation:|| 6,200 ft||1,890 m|
|High Elevation:|| 10,200 ft||3,109 m|
|Ending Elevation:|| 10,200 ft||3,109 m|
|Distance:||6.2 miles||10 km|
|Temperature:|| 63 - 75°F||17.2 - 23.9°C |
|Weather:||Morning: sunny, clear|
Afternoon: rain, clouds, thunder, lightning
|Gear:||Adidas Response TR trail running sneakers, Smart Wool socks, Nike polypro t-shirt, EMS nylon shorts, Sierra Designs Backpacker's Rain Jacket (coated nylon), TNF Patrol Pack (2001), Leki Super Makalu trekking poles, Nalgene waterbottles|| Notes: Basic Day 1: Machame Trailhead to Machame Hut. |
After spending a relaxing day at the Marangu Hotel (see "Section 4: The Tour Operator" below) and doing some walking around Marangu Village we were all anxious to get an early start. We had breakfast at the hotel at 7:30am where two members of our team were already reporting some side-effects of Diamox. We then gave our packed duffle bags to our porters who slipped them into waterproof plastic bag and then into a burlap bag for transport. I'm not sure if it was coincidence or planned, but my porter, Robert Onesmo Moshi, happened to be wearing an "I Climbed the Great Wall of China" t-shirt which I thought was pretty cool. Then we were introduced to our head guide, Charles Onesmo Lyimo, and his team of assistant guides before splitting into 2 groups and taking Land Cruisers to the Machame Gate, only stopping to get some gas on the way. At 11:40am we had paid our bills and our team started heading up the trail at everyone's own pace. Near the start of the trail Stan was lucky enough to see some monkeys while the rest of us just saw locals cutting wood with machetes. Almost immediately, one of Jeff's Merrell Monarch boots had it's outsole detach halfway. A generous amount of duct tape was used and would remain for the rest of the trip. While many of us are accustomed to carrying our own gear in the Sierras, on this trip we had no problem letting the porters handle the heavy lifting. Yehuda, however, thought his day pack was too light so he traded packs with a porter on the trail. He normally trains with a 75 lbs load so the 55 lbs pack the porter was carrying put him in a more familiar frame of mind. At about 8,100 feet we ran into our first outhouse and clearing where we, and many other groups, had lunch. Continuing on it started to rain at 2:45pm and by 3:15pm we could hear thunder and see lightning. Part way up this trail there was another outhouse where I found Jenna and Raoul hiding out for a while to escape the rain. Yehuda and the Hash House Harrier crew (Jenna, Leif, and John Lang) reached Machame Hut around 4:00pm while I got there about 30 min later. The rest of the crew trailed in after that.
The porters had set up our amazing 4-person Wild Country Pampas waterproof / seamsealed tents which were a very spacious 46 square feet for only 2 people (or even 1 person in the case of 3 members of our group). Yehuda and I would be tentmates for the duration of the trip which worked out well since we both had hiked in the Sierra Nevada but not extensively outside of the Unitd States. We also asked to make sure that our porters were indeed provided with both tents and sleeping pads at night since they provided us a closed-cell foam pad in addition to our own Therm-a-Rests. At around 7:00pm we were treated to an almost shockingly elaborate dinner. We had a mess tent to eat dinner in that had a long table inside, kerosene lamps and everyone had a folding quadpod chair (tripod chair with 4 legs). Yehuda and I were in disbelief but Warren explained that he had learned from his Nepal trips and made sure we had chairs after people had dinner sitting on the floor of the tent 2 years ago on this mountain. After some squeezing we decided to have 2 mess tents, 1 for the "meatheads" and another for the "grass-eaters" to relieve some of the space pressure inside the mess tent. Although vegetarians are rare in Tanzania, the Marangu Hotel did a good job perparing vegetarian soups, sauces, and dishes. Much better than Cameron Burns' experience "on a camel safari in Kenya where the vegetarians were fed plain white rice and plain cabbage." [Ref: Kili & Mt. Kenya: A Climbing & Trekking Guide by Cameron M. Burns]
|Date:|| January 13, 2002|
|Hiking Time:|| 8:30am - 1:00pm|
|Starting Elevation:|| 10,200 ft||3,109 m|
|High Elevation:|| 12,250 ft||3,734 m|
|Ending Elevation:|| 12,250 ft||3,734 m|
|Distance:||3.7 miles||6 km|
|Temperature:|| 53 - 66°F||11.7 - 18.9°C|
Afternoon: rain, clouds
|Camp:|| Shira Hut|
|Gear:|| Same as Day 1 except change t-shirt to TNF long-sleeve polypro t-shirt|| Notes: Basic Day 2: Machame Hut to Shira Hut / Cave. |
This was our second short day of hiking. Yehuda, Raoul, and I stopped for a rest at 11,100 feet where we found out that Raoul had no water. He was using a Camelback and at first he thought that all 3 liters had leaked out. Luckily I was carrying 3.5 liters of water so I gave him one of my Nagene bottles. Later we found out that he had a valve system (not the MSR bite system) and that he had left his valve open allowing all the water to leak out. At 11,500 feet we had another rest stop were we took lots of photos before heading up to our lunch / hot tea stop at 12,130 feet. By this time we had started figuring out some of the other groups that were on the mountain with us including groups from: Eastern US (DC, Atlanta, Florida), Calgary, Poland, and Chicago (Poles). After lunch, we worked our way through some rocks and tooks some photos behind a small waterfall. There was some traffic congestion that I hopped around to get to the top ridge first at which time I found myself running with Alex, an assistant guide with another trip.
I learned that Alex had climbed and guides some of the glacier routes on on Kilimanjaro which naturally sparked my interested since I had already learned that the Marangu Hotel does not guide these routes. I had brought along my ice axe and crampons in case I could find an easy way up the Rebmann Glacier but when we got to Shira Hut at 1:00pm, I spent some time with Alex and his partner (head guide) Oswald A. Jamaica (better known as simply Jamaica) and was informed that rope and ice tools were necessary on the Heim and Rebmann Glaciers. It turns out that Jamaica is one of the experienced native-Tanzanian guides who now runs his own company with 5 other guides: Karibu Kili & Safaris. He told me that "Everyone knows Jamaica" and when I asked around in Moshi later it seemed like that many people did indeed know who he was. His information on the Rebmann Glacier put a damper on my plans to scout out this route so at this point I started considering going up the normal Barafu Route to the summit. Jamaica and Alex were guiding 3 Swedes up the Machame Route and they had just finished a 4 day trip to Mount Meru with the same group.
All of these camp sites are huge areas and the area that our group chose was by the Shira Cave though no one stayed in it that night. It was cloudy and raining at camp so the group spent the afternoon sleeping, resting, and / or playing Scrabble. Jeff had brought along a travel Scrabble game and Official Scrabble dictionary to officiate. If it wasn't cloudy, the afternoon would have been a good time to head west to explore the Shira Plateau a bit and possibly climb Shira Needle or Shira Cathedral (I'm guessing YDS class 1-2 from my conversations). We had dinner at 6pm and then prepared for bed.
|Date:|| January 14, 2002|
|Hiking Time:|| 8:40am - 3:50pm|
|Starting Elevation:||12,250 ft||3,734 m|
|High Elevation:||15,840 ft||4,828 m|
|Ending Elevation:||13,100 ft||3,993 m|
|Snow Line:||15,300 ft||4,663 m|
|Distance:||~9.2 miles||~14.8 km|
|Temperature:||37 - 66°F||2.8 - 18.9°C|
|Weather:||Morning: sunny, clear|
Afternoon: rain, snow, clouds
|Gear:||Day 1 + Day 2 + Mountain Hardware FTX Ultra GoreTex pants.|| Notes: Extended Day 3: Shira Hut to Barranco Hut via Lava Tower (and almost Arrow Glacier Hut) |
After two short hiking days, Yehuda and I were itching to put on some additional miles and gain some more altitude. Since today's itinerary was also very short, we decided that instead of heading with the group directly from Shira Hut directly to Barranco Hut, we would take the trail over to Lava Tower (15,220 feet) and the Arrow Glacier Hut (16,000 feet) before descending to meeting our team at Barranco Hut camp.
As usual, we were treated to some very nice views of the mountain during breakfast and the morning hike up. Starting at a leisurely 8:40am we hiked up to the ridge and then through some rock fields on the way to lunch. Our group again spread out, just following the trail at our own pace as we exceeded Mount Whitney's elevation for the first time. At about 14,740 feet there is a prominent, unsigned fork in the trail. The left heads northeast to the Lava Tower while the right goes southeast to the Barranco Hut passing what Lonely Planet calls the "Wedge-Shaped Buttress" at 14,800 feet. I started up the path to the Lava Tower much to the consternation of our porters who were telling me to get back on the trail for the Barranco Hut. After a while, Yehuda arrived and we were convinced to head over to the Wedge-Shaped Buttress for some hot tea and lunch before heading up to Lava Tower.
I had a hard-boiled egg and some hot tea for lunch while we waited when it started to rain. After a while, our head guide Charles appeared with Liz and Sarita. At this time, we switched guides, and Charles said he would take Yehuda and myself up to the Lava Tower and the Arrow Glacier Hut before coming down to Barranco Hut in the evening. At 12:15pm the three of us headed up cross-country to Fischer Camp where we joined the trail to the Lava Tower reaching the 15,220 foot base at 12:55pm. After snapping a few photos, we headed up the trail to the Arrow Glacier Hut. Around 15,300 feet we reached snowline where the precipitation was building a nice white landscape for us. Also around this time Yehuda started noticing some mild effects of AMS. We crossed over the first major ridge at 15,490 feet and continued to 15,840 feet just 150 feet short of crossing over our second ridge to a flat traverse to the Arrow Glacier Hut when Yehuda's AMS started flaring up more seriously. At this point I gave him about 0.5 liters of Gatorade and 250mg of Diamox before we turned around to descend. We did some cross country hiking where I took a number of photos at 14,900 feet and then we reached camp at 3:50pm. We learned that most of the group had arrived at camp at 2:00pm.
Although we didn't reach the Arrow Glacier Hut, Yehuda and I were still happy we made the attempt since it gave us extra information about performing at altitude. Yehuda decided that he didn't have enough time to acclimate for the summit and started taking Diamox at this point. I felt fine at 15,840 feet but then again, I had been taking 125mg/day of Diamox since Day 1 on the off chance I would tackle the Rebmann Glacier on my own (though I eventually decided not to do this). Some of our team members were already on 500mg/day at this point, but I wasn't sure how much was really necessary.
|Date:|| January 15, 2002|
|Hiking Time:|| 8:35am - 3:55pm|
|Starting Elevation:|| 13,100 ft||3,993 m|
|High Elevation:|| 15,330 ft||4,673 m|
|Ending Elevation:|| 15,220 ft||4,639 m|
|Distance:|| 5 miles||8 km|
|Temperature:||38 - 66°F||3.3 - 18.9°C|
Afternoon: rain, clouds
Late Afternoon: freezing rain, snow, clouds
|Gear:||Day 3 + REI poly pro long johns. Also change from trail sneakers to EMS Ultra (by Alico) leather boots with Sympatex membrane and fresh coat of Green Mountain Bootguard (Vermont beeswax). || Notes: Basic Day 4: Barranco Hut to Barafu Hut. |
In my notes, I titled this day "Misery" though the miserable part didn't start until after lunch when we found ourselves in freezing rain, huddling under rocks while we waited for our tents to be set up at Barafu Hut. But, before we go there... Day 4 is the day that most non-hikers dread since you wake up camped under the Barranco Wall which is about a 1000 foot tall wall that one must get over to continue on the trek. For others, it's simply a YDS class 1 trail with 3-5 short YDS class 3 moves similar to hiking out of the Grand Canyon, but without the mule dung (and everyone going in one direction, up). We had clear views at breakfast, however, soon after we would be in clouds for the rest of the day. Out of camp, the trail dips about 100 feet before climbing up to 13,900 feet and then dropping again hitting two ridges at 13,590 and 13,550 before dropping into Karaga Valley (13,000 feet). The day was pretty much uneventful except that we passed the Polish group many times on the traverse. Basically they were staying in close formation, each person about 1 foot behind the other while several of us would pass them, stop to chat and let others catch up and then pass the Polish group again. This is what happens when guides just let their American clients go off on their own ;-) I also spent some more time talking with Pindy, a solo trekker and ex-dot-commer. I learned that she was currently living in London and that her father had climbed Point Bation on Mount Kenya many years before when he had just graduated from university. Unfortunately he lost a few people on that climb and had to bring down their bodies which is something I'm glad to say I haven't had to do yet.
For lunch, we stopped in Karanga Valley (13,000 feet) where there is a campsite, some outhouses, and a stream. It's interesting that the outhouses are beside the stream above the camp. Climbing out of the valley leads to the Karanga Camp (13,900 feet). If you talk to many people taking a 7 day Machame tour, their extra day is usually at Karaga Valley or Karanga Camp. Personally, I don't think any extra days below 15,000 feet are required so I'm glad our extra day was spent at the 16,100 foot Barafu High Camp.
After lunch, Yehuda, Danny, Fred, and I spent most of the time together on the way up to Barafu Hut following Raoul and Jeff. While the trail undulates up and down from Barranco Hut to Karanga Valley, from Karanga Camp, the trail basically goes up at a gentle incline. The clouds were still present and it started to rain in the afternoon. At about 14,010 feet we ran into a broad gentle climb that we named "Misery Hill" after the one on Mount Shasta. Around 14,450 feet we found a spot that we called "Mount Whitney" when some porters around us started anxiously telling me that Jamaica was coming. Looking back down the trail to the Polish group, I wondered to myself, where is Jamaica coming from before looking up over at the far ridge to the west and seeing one, then two, three, and some more people pop up over the high pass. Jamaica had taken his group on an alternate traverse of the south side of the mountain today that passed close to the Heim Glacier and avoided losing elvation by not descending into Karanga Valley. We waved and continued up, crossing a rock ridge at 14,590' finally running into snow at 14,800 which was also when the effectiveness of my Sierra Designs coated nylon rain jacket started to fail me - especially once temps got below 45°F. I refused to pull out my fleece gloves in the rain since I didn't want them getting wet before Summit Day and besides, many porters on the trail didn't have gloves either so we all froze together ;-) At 14,960' Yehuda and I scrambled up some short YDS class 3 before noticing an alternative YDS class 1 trail to the side that Fred took reaching "Misery Hill #2" at 15,010' which is much more like it's namesake than the first one. Right before reaching the first tentsites, we ran into Stan and Jenna who had been led up yet another way out of Karanga Valley. They said that they didn't see anyone else on their route and it must have been longer than ours since they left the valley earlier than us and we weren't moving overly fast. I convinced Yehuda to head up to the top of Barafu Camp (15,330') at 3:55pm where we found the ranger uniports before heading down to our tentsites (15,240'). When we got to camp, not all the tents were set up yet and I started to freeze - luckily Jeff had found some protection from the wind and snow under a rock ledge that I shared for a while. The freezing rain turned to snow and started accumulating on the ground and some of the tents.
Finally our tent was up, however, before I could jump inside, a guide leading up a couple from Holland found our tent (I'm not sure how). We had met this couple somewhere en route (above Barranco Wall or Karanga Valley) and we had talked about Diamox, finding out that they didn't have any. It turned out the guy was having some headaches though he still wanted to attempt to summit Uhuru that night (craziness). We gave the guide 8 250mg Diamox tablets and wished them the best. The next morning I spoke to one of the park rangers who told me that they wisely chose to descend instead of attemping a summit. For dinner we had some great chicken soup and pasta with chicken or marinara sauce (for meatheads and grass-eaters respectively).
|Raoul Carlson's Comments|
| Jeff Fisher and I (tent-mates) were first to arrive at Barranco Camp (on day #3) providing plenty of time to look around, in the rain, before our tents arrived and were setup by our porters. While rock collecting along a creek, I located the trail to Barranco Wall that was to be the beginning of our trek on day #4. Day four dawned cloudy and damp. After a wonderful meal, I was anxious to hike. Porters, balancing gear on their heads were already moving out. I followed one (not mine) and was soon out-distanced before reaching the vertical, Barranco Wall. Happy to have Gortex pants and tight fitting ankle-gaitors, I sank up to my knee while crossing an innocent looking, but rain-soaked grass area above the creek. |
Saved by the gaitors, I avoided what might have been a 2nd screw-up, preceeded by the loss of ALL my drinking water on day #2. (the valve was open) With 'The Wall' in front of me, (the guides call this section, "breakfast") , and, with trekking poles attached to daypack, I began to climb in fog and heavy mist up the slippery route. Voices from above, plus obvious signs of a trail, added confidence to the thought I was heading up the correct path. Fog clearing momentary, I yelled at Warren and others below to, "beware of the mud-bog." This was the last I saw of our group for several hours. In fact, I was alone going up the wall, except for a helpful porter near the top who re-directed me back down 100' from an attempt up a much steeper, but wrong drainage. At the top of the wall, the trail split. A left direction (up) seemed the correct way. Maybe not! Another porter, (from Dik Dik Lodge) provided a 2nd course correction before vanishing into the mist down trail to the right, carrying the heaviest headload I thus far had seen. These Porters, athletes one and all, are amazing! I waited in the fog at the top what seemed an eternity for our group. No one showed. I decided to follow in the long-gone porter's tracks ...
The trail led downward, then upward, then continued for a time, level. This portion of the trail, I remembered from the Kili map (in my porter's duffel,) could be the well-traversed South Circuit Path. I saw no one for miles, not even a porter for an hour of hiking! Was I behind, or ahead of most of our group? I wondered. Rounding a turn in the trail, there lay the Karanga Valley, below. Many porters were assembled by the river.... a welcome outpost of civilization. Excited to see people (anybody), I made a direct descent to the bottom, through another mud-bog, down several 100 feet to find absolutely nobody from our group, and none of our porters, tents, gear, etc.. Bummer! Did I hike the wrong way all morning? I looked at a Dik Dik porter, and asked, "Karanga?" pointing at the river with a questioning finger. He nodded in the affirmative. Sigh! Opening a packet of trailmix brought from California, I hung out by the Karanga River wondering which way our group had gone. A porter motioned to me, as if to ask, "Can I have some trailmix." I gave him the 2 lb. bag. After he ate, I gestured he could distribute the remainder among the other porters. I had the Marangu lunch for myself.... sandwich, bananas, cake and egg. These porters, (starved, I think?) were glad of some food. The Dik Dik doesn't feed their employees? Fourty five minutes passed before Stan appeared on the ridge above.
A deep sigh of relief came as other familiar figures appeared .... making my day.! Lunch finished, and after exchanging experiences I was ready to hike. Up the steep trail I went gaining several thousand feet in the next hours. Before the trail turned left ... up to Barafu hut, there is a short, steep, class three stretch that was especially exhausting for me. This was the 1st exertion where I became very short of breath, with heart pounding, a situation that was to continue, on and off, for the remainder of the climb.... all above 15,000'.
First tourist to arrive at Barafu in a rain-snow downpour, I found porters huddled under the cliffs out of the weather. Torrents of rainwater poured off the cliffs into pans placed by porters. Had they predicted the weather, they could have avoided carrying all the 5 gal jugs up the steep mountain trail from Karanga to Barafu. I filled two Nalgene bottles... Jeff arrived, followed by John Wang, Yehuda, and many others. Our tent were late. In fact, Jeff's and my tent was last to arrive, and last to be setup.... in a location way downhill from the dining tent.... within smelling distance of the long-drop toilet out-house. So much for arriving ahead of our tent... it meant standing 1 1/2 hours in a snowstorm.... We vowed to follow our tent-porters from then on. (live and learn.) Some clearing of weather brought photo opportunities (especially Mawenzi Peak) that evening before sundown. Most folks slept till the dinner bell rang.... Whew...what a day! Hot soup was most welcome..
|Date:|| January 16, 2002|
|Hiking Time:|| ?:??am - ?:??am,|
~2:30pm - 5:00pm
|Starting Elevation:|| 15,220 ft||4,639 m|
|High Elevation:|| 17,060 ft||5,200 m|
|Ending Elevation:|| 16,100 ft||4,907 m|
|Distance:|| ~4 miles||~ 6.4 km|
|Temperature:||38 - 48°F||3.3 - 8.9°C|
|Weather:||Morning: snow, clouds|
Late Afternoon: snow, clouds
|Camp:|| Barafu High Camp|
|Gear:||EMS Ultra boots, Smart Wool socks, TNF nylon pants, Mountain Hardware FTX Ultra GoreTex pants, TNF polypro t-shirt, TNF polypro longsleeve t-shirt, EMS GoreTex parka, OR Mt. Baker Modular Mits, TNF Patrol Pack (2001), Leki Super Makalu trekking poles, Nalgene waterbottles.|| Notes: Extra Day: Rest day, move to Barafu High Camp, and excursion hike. |
Originally, we had intended on spending this "rest day" at Barafu Hut, however, many people were complaining about their tent locations so we decided to use our rest day to move up 900 feet to Barafu High Camp (16,100 feet) where there is a much larger flat area. Yehuda and I had spent some time fixing our tent site so we weren't too keen on moving but nevertheless, the entire group trudged further up the mountain. It was snowing on our way up and snowing the entire time that we were setting up our high camp. While we had a great tentsite at Barafu, at this camp, there turned out to be a large rock under where Yehuda was sleeping. Since we didn't have a shovel, we ended up using my ice axe to dig out two large rocks. One of the porters helping us accidentally tore a hole in the floor of our tent. After changing tents, we had a late lunch at around 1:30pm.
After lunch, the majority of the group rested (slept, played Scrabble, etc.) while Yehuda, Charles, and I headed up the mountain for another acclimitization hike to the "half-way" point marker at 17,060 feet on the Barafu Route. The weather was clear and we had some excellent views on the way up. We reached the marker at 4:40pm breaking trail in the new snow and made the trip back to camp in 20 minutes running through 4-6 inches of new powder, while taking some time to make some cairns on the way up and down. Around 16,490 feet it started to hail which would continue into camp. We would have fresh tracks above the halfway marker in about 8-9 hours for our summit bid.
It should be noted that many tour companies and guides do not like to use Barafu High Camp because there are no huts or outhouses here. We had brought our own portable outhouses, so this latter issue was not a problem for our team. Also, there is no water at Barafu Hut or Barafu High Camp, so all water needs to be carried up by the porters from Karanga Valley (13,000 feet).
Our guides said they would wake us at 11:00pm so we could have hot tea and biscuits at 11:30pm. By the time 10:45pm came around Yehuda and I were already awake in our tent. By the time 11:07pm came around, there was no call from the guides so we started to get ready anyway. I think our guides finally called us aorund 11:10pm?
|Date:|| January 17, 2002|
|Hiking Time:|| 12:30am - 8:50am,|
11:00am - 3:00pm
|Starting Elevation:|| 16,100 ft||4,907 m|
|High Elevation:|| 19,344 ft||5,896 m|
|Ending Elevation:|| 11,000 ft||3,353 m|
|Distance:||10.4 miles||16.7 km|
|Temperature:||21 - 48°F||-6.1 - 8.9°C|
Morning: clear to clouds
Late Afternoon: rain, clouds
|Camp:|| Rau Hut|
|Summit Gear:||EMS Ultra boots, Thor-lo thick socks, Ultimax sock liners, REI polypro longjohns (2 pairs), TNF nylon pants, Mountain Hardware FTX Ultra GoreTex pants, TNF polypro t-shirt, TNF polypro longsleeve t-shirt, TNF Denali fleece jacket, EMS GoreTex parka, OR Neve hat, TNF Pamir fleece gloves, Marmot GoreTex glove shells, PrincetonTec Matrix LED headlamp, TNF Patrol Pack (2001), Leki Super Makalu trekking poles, Nalgene waterbottles, OR waterbottle parkas, sunglasses with changeable lens.|
|Barafu to Rau Gear:||EMS Ultra boots, Smart Wool socks, TNF polypro longsleeve t-shirt, TNF nylon pants, Mountain Hardware GoreTex pants, Sierra Designs Backpacker's Rain Jacket (coated nylon), TNF Patrol Pack (2001), Leki Super Makalu trekking poles, Nalgene waterbottles|| Notes: Basic Summit Day: Fresh snow on trail; Descent via Mweka Alternative Route. |
After having some hot tea and biscuits, our team of 13 plus guides and assistant guides left around 12:30am. Warren and Gil chose to stay behind and not attempt to summit due to the weather. Warren had already been up this mountain twice and this was one of Gil's first major peaks ever (though he has run several ultra marathons including the Western States 100) so both thought to play it safe. This was the only day that our guides kept our group together in 'tight formation' which means we went up all close to one another. For the hike up to Stella Point (18,700 feet), it was about 48°F under an absolutely clear sky. We could see many stars and the lit down of Moshi far below us - it was quite amazing. The entire way up to Stella Point was in the snow and after 17,060 feet we were breaking trail again. Above the half-way point, a smaller team wanted to let us pass, which we allowed, but then soon after they found that they either couldn't handle breaking the trail, or couldn't find the trail. So they let our group forge ahead of them again with Charles leading the way. We got to Stella Point at 5:20am where it was 28°F and then we split into 2 groups, one with 7 of the stronger members of our team and the remaining six. At 6:15am we were the first team to the 21°F summit from the Machame route and the second overall (first group could have been up from Marangu or Western Breach). We had perfect timing as the sun came up just as we were making the final steps to Uhuru Peak. We relaxed a while and were soon joined by throngs of people all trying to get their 15 seconds for a photo with the summit sign. It's quite hilarious up there. A mere 200 feet away from the sign and you'll find lots of peace and quiet. Soon after, Charles started rounding people up for the hike down. Yehuda and I would be the last ones to leave the summit and Stella point since we were taking lots of photos and video footage, however, we would pass a number of people on the descent. When we got to camp, they had an ice cold Hi-C-like orange drink waiting which really hit the spot. Then I went to bed for half an hour.
Around 11:00am we left High Camp for the Rau Hut where we would spend a night before leaving the park the next day. In the past, people would take the Mweka Route down to Mweka Hut but because this route was under rennovation, we were to take the route affectionally known as "Mweka Alternative" down to the Rau Hut, one of the newest camping spots on the mountain. We would first descend into the SE Valley to the east of Mweka Ridge before heading east over 8-9 ridges that progressively got shorter and shorter. The first valley was like Death Valley with no plant-life whatsoever but as we went east, small grasses and then bushes would appear. Because we left later than other groups and from a higher camp, we did not see any other trekkers on this hike and it seemed like forever before we saw the Rau Hut / camp site. Yehuda and I arrived at the Rau Hut at around 3:00pm when it started to rain at camp. The people behind us had to finish their hike in this rain.
|Clothes for Summit Night|
| During our pre-trek discussion with Desmond Bennett (one of the managers at the Marangu Hotel) it became apparent that many of the people new to high altitude trekking did not have a good idea of what to wear on the summit night hike. Desmond recommended the following: |
Bob Carney: In contrast to some of our crew who were uncomfortably cold during our pre-dawn summit climb, I was toasty warm the whole way, even with my jackets unzipped and icicles hanging in my beard. This is nearly the same outfit I wore on Aconcagua a year ago: Rohner trekking socks inside woolen Ragg socks in Zamberlan Civetta Gore-Tex leather boots, expedition-weight polyester long johns inside North Face fleece pants inside North Face Mountain Light Gore-Tex side-zip rain pants with Gore-Tex gaiters, expedition-weight top inside polyester zip-neck top inside North Face Polartec 300 jacket inside North Face Mountain Light Gore-Tex parka, Dachstein woolen mittens inside Gore-Tex overmitts with handwarmer packets between, fleece balaclava under Sherpa wool cap under Petzl Zoom headlamp with fresh bulb and lithium batteries. While this outfit was evidently overkill, it may provide some guidance to others preparing for the climb.
- 2 layers for the feet
- 3 layers on the legs
- 4 layers on the torso
- a balaclava for the head (plus parka hood)
- boots, gloves, sunglasses, sun block etc.
John Wang: This was my first time over 15,000 feet so I used several of references: SummitPost.com photos of people on the summit, Tim Kutscha's Recommended Equipment List (basically: don't need down/synthetic insulation beyond fleece), Desmond's info above, and my experience of not having enough leg layers on Mount Lafayette just a few weeks earlier. Since I knew the guides would be going slow and we wouldn't be running off on our own here, my rule of thumb was "Dress to be warm standing still." I had experimented with the OR Mt. Baker Modular Mits the previous day (which could slip those over my Marmot glove shells if needed), but I decided I didn't need them. I had also brought an OR Baltoro Balaclava that I did not use. The clothes I wore in the gear box were perfect for me. Yehuda, however, dressed to move a little faster and ended up being cold on the hike.
|Water at Barafu|
| If you are hiking out on the Mweka Alternative route, you should be aware that basically there is no water between Karanga Valley and Rau Hut. Since the porters need to carry up all the water from Karanga Valley to Barafu (if there's no rain or snow to melt), water quantities can be limited. Heavy drinkers may find that there is limited water for them after their return from the summit for the hike from Barafu down to Rau Hut. To guard against this, stock up and carry some extra water yourself from Karanga Valley. I carried 3.5 liters of water on me everyday but never drank more than 1.5 liters on the trail so I always had extra to share. |
|Date:|| January 18, 2002|
|Hiking Time:|| 8:30am - 2:00pm|
|Starting Elevation:|| 11,000 ft||3,353 m|
|High Elevation:|| 11,000 ft||3,353 m|
|Ending Elevation:|| 6,400 ft||1,951 m|
|Distance:|| 9.9 miles||15.9 km|
|Temperature:||69 - 82°F||20.6 - 27.8°C|
|Camp / Hotel:|| Marangu Hotel|
|Gear:||Same as Day 6 "Barafu to Rau" with Adidas Reponse TR trail running sneakers and minus the GoreTex pants.|| Notes: Basic Last Day: Mweka Alternative Route. |
After a nice breakfast at 7:30am we left around 8:30am taking many some panoramic shots of Kibo and Mwenzi at 10,400 feet before ducking into the trees at 9,620'. At 9,540' we ran into "Picnic Area #2" which has an outhouse full of bees inside. At 9,480' we entered the temperate rainforest and hiked through this until finding our lunch spot at "Picnic Area #1" at 8,080 feet. Near the end of the hike we ran into several groups of army ants on the trail, a solar-powered radio-repeater (with solar cells pointing almost straight up!) and some pine trees before reaching the gate at 6,400' to be accosted by many enterprising people selling their wares. After signing out of the park in another metal uniport, we were whisked away back to the Marangu Hotel for a nice shower and trek ceremonies.
In addition to tips, we had brought over large amounts of used clothing and shoes / boots that we gave to our porters. The clothes had been arranged into piles and each porter would receive one pile. For the shoes and boots, these were given out separately where each porter drew a number and would go up and choose the pair he wanted. They sang some songs for us which was pretty cool. Then they porters left and with only the guides present, Charles gave us our certificates. Once we were by ourselves again, we celebreated with wine for dinner and Warren gave each of us a beautiful hand-made Kilimanjaro patch that he had commissioned in Katmandu, Nepal.
3) GPS Waypoints:
Section by Bob Carney
Here are the GPS waypoints for our climb in a comma-delimited format that can be imported into TOPO!GPS or other waypoint editors and then uploaded into a GPS receiver without re-keying. The data are from a Garmin GPS12 receiver in UTM format, NAD83 datum. The data fields are in the order: Waypoint Name, UTM Zone, Easting, Northing, Elevation, Comments. I have retained Steve Eckert's [ 2000 Kilimanjaro ] coordinates where I found them to be essentially the same as ours. Others I added or changed. Waypoints labeled DxWPTy are Steve's, DxAy are mine, and x is the day number. My GPS does not record elevations, so most waypoints show "NA" for elevation. Where an elevation (in feet) is shown, it is a value I wrote down and entered manually. Local times in the comment field are converted from UTC. The waypoints are arranged as two GPS routes: one from the Machame trailhead to Uhuru summit, the other from Uhuru to the Rau trailhead via the alternate Mweka trail. Adding up the point-to-point distances (in 2 dimensions) gives 20 miles from Machame trailhead to Uhuru and 17 miles from Uhuru to the Rau trailhead. Actual distances are bound to be somewhat greater, particularly when you consider that we traveled more than 13,000' up and 13,000' down. I could give you more detail on distances, but it wouldn't mean much.
Waypoint D4A1 is on the high (left) route from Karanga Valley to Barafu. This is apparently shorter than the route taken by Steve Eckert and several members of our group.
|TOPO! GPS Data Format UTM NAD83 ElevFeet Local-time,,,,,|
TOPO! GPS Route,MACHTH TO UHURUP,,,,
D1A1,37M,305387,9654239,NA,DAY 1 LUNCH
MACHAM,37M,307235,9657616,9960,MACHAME HUT CAMP
D2A1,37M,309118,9659443,NA,DAY 2 10:59
SHIRAH,37M,308455,9661061,12684,SHIRA HUT CAMP
D3A1,37M,312986,9660911,NA,DAY 3 11:27
BARNCO,37M,314471,9657738,13132,BARRANCO HUT CAM
D4WPT1,37M,315154,9657323,NA,TOP OF WALL DAY
KARANG,37M,316979,9655958,NA,KARANGA VLY LUNC
D4A1,37M,318689,9656647,NA,HI ROUTE 13:33
BRFLCP,37M,319812,9657165,15321,BARAFU LO CAMP
BRFHCP,37M,319593,9658043,16092,BARAFU HI CAMP
D6WPT2,37M,319241,9658366,NA,PEAK ROUTE DAY 6
D6WPT3,37M,319069,9658444,NA,PEAK ROUTE DAY 6
D6WPT4,37M,318946,9658647,NA,PEAK ROUTE DAY 6
D6WPT5,37M,318640,9658938,NA,PEAK ROUTE DAY 6
D6WPT6,37M,318138,9659550,NA,PEAK ROUTE DAY 6
TOPO! GPS Route,UHURUP TO RAUTH,,,,
BRFHCP,37M,319593,9658043,16092,BARAFU HI CAMP
D6A1,37M,320355,9656662,NA,DAY 6 11:58
D6A2,37M,320592,9656155,NA,DAY 6 12:18
D6A3,37M,321185,9654915,NA,DAY 6 12:51
D6A4,37M,322125,9652829,NA,DAY 6 13:34
D6A5,37M,322593,9652177,NA,DAY 6 13:50
D6A6,37M,323025,9651586,NA,DAY 6 14:05
D6A7,37M,323471,9650801,NA,DAY 6 14:37
RAUCP,37M,323851,9649789,NA,RAU CAMP 15:25
D7A1,37M,324257,9648954,NA,DAY 7 8:09
D7A2,37M,325220,9644111,NA,DAY 7 9:45
D7A3,37M,326647,9641943,NA,DAY 7 LUNCH
D7A4,37M,326931,9640511,NA,DAY 7 12:33
RAUTH,37M,325702,9636610,5900,RAU TRAILHEAD 2:08
4) The Tour Operator:
Since 1991, all treks on Kilimanjaro must be run through a licensed tour operator (aka tour company). The Marangu Hotel is one of the oldest and most respected tour operators running guided treks on Kilimanjaro. The hotel's physical layout is based on a private coffee farm that was started on land purchased from Chief Marealle of Marangu by Martin Lany, a Czech missionary, back in 1907. While coffee growing and harvesting is no longer done here, the ambiance of the place is very relaxing, away from the hectic pace of Arusha or Moshi. The current owners and operators (Seamus Brice-Bennett, Desmond Bennett, etc.) are descendents of Margaret Brice-Bennett who joined the Lany family in managing the hotel back in 1961. While they are not the least expensive, they run a high quality operation and you can still save up to 75% off the more expensive expeditions. They were guiding people up the mountain before it became popular and have been doing it for 6 decades now. Here are some reasons to use the Marangu Hotel:
If you are going with a diverse group of people, especially some of whom aren't into the "roughing it" method of travel and trekking, I would highly recommend the Marangu Hotel based on their accomodations, food, and gear provided. At first Yehuda and I thought the Marangu Hotel's style of service was too lavish for our tastes but after 4 days of rain and 2 days of snow on the mountain, we relished their services on the mountain. And remember, we were trekking in January, the so-called "dry season" ;-)
- Quality of Gear Provided for Trekkers: The tour operator will generally provide trekkers with a certain amount of individual and group gear. The Marangu Hotel provided us with Wild Country Pampas private tents, 2 large Eureka! mess tents (for meals, Scrabble, etc.), tables (for the mess tents), folding camp chairs (for the mess tents), and sleeping pads. The 46 square foot 4-person Wild Country Pampas tents were waterproof / seamsealed and were quite luxurious for only 1 or 2 people per tent. Yehuda and I kept all our bags out in the large vestibule, however, others were happy with the ability to bring all their gear inside the tent. The Eureka! mess tents were also waterproof / seamsealed. I don't know about the tents provided by other tour operators on Kilimanjaro but the ones provided by tour operators for Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail are generally horrendous. I talked to 2 different people on different trips who were given leaky, non-seamsealed tents and found themselves floating at night. When my brother and I did the Inca Trail in 1999 we brought our own TNF tent, but saw many others also in the same sorry, wet situation with many ponchos draped over draped over the tops their tour operator-provided tents.
- Porter Provisions: Many times when you pay lower prices, it's the porters that suffer first, not you, so it behooves you to look into this. Many tour operators do not provide tents or sleeping pads to their porters. The Marangu Hotel provides both tents, sleeping pads, and pays on time (I've heard this from both people associated with the Marangu Hotel and independently from other sources). Zara Adventures is also a good, professional outfit that pays on time and offers tents, but no sleeping pads, for their porters. Other ones that I have heard of (that I won't name here) pay late and sometimes porters need to go asking for their pay several days after a trek is completed - simply unacceptable.
- Optional Excursion Hikes: There are many possible excursions on the Machame Route including: Shira Needle, Shira Cathedral, Lava Tower, Arrow Glacier Hut, and a hike up to the half-way point from Barafu to Uhuru. Ask about these and see how willing the guide is to take you on these extra excursions. Many people hike past the base of the Lava Tower, but not everyone will actually take you up to the top of the Lava Tower (I'm guessing YDS class 3 from my discussions). Also, many people do not go to the Arrow Glacier Hut on the way to Barranco. Our head guide Charles Onesmo Lyimo was more than happy to take us on these hikes, even when it meant leaving the rest of our group for a while (who were in the very capable hands of 5+ assistant guides). Charles also told is that it's common to ski the Marangu Route from Gilman Point to Hans Meyer Cave and told us he could tell us when the snow conditions were good. You may want to specifically request Charles be your guide or ask for the qualifications / enthusiasm of other guides.
- Extra Acclimation Day: Our group took an extra day for acclimate (and relax) on the Machame Route (7-days vs. 6-days). If you are interested in this, ask to see if you can spend it at Barafu Hut (15,330') or Barafu High Camp (16,100'). Many tour operators will try to convince you to spend it at Karaga Valley (13,000') or Karanga Camp (13,900'). I'm unconvinced that these Karanga locations help acclimatization since Shira and Barranco Huts are at 12,250' and 13,100' respectively. As mentioned, many tour operators would like to limit their time at Barafu because the last water source is at Karanga Valley, but since you are the customer, you should decide where you want to stay. The Marangu Hotel had no problems with taking us to Barafu High Camp though if you want to treat your porters nice, carry some of your own extra water up from Karanga Valley. I carried 3.5 liters of water everyday but never drank more than 1.5 liters on the trail (not including tea stops).
- Pre/Post-Trek Accomodations: Before and after the trek you will typically need a place to stay. You will also need a place to keep your valuables during your trek. I stayed in both the Marangu Hotel in Marangu Village and the Hotel Buffalo in Moshi. While both give you clean rooms and hot showers, there are many differences depending on what you are looking for. The Marangu Hotel is like a private plantation / resort separate from the rest of the village. You can go into town if you want but while you are on the compound, it feels like you are a world away in a spread out and relaxing environment. The Marangu Village and some short hiking to waterfalls is just a short walk away. Moshi is a true town and the Hotel Buffalo has a popular bar so it can get loud there at night, especially when a good game of football is being broadcast. At night there are other town sounds that kept me up for a while thinking that this is like a clean version of Leonardo DiCaprio's hotelroom in the beginning of The Beach - but without the ability to look into adjacent rooms ;-)
While many people believe having porters carry you tent and cooking gear is necessary, it's not necessarily the case. If you want to carry up your own gear and save some money you can do this with some operators. Jamaica's Karibu Kili & Safari offers both plush and stripped down tours where you can carry as much as you want. Since the guides are climbers themselves it can be more like going with friends than going on a tour. It looked like the 3 Swedes I saw with them were carrying their own tent and gear as they each had what looked like full 7000 cubic inch packs. While I haven't used Jamaica's company, both he and Alex were very personable and I'd be interested to hear in anybody that has experience with his company.
5) Drugs (Diamox, Dex, etc.):
While many in our group used Diamox, several members also had oral Dexamethasone (Dex) on hand just in case. One person had used Dex for Mount Whitney and wasn't taking any chances. The Diamox we had in our group consisted of 125mg tablets, 250mg tablets, and 500mg time-release capsules. The people with high-altitude (20,000+ feet) experience in our group used Diamox and were the reference points for the rest of us. Side-effects I heard about included some tingling skin, the need to urinate more often, and that it makes beer taste bad.
Although everyone who attempted the summit in our team made it to the top, I noticed that at least one person who didn't use Diamox needed to have their backpack carried up and down by a guide. I don't think anyone in our group used Dex though it was nice to have for emergencies. I still think the Dex shots in Vertical Limit look cooler than than the oral stuff ;-)
As mentioned, it's also nice to have some extra for emergencies such as the couple from Holland that Yehuda and I ran into. At the end of a trek, it's nice to leave what remains in case other trekkers arrive needing it.
| Mt Kilimajaro was noticeably more difficult [ than Mt Whitney ] due primarily to lack-of-oxygen and, I suspect, Lariam (Malaria medication). After taking the first dose, I had a lung-reaction while climbing Mt. Diablo. (tightness of lungs with noticeably slower oxygen uptake) I took no Diamox on Kili and have never tried it. I did pop one Ginkgo Baloba, and one Slow Fe each morning on Kili as this seemed to lessen the effects of thin air on Mt. Whitney last October. The minor AMS symptom experienced was a headache at 16k, resolved by 2 Ibuprophine. The extra day spent at Brafu high camp was essential..... I doubt I would have made the summit, otherwise. Observation: Those who passed me on summit day (night) were younger. My advice to others: Climb while young ... ! |
| I took the following medication throughout the climb: 250 mg of Diamox (acetazolamide) twice a day and two 60mg Ginkgo biloba extract caplets in the morning. I don't know whether this helped at all because I have never had serious altitude sickness, just occasional mild headache and shortness of breath with exertion. For aches and pains, I took Aleve (naproxen), particularly during the brutal summit day descent. For malaria prophylaxis, I took Malarone once a day, beginning after the climb. Malarone produced none of the side effects that some people experience with Lariam, so it may be worth the extra cost (about $4.50 a pop). I also carried a kit, what my doctor calls an "Oh Shit Kit", containing oral dexamethasone, Levaquin, Zithromax and a wonderful assortment of controlled substances, but didn't use any of it. |
| I wasn't sure whether to take Diamox or not but my conversations with Bob Carney on the first night and my desire to check out any solo possibility on the Rebmann Glacier convinced me to start taking small doses at the end of our first hiking day. This was my first time taking Diamox and here is the scheduled I followed: |
It's hard to know whether I would have succumbed to the effects of altitude or not without drugs, but making it to the top was more important to finding out my limits on this particular trip. The only effects of altitude I noticed was that I wasn't getting enough oxygen for running down the snow at 18,000+ feet so I'd have to stop often to catch my breath. As for Diamox side-effects, I noticed some tingling in my fingertips on Day 1 and my face started tingling on Day 5 when we got over 17,000 feet. My face continued to tingle during the early part of our hike on Day 6, however, this stopped sometime before we reached Stella Point. I didn't run into any changes in urination. I didn't have any Kilimanjaro beer or Safari Lager at Rau Hut on Day 6 so I can't comment on whether it ruins the taste of beer for me.
|Day: ||Diamox Amount: ||Elevation Range: |
|Day 1:||125mg morning||6,200 - 10,200 ft|
|Day 2:||125mg morning||10,200 - 12,250 ft|
|Day 3:||125mg morning||12,250 - 15,840 ft|
|Day 4:||125mg morning|
|13,100 - 15,330 ft|
|Day 5:||250mg morning|
|15,220 - 17,060 ft|
|Day 6:||none||11,000 - 19,344 ft|
|Day 7:||none||6,400 - 11,000 ft|
If you have any comments or questions, please post them here.