Having a quick rest just before the rain really starts to kick in...
Day one had begun with us leaving Springlands at 8:30 and a 2hr bus trip to the gates of the Marangu Route (1980m) just under the height of Australia’s tallest mountain Mt Kosciuszko (2228m). This day included a 12km walk which would have taken 5hrs or so up to Mandara Huts (2700m). Something that I actually found funny is that by the time we got to our lunch break we were already higher then Kosciuszko, which is something that I found the porters thought, was also quite funny. Now something that wasn’t funny was the fact that I forgot to pack my raincoat in my day pack. So here I am walking though a rainforest without a raincoat, it better not rain I’m thinking. And what does it start doing raining; thankfully it didn’t last too long… that time. Just before leaving our lunch spot a pretty large Mongoose decided it might show up and say ‘hey’ seemed pretty friendly coming right up to you, but that would be because its wanting the peanuts that we had. After about another hour of walking we came up to another bridge, this is where the porter track or road and the main walking path meet. And this is when it decided it might start raining again and this time quite heavily also and still had another 2½hrs of walking to go. FUN… But we finally made it to Mandara Huts and as you would guess everything was wet and cold, hiking boots were completely soaked as were socks and what not, let’s just say there were high fives all round. Hopefully tomorrow works out a little better.
At Mandara Huts 2720m
This day I recon would have had to be my least favourite not because it was hard or anything I just felt like it took forever and just didn’t seem to end. This day was a 6hr hike over 15km from Mandara Huts to Horombo Huts (3720m) total gain 1020m. Walking though the moorland part of mountain there wasn’t all that much to see in terms of plants. However it did give us our fist views of the bottom of the mountain, looking down 3700m sure is something when you can sit there and watch the rain clouds sweeping over the flat plains of Africa. But once we had first site of Horombo Huts boy were we glad to see them and have a well deserved rest and hot chocolate because things where starting to get a tad cooler, but did get a very awesome sunset.
Day three, otherwise known as our acclimatisation day or could be called a rest day. We woke up to this day being in the clouds, it was very cold and everything felt damp. The fog was pretty bad also only really being able to see at least 10m to 15m in front of yourself and because of this, as you would guess there wasn’t much to look at. However, because this was just an acclimatisation day it was a pretty easy day which only including a 3hr hike up to Zebra Rocks which is located somewhere around 4000m above sea level and then the 1½hr walk back down to the Horombo Huts. Thankfully by the time we made it up to the rocks the fog had at least cleared a little bit so we were still able to see them, but that didn’t last that long as the clouds slowly started to roll back up the mountain. After that there wasn’t much reason to stay there much longer as there wasn’t a whole lot that you could see. So all headed back down to the Horombo Huts where hot chocolate and chocolate chip biscuits await us. The rest of the day pretty much consisted on playing card games and resting a well deserved break from the many hours of walking from the last 2 days and the 3 days that are still to come.
This was another long day involving a 6hr climb over 15km from the Horombo Huts too Kibo Huts (4600m) making it a 980m climb. We woke up today to no more fog or anything just uninterrupted views out of what looked like a sea of clouds, it was almost like you could run out there and walk on them. This was also the day that we walk across the saddle; this was still another 1hour of 2 away. The part of the mountain that separates the two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo and because of the way it is there can be some really strong winds and things can get quite cold up there. Guess that’s why there aren’t any plants or pretty much anything, it really, just looks like you’ve walking on the Moon, Mars or something like that as there was pretty much just red and gray rock everywhere making things look a little bland. But boy was there some great views of the both Kibo and Mawenzi Peaks from the Saddle. Once we finally got to Kibo at about 5pm and then got settled in, it started snowing. But it was time to have some dinner and then get as much sleep as we possible as in 4hrs it was our summit attempt which had a departure time of 11pm. One thing that was really good effort from the whole team is that we managed to get 100% to Kibo.
This is it, time to go to the top. This required climbing from Kibo Huts to Gilman’s Point (5681m) and then too Uhuru Peak (5895m) with a total gain 1195m. What was pretty cool though is waking up and seeing the ground covered under a thin layer of snow which had fallen over the night and covered not only the area around Kibo Huts but also right up the mountain cover the path up to Gilman’s and right down into The Saddle. Now this is the part of the climb when things really start getting tough and really requiring a lot of physical and mental effort. Now I know that I’m not the fittest person in the world, but if you really want this anyone could make it, also the pace that the porter and guides set up this part really helps a lot with this. Either way this part is tough and the snow doesn’t really help that much. After much zigzagging our way up the mountain and slowing watching the moon and stars moving across the sky and then looking down and seeing all the snow down in the saddle. Then looking to the right of the saddle and seeing the lights of Tanzania and then to the left there is the lights of Kenya is something that you don’t see every day. But after many hrs of climbing, we finally made it to the Gilman’s just as the sun was rising over Mawenzi Peak at 6:30am with 27 of the 39 that started the mountain make it. Not to mention the amazing views that we got from Gilman’s Point.
However there was still another 2hrs to get to Uhuru Peak. This 2hrs over 2km (1km/hr ) was a long and slow process manly due to the fact that there is now only half the amount of air that there usually is at sea level. Not to mention the large amounts of snow that had fallen, Bernie was saying that if he wasn’t there Filex would have actually said no for continuing up to Uhuru Peak because of the large amounts of snow can make things quite slippery when things start to melt. But then up over the next small hill after much stopping and starting from felling just downright crap, we has the first sighting of the sign that marks the top. Standing at this point is defiantly something that you don’t all that often, knowing that at the point in time (8:36am) you are the highest person in the entire continent of Africa. And then began our journey back down to Kibo Huts, which absolutely killed my knees. Not getting back to Kibo until 1pm. That’s 14hrs of none stop walking up and down the mountain and there was more to come in that same day.
After finally getting back down to the Kibo Huts we had 2hr rest before starting again all the way back to Horombo Huts, not getting there till 6pm making it a total of 30hr from waking up at the Horombo Huts on Day 4 to getting back to Horombo Huts the next night, with only 4hrs of sleep between that. Boy did we sleep well that night…
The last day pretty much just involved going back down the mountain doing what we did on Days 1 and 2. However did see this really cool chameleon along the way, just before getting to Mandara Huts. Finally getting down the bottom after spending 6 days and walking something like 110km it was really nice to get back to Springlands go for a swim and a hot shower.
Then that night we had all the presentations of certificate and then recaps and highlights of the climb as did the 3, Ellen, Demi and Katherine who did the Pumzisha Option. This involved doing a home stay going to the Kili Centre Orphanage and The School of Saint Judes. And then topped off the night by having none other than a Kilimanjaro Beer, it was most defiantly was ‘Kili time!’