Lemosho - Western Breach in December (6 Days)

Lemosho - Western Breach in December (6 Days)

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 3.0667°S / 37.35000°E
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Dec 15, 2019
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer

Trip Summary

Overview/Summary:

Myself and 4 friends climbed the Lemosho - Western Breach route from 11 December to 16 December 2019 with a summit day on the 15th of December. We had reasonable weather the majority of the time considering the time of year we went. The first 4 days were easy treks up to our Arrow Glacier camp. The 5th day was our summit day and the breach was much different than what photos and descriptions had lead us to believe. Given the season I believe the breach was probably close to peak snowpack which made for some impromptu route finding and fairly steep snow slopes. Given the angle of the chutes that we climbed and traversed I regret having not brought an ice axe and crampons. We were given microspikes by the guides, however full crampons and an ice axe would have made the route a walk in the park. The exposure on this section of the climb was much greater than anticipated and there is no accurate representation of the route we took online. The snowpack was in fantastic condition and was similar to cascade concrete. If self arrest were necessary and we had ice axes it probably would have been very effective should we have needed to try. There is no doubt that the marjority of the breach we climbed was a no-fall zone. Overall though I'm extremely happy that we chose this route over any of the normal routes that summit via the eastern side of the mountain. We were alone from above Lave Tower Camp until descending from the summit. Once summiting we descended to High Camp the same day and then back to the exit gate and hotel the next day. 

 

Planning:

We began the trip by searching for guide companies that would actually guide the breach and did not cost a fortune. We ended up with Bantu Pori Journeys, a local company based in Moshi. We ended up using them for both the climb and a 4 day safari. We had a fantastic experience with them and the owner Baraka. I highly reccommend them based on our experience. 

 

Climb:

Day 1: Below Lemosho Gate (Start 6500') - Big Tree Camp (End: 8700')

We began the climb on December 11th later in the day due to very wet road conditions causing signifigant delays. We began by leaving our hotel in Moshi and travelling to the Londorosi Gate for porter weight checks and registration. After that was completed we attempted to drive to the Lemosho Gate but were sopped due to muddy road conditions. We ended up starting our climb a couple of kilometers and about 500 vertical feet lower than the actual gate. After a couple hours we arrived at Big Tree camp (Mti Mkubwa Camp - ). 

Day 2: Big Tree Camp (Start: 8700') - Shira II Camp (End: 12,630')

Beginning on day 2 we elected to skip Shira 1 camp and climb instead to the higher Shira 2 camp based on our request to climb higher faaster based on our pre-acclimitization in Colorado (where we live). This day we ascended from Jungle into Mooreland and made it to Shira 2 in approximately 10 hours. 

Day 3: Shira II Camp (Start: 12,630') - Lava Tower Camp (End: 15,090')

We climbed from Shira II to Lave Tower Camp. The majority of this day was spend in the clouds with periodic rain. This night actually felt the coldest due to a cloud settling on our camp for the night. The actual temperature was probably just below freezing as there was some ice acculation on the tents. During this climb we ascended from Morreland into high alpine desert.

This is also where we heard a 10+ minute rockfall from the breach. The breach is notoriously unstable after getting in sunlight and the constant rockfall confirmed the rumors. 

Day 4: Lava Tower Camp (Start: 15,090') - Arrow Glacier Camp (End: 16,085')

Very easy 45min hike this day in order to increase acclimitization. Arrow Glacier Camp was completely on snow at this time of year. This is also, when unfoturnately Deo, one of the porters on the team developed a serious case of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). My speculation is that he stayed silent at the previous camp and continued the climb regardless of his worsening conditon. Thankfully, the team was able to administer oxygen and quickly take him down to Shira II Camp. A vehicle was able to use the Lemosho emergency road to take him to the hospital in town. I was told that he made a full recovery from his episode of HAPE. 

Day 5: Summit Day; Lava Tower Camp (Start: 15,090') - Uhuru Peak (19,341') - High Camp (End: ~12,500')

We began the climb with a nice alpine start at ~0230L. We ascended the breach and gained the rim before the sunlight touched our route. The route really is a continously degrading slap of volcanic rock. It is highly unstable and bascially a shooting gallery. If you elect to go this route make sure you get off before the sun makes it even more unstable. 

Due to the time of year that we climbed I believe the breach was probably near peak snowpack. This caused the need for routefinding and some interesting traverses. We went up a couple short chutes of probably 35 degrees and topped out near the rim with the steepest slope. I didn't have a clinometer but my wag is that the slope was in excess of 45 degrees (It was certaintly comparable to the Jamapa Glacier steepness on Pico de Orizaba). With crampons and an ice axe this would have been a pretty easy walkup but with only microspikes it was a bit more of a challenge. I definitely would have taken an ice axe had I better known what the route would look like.

Day 6: High Camp (Start: ~12,500') - Mweka Camp (End: ~7000')

This was an easy day down to the exit gate. It took us about 3 hours to reach the gate. Bit of a slog on a bunch of stairs/steps but pretty uneventful. 

Conclusion:

I highly reccomend the Western Breach route. This route allowed us to be alone for several days and see the full breadth of the mountain. It was much more intersting and fun than the normal route that we descended. 

I also highly reccomend Bantou Pori Journeys as a guide and safari service. We had a top notch experience with them.



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