Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano in Tanzania. It is 5,895 meters above sea level and therefore the highest mountain in Africa.
September 2018 my Seven Summits challenge took me this time to my home continent, Africa! Wasn’t I supposed to start with Kilimanjaro first? To succeed the Seven summits in one year, I had to consider a specific order for my trips. Mountains like Denali or Everest can be climbed only in Summer. Whereas Kilimanjaro can be climbed all year long.
My trip started in Moshi town in the north of Tanzania. I felt somehow home once I put my feet in this country. People were very friendly and always with a bright smile.
Which route shall I take?
Since Kilimanjaro is the most frequented mountain of the Seven Summits, I selected a remote route but also a challenging one. It’s the Umbwe Barranco route. The Umbwe route is not a technical route, but it is a very direct, very steep, very tough, and in parts a very exposed route. I took the traditional variation, which goes north through the Western Breach from the Arrow Glacier Camp. Western Breach sits on the western side of Kibo and was formed hundreds of thousands of years ago by volcanic eruptions and lava flows from Kibo’s Crater.
Our expedition started at the Umbwe Gate of the Kilimanjaro National park at 1.600 meters. Before entering the park some administrative papers have to be signed. Access to the park and climbing Kilimanjaro especially via the Western Breach is very regulated. Also a special permit is needed to sleep in the crater. After a nice but sweaty hike through the jungle, we reached Umbwe Camp at 2.850 meters. I had a team of 6 including my guide and a cook. Effort to reduce the team and all what they packed before the start was in vain. I had a very comfy setup with a huge tent. They setup a dinning corner in the vestibule with a chair and a table. That was not what I wanted. Apart from few teams settled far away and some monkeys hanging on the surrounding trees, the camp was pretty empty.
Splitting the team!
The next day we moved to Barranco Camp at 3.900 meters. The way up had some steep sections. Huge tree roots offered a good grip. I was very concerned for my team. The porters were carrying this useless equipment, that I even didn’t want. In those kind of adventures I am seeking originality, different things than the city comfort. Barranco Camp was very busy. It’s the crossing of several routes. The upcoming route parts will be more challenging. So I insisted on sending a team member down with all the things, that I didn’t need.
We were hiking straight forward from a camp to the next without any acclimatisation hikes or breaks. This was mainly because I had only one week for the whole trip. So on the third day we reached Arrow Camp at 4.800 meters. In the middle of this volcanic landscape, we were only two expeditions going for the summit day the next morning. As soon as it became cold at night, we heard every now and then loud rock falls. This made me and my guide very nervous.
The next day our summit push started at 5 am. After one hour we reached the starting point of the Barranco Wall. We had to scramble a wall after the other. I love scrambling but because of my headaches I didn’t enjoy it that much this time. My target was the summit, so I stayed focused. With the sunrise, we had a great view of Mount Kenya. One of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. After 6 hours in total we reached the crater, 145 meters below summit. We made a nice long break, left our gear and went up to the summit.
Around 2:30 pm, me and my guide had the roof of Africa just for us! What an amazing feeling! We took pictures, performed a short prayer and descended to the crater. Our team had settled our tents already and we were able to enjoy a delicious meal. Every one felt relieved.
The next morning we started our descent. We had to climb up first to Stella point at 5.756 meters. After few pictures with the team and we descended via the Mweka route. We came cross hundreds of climbers. It’s quite a shock after having being almost alone with my team. On the way down we reunited with the team member who carried the extra equipment down. As we reached the exit of the Kilimanajrao National Park, the team performed the famous porter’s dance. This spread a nice air of joy and was a nice present. My guide gathered my summit certificate from the Park authority and we drove to Moshi. What a great trip!
The following two days I visited some beautiful spots close to Moshi like the Ndoro waterfalls, the Masai museum and Masai market close to Arusha, located 72 Km. from Moshi.