Below is my full 7 day Kilimanjaro experience, it’s terse in parts as I was jotting down the info after each days hike. A climbing guide and packing list are coming soon!
Day 1: 4 hrs drive to the Lemosho route. We stop at the front gate so we can all sign in and the porters organize all of our packs into bags they can carry. It’s another 20m drive to starting point, where we have a quick snack and begin our journey! An easy approx 7km/4hrs hike through lush, green jungle to Mkubwa camp (2700m).
Day 2: Breakfast 6am, then start hike 645. Gruelling first section to Shira 1 camp, starting in jungle, moving into more of a forest with huge moss covered trees and after the first couple of hours it turns into moorland. Moorland section is very difficult, mostly steep rocky incline. 7km to Shira 1 camp (takes us almost six hours), where we have lunch. Next section to Shira 2 camp is much more flat, with some steeper rocky sections towards the end as we get higher. 10km distance takes us another four hours for a total of around ten hours/17km for the day – this is the longest and hardest day. Shira 2 camp elevation 3850m.
Day 3: 7am breakfast, then we left Shira 2 directly after that. Within an hour or so of hiking the terrain changes to alpine desert, mostly rocks and a few tufts of grass and moss. We trek our way mostly upwards (but not as steep as day 2) through and around the rocks to 4600m and reach Lava Tower camp by approx 1pm for a hot lunch. After lunch we trekked the treacherous path, consisting mostly of a damp, steep, rocky decline, back down to Barranco camp at 3900m elevation. This took us back down out of alpine desert and into the moorland. The hike was an excellent one, with some great scenery, crossings of mountain streams, even a waterfall. It was approx 90% downhill and the wet, loose and uneven rocks were perilous to the knees and ankles.
Day 4: A shorter trek today made for a welcome late start. Breakfast at 8am, and we were off hiking by 8:45. The sun had just breached the mountain to warm us up a little as we set off to tackle the Barranco wall. The first two hours was just a scramble and climb, winding our way up the rocky and extremely steep wall. This was one of the most enjoyable sections of the hike so far. We had a break at the top to rest and have a snack, then we made out for the Karanga camp. This next 2-3 hours of hiking was down and up out of several valleys; as we crested the final ridge we could see the camp at the top of the other side of the Karanga valley. We had a steep and winding trek down to the bottom, across a small stream and another 20 minutes or so steeply up the other side. We arrived at Karanga camp around 1:30, with its elevation of 3995m. Total hiking time today was approx 4.5 hours over 6km. We had a hot lunch at camp and then rested for the day, ready for our big summit day tomorrow night.
Day 5: Another late start for the short 4km hike to the Barafu base camp. This was a relatively easy hike through the rocky alpine desert. We made good time and arrived at Barafu camp (4600m) by 11.30. After a hot lunch we attempted to get some rest, and were up again at 5 for dinner and our summit briefing. We went back to bed to try for some more rest before our summit night.
Day 6: We woke up again at 10:45, had a hot meal at 11 and were on the trail by 12. It was pitch black and quite chilly as we left, but we were all layered up well and soon had to unzip our jackets. The first 45mins to an hour of the climb was a steep scramble up a mostly solid rock face, and we crested to a flat campground known as Kosovo camp, I guess for people wanting a head start on their summit hike. The next five hours was a small rocky goat trail switching back and forth across the face of the ridge we were ascending. We were fortunate to not have too much wind, however as we passed 4900m (freezing point) and beyond it gradually got colder and colder. The summit trail was mostly rocks and scree on a very steep incline the whole way. This was made more challenging by the freezing (-10 to -15) temperatures; we were well layered and reasonably warm apart from the extremities, as long as we were moving. As soon as we stopped for a break we were all freezing cold very fast. After one final challenging section we made it to Stella Point around 6:15, just in time to see the sunrise. We didn’t spend long here, and set off to Uhuru point to try and beat some of the crowd.
Despite it only being another 45m-1hr journey along a reasonably flat and easy path, due to the altitude this proved to be the most difficult section of the entire trek. The altitude was crushing, and we were all gasping for air and taking regular breaks as we trudged along toward the summit. We finally made it and spent around 15-20mins at the summit for a couple of photos with the sign and then we were all ready to get out of there and back down to lower altitude where we could breathe easier.
On the way down, which is typically much faster, our guide Musa took us on a ‘shortcut’. This consisted of sliding down 2-3km of rocky scree. This proved very tough for the girls who all needed assistance from the guides and porters to get through it. The shortcut did shave some significant time off our descent and we made it back to base camp at 10.30am.
We were all very worn out, so after a brief but well deserved rest and some hot breakfast we set off again for Millennium camp. This was only a further two hour hike and we had the option to hike another two hours to Mweka camp, which would shorten the next days journey. However after our big summit night, the uncomfortable shortcut on the descent and the treacherous rocky path down to Millennium we were all happy to just finish our day there and get some needed rest.
Day 7: We all had had a good afternoon nap, and then a solid nights sleep, so we woke up well rested and ready for our final day of descent. Though we were all much more comfortable and feeling better in the lower altitude this proved not to be an easy hike. We descended along a rocky, dry creek bed for much of the way, eventually working deeper into the jungle. This hike too about four hours, and as we neared the final couple of corners of the track we could hear the hustle and bustle of everyone at the exit gate. We stopped here for a quick break, and whilst our guides organised our climbing certificates from the National Park. After this we were back on the bus and headed back to civilisation!