On 7th September 2016 a team of five volunteers departed rural Aberdeenshire for Tanzania on a mission to reach the summit of the highest free standing mountain in the world and Africa’s highest peak – Mt Kilimanjaro. Standing 5,896m above the savannah of Tanzania the snow-capped mountain dominates the landscape for miles around.
They arrived at their hotel in Moshi, Tanzania, 36 hours later, very tired and ready for two nights acclimatising in the village near the base of the mountain. On the last night at the hotel and group were briefed by the fully qualified Kilimanjaro National Park Mountain Guides. The route they would take would be the Machame which is not the easiest but was one of the best for acclimatising climbers.
There was an opportunity to ask any last minute questions before they packed their bags ready for the start of trek. A coach then drove the team to the Machame Park Gate and the start of the trek. The first day’s route was within the rainforest where they saw and heard monkeys and birds in the trees and the splendour of the National Park Rainforest. The first night’s camp was at – they had trekked 18Km over 6 hours. The following day the route continued through the upper rain forest and on the Shira Plateau with amazing views of Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru in the distance. This day was a shorter distance day to help them acclimatise well. The camp that night was at the Shira Caves at 3,800m, having walked for 9Km and about 6 hours. In the morning the trek moved from lush rain forest to mountain moorland today as they traversed the southwest side of Kilimanjaro. This day is provided as a good acclimatisation day as they ascended the Lava Tower at 4,600m before walking down 900m to their camp for that night at Barranco. The team had spectacular views of Kilimanjaro’s peak as well as the Garden of Senecio’s – an area just before camp where huge Senecio plants grown in abundance, on this day they had climbed 15Km over 8 hours
The following morning the route headed over Great Barranco, which is a huge spur of rock created by Kilimanjaro’s last volcanic eruption the route was very steep especially as the air is much thinner. The trek then descended in to Karanga Valley and the camp was at the top of Karanga. This camp site was well above the clouds and the team had time to rest, relax and enjoy the sight, they had walked for 10Km over 6 hours
Our team told us that by now some had suffered from mild altitude sickness in the whole group that was climbing. It feels like an incredible hangover and can last a day or two. The route that day was short in distance but high in altitude, so was very hard going. They continued from Karanga camp to Barafu Camp at 4600m and stopped for lunch. The afternoon was spent enjoying the sights, relaxing, chatting and sleeping. The short walking day, 8Km over 4 hours, meant that they would have plenty of time to rest and relax before heading off to the peak at midnight.
The summit day on the mountain was the day when all their efforts paid off and they would hope to reach the summit. With a very early start, at midnight, they ascended the crater. This avoided the hot day time sun and meant that the scree was frozen and easier to walk on. They walked through the night and at sun rise were standing at Stella Point (5739m) on the crater rim. The views were breath-taking (if they indeed had any breath left!) with ice glacier cliffs surrounding them and views of the jagged peak of Mawenz (Kilimanjaro’s secondary peak). Another hours’ walk took them to the true peak of Kilimanjaro – Uhuru – 5896m (meaning ‘Freedom’ in Swahili). After lots of congratulations and photo opportunities the team started the descent back down the route to Barafu Camp. After lunch they then carried on down the mountain to their final camp and a well-earned dinner. They had climbed and descended 20km in total, with a 7km climb over 12 hours. The final day saw the team trek through the rainforest descending to Mweka Park gate, some cold beers on sale outside the gates, and a drive back to Moshi. The hotel awaited them for a good hot shower and a few cold drinks. In the evening they attended a celebration dinner with the chief guide and his assistances that had supported them all the way, and collected their certificates. The next day was a day to rest and relax or head out to Arusha National Park on a day safari, before heading to the airport the next day. They finally arrived home at 9.00pm at night on Monday 19th September.
The team here at Brighter Horizons wish to whole-heartedly thank our five intrepid volunteers who took time to not only climb Kilimanjaro, but to gain sponsorship. The funds they have raised will go a long way in providing community events for local people of all ages in the Banff and Macduff area, as well as supporting our other projects.
Anyone for Everest next year?!