Roof of Africa: Climbing Kilimanjaro

The Trip of A Lifetime

Are photos your thing? Check out the full Kilimanjaro album on Google Photos.

In February 2016, Heidi and I set off on a plane headed East. For 36 hours we would make our way toward Tanzania and the highest mountain in Africa.  This was a super-adventure for us.  Heidi put in hours of research and planning. We took thousands of photos, made amazing friends, and shared a countless number of unforgettable experiences.  

I could write for hours on this subject.  But that would bore you cross-eyed.  Instead, I've organized my thoughts a bit so that you can easily find the content you desire most.  I'll start with the story of what happened over the eight days we spent on the mountain, with each day divided into it's own separate page.  Once that is done, I'll circle back and provide additional planning information and resources to this page that may be useful should you choose to climb Kilimanjaro yourself.   Hint: You should totally do it!

I'll be updating this over a rolling period, so check this page for updates.

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The Chronological Story

 
 

THE ROUTE

MODIFIED LEMOSHO ROUTE

There are many routes to the summit of Kilimanjaro.  Some are easy... really easy...  shamefully easy.  Some are much harder.  And at least one is technical and quite dangerous. Counterintuitively, as the duration of a particular route increases—in terms of days spent on the mountain at altitude—so does the ease of the climb. More time spent at altitude allows the body more time to create additional red blood cells. For this reason, we selected an eight day route called the Lemosho Route.  Like the popular Macheme Route, this trail gives climbers plenty of time to acclimatize but it is less popular and thus feels slightly wilder and less overrun with other climbing groups. The embedded map below outlines the route and lists the camping and lunching locations for each day. (If you're on a phone, you can view the route map here.) 


HACK YOUR PACK TIPS

Climbing Kilimanjaro is such a rewarding experience. I thought I'd list some suggestions based on my learnings on the mountain:

  • You don't need fancy gear – I showed up on the mountain decked out with the finest equipment and I enjoyed using it and was quite comfortable. However, there were clients who equipped with basic fleece and windbreakers from big box retail stores. We all summited and did just fine. You don't need to look like Conrad Anker to get to the top.
  • Bring snacks for your porters – sharing food with your porter is a way of telling them that you like them and appreciate their help. We gave snacks and candy to our porters every day as well as some really high end beef jerky on their hardest day. You'll get better support from your porters and virtually eliminate any concern that the gear in your duffel you entrust to them will be molested. By day four, our porters were becoming fast friends.
  • Tip correctly – Tanzanians prefer large US bills new from the bank without any creases. Be sure to bring the appropriate form of currency to avoid awkward moments in the mess tent on the last day when all the clients are dividing up cash for tips.
  • Carry Cipro – if you get wrecked with a gastrointestinal issue on the mountain, you're going to have to hike through it. Better to have an antibiotic with you just incase. And remember, Cipro makes you super-sensitive to the sun, so pack your sunscreen too!
  • Consider taking a Wilderness First Aid course – our guides were super nice, and tended to our every need. However, when a porter suffered a bad ankle injury, it was clear that the standards for WFA skills in Africa aren't what we're accustomed to in the States. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I feel we were very lucky on our trip. We had a week of great weather–only getting rained on briefly the fourth day. We were joined by eight strangers who we ended up getting along with splendidly. We formed a tight bond with the other clients and with our guides and porters. I'm not sure if this is a common occurrence, but I am grateful it worked out so perfectly for us. Duma Explorers, our tour company, has a stellar reputation for client safety and porter treatment. Duma was more expensive than several competitors, but we got the best vibe from them, and that is important when signing over a sizable chunk of cash.

Chances are if you're reading this post, you have a slight interest in climbing Kili yourself. You should totally do it! This trip was the adventure of a lifetime and I felt profoundly changed for the better after returning. It is within the grasp of anyone who is in decent physical condition, willing to do a bit of training and who can put up with some mild suffering for a few days. Heck, the insurance company we used didn't even classify it as a mountain climb. They listed it as a hike. So you can totally do this!