Aug 31, 2010
Two weeks ago, I got back from my trip to Tanzania where me and 3 buddies climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in the African continent. It was a great trip - a week on the mountain, 3 days of Safari, and a few rest days scattered between. There are more photos in this gallery.
The photo above is one of my favorites. It is taken from our campground on the 2nd night, which you can see in the background. The peak framed in the camera lens is Mt. Meru, which is the only other nearby object that sticks out above the clouds. From this point on in the hike, we were always above a sea of clouds looking down. The mountain we were standing on would cast a long shadow onto these clouds in the morning. By luck of the time of year we were hiking, that shadow would point straight at Mt Meru. This photo however was taken right after sunset, so there are no mountain shadows being cast about.
The vast majority of hikers (99%) climb up to a camp named 'Barafu' and then spend the night at 15,000 ft of elevation. We did as well. Most hikers then wake at midnight to attempt a summit (19,000 ft) around sunrise, take a few photos, and then turn around to hike back down. This is cold and absolutely grueling.
Our route had a slight deviation from the usual approach most hikers take. From Barafu camp, we started our hike up at 8am in sunlight and more warmth. We climbed over the rim of Kilimanjaro, which is a dormant volcano, and down into the crater. The point on the rim we crossed is known as Stella's Point, and is only a very short hike from the actual peak, 500 ft higher. Our plan was to spend the night inside the crater and nab the actual peak on the descent the next day.
Crater camp is fantastic. Something few Kilimanjaro hikers, let alone people, ever experience. The crater is at 18,875 ft above sea level. There were glaciers in the crater when we visited that you could walk right up to as well as other features of a largely undisturbed volcanic crater.
This did not come without drawbacks however. Sleeping at that elevation is very difficult if you had not spent several weeks acclimatizing. The altitude made me weaker and weaker over the night. By morning, I could barely lace up my own boots, I would need to take breaks while doing so. The decision was made that we should split, and I should decend with one of the guides to a lower elevation as soon as possible, skipping the summit. I completely agreed. Descending solved the problem, once I descended back past Barafu camp, I was doing jumping-jacks.
I didn't get to be in the summit sign photo, but I had a great story to tell and really enjoyed the experience.