Explorers Connect

No words truly explain - Kilimanjaro!

Trip Report, Adventure RevolutionJames Hipkiss
"It was the most amazing thing in my life and i highly recommend it!"

We had planned for over a year and a half to go to Tanzania in Sept and attempt to Climb Kilimanjaro. We had been training hard, lots of hill walking and being up Snowdon most weekends We had chosen Shira route taking 8 days in total on the mountain.

We didnt really want it to be the 2 of us and we did want to see a bit more of Tanzania too, Other than the mountain so we opted for a UK-based tour company Explore. Which used local Tanzanian tour groups guides to have the best knowledge and info of the local area. Organising us a safari and a short stay in Zanzibar too. Shira route is the longest on the mountain, but is the best in terms of acclimatisation. We Flew with British Airways from Manchester to London, Kenya airways from Heathrow direct to Nairobi and then with Precision air onwards to Kilimanjaro airport. Was a long tiring journey but so so worth it and did not have any delays We met up with the rest of our group in Kilimanjaro airport. There was 15 of us in total, plus our tour leader Max.

It was an amazing group all like-minded people and a variety of ages! ranging from twenty-two to fifty-nine. Transferred on a mini bus just under an hour to Moshi a local village where we would spend the night resting before we headed to the mountain. We stayed in lodge style rooms, very basic but did the job. Weather was not very warm, although it wasn't cold either, just very cloudy! The next morning was here before we knew it we had a good breakfast in the hotel then got briefed about the day route ahead. We then loaded into 3 jeeps and drove to the Londrossi gate to commence our adventure. We all signed in to say we were entering the mountain, having a peek at the celebrity comic relief signatures too as they did the same route. Had a bit of lunch and got going. The first day was so so dusty, not too energetic either. The aim on the mountain was never to be out of breath always walking slow and controlled. So you could acclimatise well.

Walking poles were very helpful for this, i had never really used them properly before, but couldnt imagine doing something like this without them now. We got to Shira 1, the first campsite to be surprised with our tents all set up and the tea cooking the porters we had with us were amazing the always leave camp after you and get there before you. We had around 40 porters for our group of 16.. Food was surprisingly good on the mountain we always had tea coffee followed by some kind of soup then a meal. The chiefs did so well to make the food they did! Even had chips one night, imagine lugging those potatoes all the way up the mountain. We ate in two huge yellow, mess tents. Also a nice surprise was we had porter loos that came with us on the whole trip! not many groups had these! Camp life was great and i really got into it, quite miss it now actually.

You got into such a routine of eating tea, chatting a little in the mess tents and then an early night. As soon as the sun went down it was very cold, so the best place was to be in your sleeping bag You rose early about 6.30am with the porters banging your tent asking whether you wanted tea or coffee, ha! Followed shortly by a bowl of warm water to wash with in the first few camps this soon stopped at around camp 4 as it was very cold in the mornings and it would just freeze! Days on the mountain consisted of waking 6.30, breakfast 7, packing everything away in your tent for 7.30 and then get walking. You would walk till lunch time when you would arrive into your next camp. Porters would have everything all set up and lunch cooking. Have some lunch and then a couple of hours rest to purify your water etc (Tip: Best water purifier which we found was Aqua Mira, you put 7 drops of part A 7 drops of part B and shake then leave for 40 minutes so much better than iodine or chlorine as Aqua mira had no taste. We got it from Amazon)and head off on an acclimatisation walk.

The idea was climb high and sleep low! I think the coldest night we had been at Lava tower campsite 4100m it was an open sight, winds were strong and temperature got to -10 all our water in the tent for the next day had frozen and my partner said i had icicles on my hat as i slept from the condensation of my breath.. Thank god i didn't need the toilet in the middle of the night there! We eventually got to the summit night camp and rested, we had tea at 4pm loads carbs really potato stew and pancakes, then went back to our tents to rest. Just a case of lying there with your eyes shut for most people till 11pm. I did manage to get a few hours of sleep in from lunch till 4pm so I wasn't to bothered although the stress on rest at this point couldn't be enough! We were told to put your thermals on and a few layers now and the rest at the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep warm. 11pm was very cold and dark and everything was a lot harder then.

Be organised and bags packed, with lots of snacks was the key! We were due to set off from camp at 11.30pm for the summit. Head torches on and poles in position. I was all set but my partner was not feeling very well at all, he had an upset stomach (last thing you need at -7 on the mountain). He dosed himself up on Imodium but it wasn't doing much good. But he still persisted We had 2 Tanzanian guides with us this night and our English one Max, along with 6 assistant guides which were well acclimatised and experienced porters. These porters were monitoring us every step of the climb, always checking everything was OK. Helping us with water out of our bags, as the platypus tubes had frozen solid, even ones with thermal covers on! You didn't even feel like eating at that altitude i was just sucking glucose tablet sweets all the way. 3 hours had passed and everyone was getting tired, we were walking on pure scree. Every step forward we were sliding two back. This is how it went for 7 hours and we had only ascended 3km. It was the hardest moment of my life. I was so focused on the persons feet in front of me, as the only light was my head-torch.

Every time I looked up I would lose balance and just see other head-torches winding the way higher and higher up the mountain. This was so off-putting, soon i realised head-torches were turning into stars! Guides were telling us not long now nearly at Stella point as people were nearly asleep on their feet. We were an hour away! I felt my legs were not mine just jelly. We both persisted on, my partner was not feeling very good at all at this point. But he kept popping Imodiums! He had an amazing assistant guide with him though walking behind him. People in our group soon started becoming unwell as the altitude and sheer exhaustion set in. People had nose bleeds, sickness and fainting spells. Was not good. I just kept walking hoping it cant be too much longer.

Finally we were at Stella point there was about 8 of us together out of the original 15. My partner and i slumped on a rock back to back and just both cried. It was unbelievable, we looked out and the sun was about to rise there was an orange/red glow along the horizon. No one could talk, not a grown man without a wet eye. The guides were hugging us and saying well done apparently around the next corner was the summit sign. They didn't let us rest long and moved us walking again what seemed like forever was about another 45 minutes to the sign. We already felt so accomplished, you found a boost of energy from within to do the last bit. People passing were congratulating us! It was fantastic. We finally got to the sign at 6.30am 16th Sept, 2009. It was the best feeling in the world i just hugged it, to my amazement i turned around to find my boyfriend on one knee.

Where he asked me to marry him i said yes once i found the words to be able to speak again the poor guy. It was all too much to take in it was the most amazing thing in my life and i highly recommend it to again one who is slightly thinking about it. It did only take us 2 hours to get down which you slid most of the way down the scree We used Ashante tours once in Tanzania! Explore was the UK-based company. All 15 plus guides made it to the top of Kili (we can now call it this) that morning, pushing through all difficulties had on the mountain! Well done to everyone! That is how I become Mrs P..

Follow more of my adventures at www.mrsptravels.com