Our latest climb to Kilimanjaro was another great success! This trip with LA residents Heather Krug and Robyn Stern had been in the works for a year by the time we boarded a flight at LAX bound for Tanzania. Upon arriving we spent adjusting to the time change, which is 11 hours ahead of California. We took a walk through the forest near our hotel, ate lunch in the town of Moshi near our hotel, and packed for our climb. On December 16 we drove to the park gate and started our seven day trek.
Kilimanjaro is the only place in the world where it is possible to climb through five climate zones in five days. We started off in a jungle and a few days later we would be at the summit in an alpine environment that has snow, ice, and dirt but no forms of life at all.
While it is possible to climb Kilimanjaro in less than seven days this cuts short the crucial acclimatization process we need to adjust to the thin air we will be climbing in. We try to average 1000’ per day above 10,000’. This gives enough time for our bodies to keep producing more red blood cells that allow our circulatory system to carry more oxygen, which is important as the air gets thinner at increasingly higher elevation. For many of our clientele Kilimanjaro (5895m/19,340’) this is the first time they have been this high in elevation. Robyn and Heather’s training program included hiking peaks in Southern California including San Gorgonio (11,499’/3505m) and Mt. Baldy (10,064’/3607m). Robyn had also climbed Mt. Whitney (14,508’/4422m) with us over the summer and Heather had trekked in New Zealand.
As we ascended through the different temperate zones the landscape and scenery changed with each one offering its own unique beauty. At lunchtime on December 20 we arrived at our highest camp at 4600m/15,100’, which put us in position for our summit attempt the following day. We had an early dinner and got to sleep well before it was dark because we had planned to leave for the summit at 11pm. We would climb through the night and hopefully be high on the mountain by sunrise.
At a few minutes after 11pm we left camp bound for the summit. We were treated to a warm, clear, and windless night. Climbing at a steady measured pace we navigated by headlamp and were treated to a beautiful blanket of stars above. We took a few breaks along the way for water and food and found ourselves reaching the crater rim of Kilimanjaro at 4:30am. It was still dark and we were ahead of schedule! Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano. The top of it is a large oval shaped crater. We reached the crater rim at an area called Stella Point at 5737m/18,821’. From here it takes 45 – 60 minutes to traverse around the crater to its highest point they call Uhuru Peak at 5895m/19,340’.
Once we hit approximately 5500m or 18,000’ we have half the oxygen that is present at sea level. Climbing in this rarified air requires 1-3 deep breaths for each step we take up hill. We took a 10 minute break at Stella Point then started off on the last push towards the summit. As we neared the top we could see the first evidence of sunrise out to the east. We reached the “Roof of Africa” at 5:30am!
We spent a few minutes taking summit photos and enjoying the view as it began getting light enough to see around. The weather was cold with a slight morning breeze beginning to pick up. We were bundled up in several warm clothing layers including our puffy down jackets. At 5:55am it was time to begin our descent. As we retraced our steps we were treated to the awe inspiring view Kilimanjaro always offers of the sunrise over the African plains!
Heather and Robyn are now off on a game viewing safari to unwind after a great adventure. Thanks to everybody at home for your loving support and prayers during our climb!!
Below are a few pictures. The entire gallery of photos taken during the trip can be viewed here:
December 16: Robyn, Kurt, and Heather at the start of the Machame Route on Kilimanjaro.
Heather and Robyn hiking through the jungle en route to Camp 1.
Our porters carrying loads on day 1. Our Chagga staff carries most of our gear so we can carry light day packs.
The jungle environment is rich with exotic plants and wildflowers.
Our tents at Machame Camp, Camp 1 at 3000m/9842'
Afternoon tea and popcorn at Camp 1.
Kilimanjaro from Camp 1 on the morning of December 17, day 2 of our climb.
Robyn psyched on the trekking and scenery on day 2.
Heather taking in the views at a water break during our trek to Camp 2.
Camp 2 at 3864m/12,620'. The peak in the distance is Mt. Meru, a satellite peak of Kilimanjaro.
Heather and Robyn hiking on December 18, day 3 of our climb.
Kurt and Robyn at our high point on day 3; Lava Tower at 4610m/15,170'.
Kilimanjaro's Western Breach Wall from Camp 3 at 3940m/12,926'
Lobilia plant near Camp 3. There are five varieties of lobilia. Their distinguishing feature is the leaf structure funnels water into the center of the plant where it can drink it as needed.
Kurt, Heather, and Robyn saddled up and ready to hike on day 4.
Giant Senacio plants near Camp 3.
Late afternoon light at Karanga Camp, Camp 4 at 3930m/12,893'.
Heather, Kurt, and Robyn at Karanga Camp on the morning of day 5. Heather decided to descend from here and not try for the summit. After saying goodbye Robyn and Kurt ascended to high camp and Heather returned to our hotel.
Sunset at Barafu Camp, Camp 5 at 4600m/15,100'.
Robyn dressed up and ready for summit day!
High on the crater rim of Kilimanjaro at dawn. Seeing the sunrise over the African plains is one of the most breathtaking events to witness in Africa!
Robyn's summit photo with the sign that sits atop the highest point in Africa.
December 21, 2012, 5:30am: Robyn and Kurt on the summit of Kilimanjaro 5895m/19,340'