Kilimanjaro – “Uhuru Peak” (5895m)

Tanzania… July 9, 2007… 06:07am… -12°C… 5895m… Uhuru Peak!


Never have I been so indescribable tired and happy at the same time:-)
Yes, I made it! All the way to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak!

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Machame Route: 6 days & 5 nights – 110 km total – from gate 1800m to summit 5896m. (“Zugspitze” = 2960m)

Day 1 & 2:

After an early start from Cape Town I arrived after a good 18 hours journey via Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro Airport at my hotel in Moshi where I got welcomed by a security guard armed with a machine gun…
All next day I spent cruising the local town where I was mostly busy trying to get rid of self-appointed city guides who would not stop following you until given some change or a kick in the backside. Later in the evening I then met my climbing partner who was going to join my mission for the next 6 days. All I knew so far was his name and that we would share costs for guides and porters. And somehow… I knew it: “Deforest”, a 65 year old librarian form Colorado, USA.

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Day 3:

Early breakfast at the hotel (850m) – 1,5h drive to Kilimanjaro National Park entry gate (1800m) – 3 hours sorting out guides, porters and registration – 11:00 o’clock: I’m on the track!


6 hours through dense rainforest & about 20km later we arrived at Machame Hut (2980m) for our first overnight camp. Besides our party (2 climbers, 2 guides, 7 porters & 1 chef) there were roughly 15 other climbers employing about 60 staff which turned the whole idyll into a rather busy atmosphere. Everyone thought the old dude was my dad & I must have been the first white “brotha” with blonde dreads the porters have come across. And despite their amusement it was a pretty hard job not to insult them everytime I rejected the finest, purest, best smelling, aaaaaaah! “No, not on the mountain!” But the malaria prophylaxis did the job anyhow and Diamox, a drug reducing the symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) made me piss like a racehorse every half an hour!

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I could not believe how much useless shit our porters carried up the mountain!
Candle-light dinner: “Deforest” told me about adventures during 40 years in his library & I described the beauty of Swedish chicks travelling the Aussi-coast.

Day 4:

Machame Hut (2980m) – 6:00am wake-up – slight frost covering the tent – 10km to Shira Camp (3840m). Pretty cool was the temperature drop from 26°C to 4°C in about 10 mins when the sun went down. Not so cool is the sun intensity at high altitude: with SPF 60+ (!!) my face was on the safe side but I totally forgot about my hands and fingers which on the following day turned into a bright red and a scary looking blue the days after which made it a real torture when I had to wear gloves. Now, 8 days later I still have blisters between the loose bits of burned skin on the back of my hands!
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A porter coming out of the first layer of clouds Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance. Isn’t she beautiful?!

And thanks guys for feeding me fried bananas and pancakes!

kili10Sunset Zigeiners out there! Imagine having no other choice then using such a “long-drop” at night with only a head torch on ya head and temperatures well below freezing level!
I never in my life have frozen that much (in my fingers)!

Day 5:

Acclimatisation day: Climb high – sleep low. 8 hours from Shira Camp (3840m) to Lava Tower (4630m) and back down to Barranco Camp (3950m). By now I suffered the worst diarrhoea u can think of!

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- one of our guides -
Ya ya… I didn’t believe it myself but those gay walking sticks (also called:
“trekking poles” *grunt grunt*)
really make a difference!
Pretty cool
camping spot, ey!?

Day 6:

Barranco (3950m) to Barafu (4550m).
“Only” -5°C in da morning but I was freezing like a penguin since all my body energy was concentrating on a heavily working stomach.

kili14 Meanwhile I haven’t eaten for 2 days and my reserves are slowly running low… This was the hardest day so far covering a steep 14km section (8 hours) with decreasing oxygen in the air.”My knee hurts like hell & I’ve got the runs…. but I’m f*ckin’ happy!” kili22

kili15The kitchen kili16Porters resting

Summit Night:


With only 2 hours of sleep (including a pee every 30 mins or so) Deforest, Elipokea, Frank (the other guide, I called him Frank cause I kept on forgetting his real name) and da Zigeiner left Base Camp just before midnight with a cup of tea and a biscuit(!) for the hardest and most exhausting night ever!

In just over 6 hours we “raced” up those remaining wishy-washy 1300 meters, taking one full breath in and one full breath out per single footstep.

During the last hour and a half crushing over the ice-field from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak I seriously had to fight tears since it was simply one of the most beautiful und gigantic moments of my life. 06:07 o’clcok in the morning, minutes before sunrise I made it! I climbed the roof of Africa!!


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With about -12°C and a harsh wind picking up and not wanting to run the risk of cooling out we only had about 10 minutes to enjoy the most mind-blowing sunrise you can imagine before we continued our 7km way down back to Base Camp for further 3 hours.

Still not haven’t eaten I really struggled holding myself upright with my legs giving way more and more on the steep decent. I fell over a few times caused by pure exhaustion and I had to stop a lot to rest. I was f*cked!

Back at Base Camp we stopped for about 2 hours to have a short rest and sort out our gear. 12 o’clock sharp we carried on for another 16km downhill to Mweka Camp (3100m).


Day 8:

Leaving the camp at 7am we finished the last 18km in not even 2 hours(!) and arrived back at the hotel early afternoon. The rest of the day I spent in Moshi hunting for proper food and souvenirs before I enjoyed the loooongest shower of my life:-) 4am next morning I was already on my way back to Cape Town…


To sum things up, it was one of the hardest and most exhausting things I have ever done but nevertheless easier than expected. I only lost 2kg.

P.S.: And ha ha, I was wearing the same underwear for the whole 6 days…  and I’m still alive:-)

P.P.S.: Thanks Ol for da pressure! I had yr words in da back of my head at every single step.

P.P.P.S.: And never, NEVER seek advice from an African when it comes to equipment/gear: They have a different definition of cold, very cold or freaking cold.
If he tells ya to expect “life-threatening-almost-impossible-to-survive” conditions…
=> prepare yrself as if you went out for a nice day skiing, just bring along more sunscreen!


A few last words to my climbing buddy “Deforest”:

“As a 65 year old marathon runner having competed in 37 states with your last race finished earlier this year and a physical condition on the same level as a 25 year old, you earned my very special respect! Thanx mate for sharing the moments on this awesome & unforgettable trip!!”


The following is a small abstract of questions he (and I have NO idea why?) had asked our guide:
[In red colour my thoughts]

  • “Is that north?” => No, south.
  • “Is that the moon?” => What else should it be, *#%*!
  • “Is that north?” => No, south.
  • - “Is that snow?” => Well, *#%*, we’re at 5500m,
    it’s -8°C and it’s white!
  • “Is that north?” => No, STILL south!
  • He puts one of his two bags through the x-ray security check at the airport and seriously asks the officer: “The other bag too?”

July 9, 2007  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: ZA + Kilimanjaro 2007 Views: 7246

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