Join Gary, Chief Project Manager at Nature Discovery, as he attempts to summit Kilimanjaro with a small group of guests.A midnight start to reach the summit – the group make the final push to the Roof of Africa.
Sleep deprivation can affect anyone. Is it the altitude and trying to sleep with less oxygen above 4700m? Is it the excitement of summitting or is it nerves of what to expect? I go through checklists in my head of what I’m wearing and what layers will come off first; what I am packing in my day bag, and will my snacks be easily accessible, and hopefully they won’t freeze. Do I have enough water? Hopefully, that won’t freeze too. I must remember to pack my mobile phone in an inside pocket so it gets body warmth as batteries have a tendency to stop working when they reach freezing temperatures.
11pm and it’s time to wake up for breakfast time. I also have no appetite – what’s going on? Cyprian says it’s pretty normal so don’t fight it. I order some porridge as its warm and full of energy with dates and honey. Others have eggs or toast and I need coffee. Our bladder packs and water bottles have been filled with warm water and I pack 1 bottle of warm water inside an insulated cover in my bag to prevent freezing. We check each other to make sure we have everything, we confirm our packs are secure, and that we are warm enough and ready to go.
Midnight and we set off. It’s pitch black and we see a group a short way ahead of us with head torches on. We set off step – rest – step – rest as we leave the camp and walk into the unknown.
After trekking together for almost 3 hours and stopping every hour for a 5 minute rest, we discuss with the guides that Annie and I have more energy and would like to walk faster. This happens often and we split the group into 2 teams with Cyprian leading ours and Polite leading the other two. We continue into the darkness at a steady pace, keeping warm with our hands in our pockets and our jackets zipped tight up to our necks.
After about 5 hours we reached the Hans Meyer cave at 5150m. This was reached by Hans on his first summit attempt in 1887 before he turned back. We met up with the group that was ahead of us and it’s a group of German men with their bicycles. There was no way they could cycle up such a steep mountain so they were carrying their bikes with their porter’s assistance. They set off ahead of us as we rested and sipped our water and ate some snacks.
Sunrise – almost
The incline gets steadily steeper from here on until we come across huge rocks left behind from a volcanic blast many years ago. It’s starting to get light now as the sun is rising behind Mawenzi Tarn. Another 1 ½ hours and we are at Gilman’s Point at 5681m with amazing views of the crater on one side and Mawenzi and Kibo on the other. A cup of very warm ginger tea and some cookies are given to us by our medical porter as we soak up the view and the sun peaking over Mawenzi.
We set off in the snow towards Stella Point. We don’t need crampons as it’s not too icy and we use our poles to steady ourselves. The scenery is amazing – the crater, glaciers, snow, and ice – as we pass climbers on their way to see Gilman’s. We hardly stop at Stella Point which is the first stop for those who stayed at Barafu base camp on their summit trip.
Glaciers with Meru in the background
Uhuru and the Crater
We proceed to Uhuru Peak which is another hour from Stella, greeting people coming back from the summit with huge smiles on their faces and words of encouragement “you’re almost there”, “well done, keep going”. We are approaching the Roof of Africa which we can see in the distance and what a special feeling.
Approaching Uhuru peak
Suddenly we are there. WE DID IT!