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A happy team at the end of the climb

Our Kilimanjaro team has returned to Arusha after coming all the way down from a great summit climb and is getting ready for their safari.  Here’s lead guide, Rob Smith, with the details of the day:

After our summit yesterday we returned to Kosovo Camp (4870m/15,978ft) and had a couple of hours to rest, eat and drink, and then pack up. We hiked downhill for 3 hours to reach Millennium Camp (3820m/12,530ft) and were glad to reach it. Another early start this morning at 5 am, though practically a lie-in compared to our summit bid, saw us on our final day of Kilimanjaro. We dropped altitude and made our way from Alpine Desert to Moorland to Rainforest.

 

We were lucky enough to see Black and White Colobus Monkeys leaping from branch to branch high in the tree canopy. When we reached Mweka Gate (1638m/5,375ft), our exit point, we received a welcome that had everyone there looking on. The singing and dancing were well worth the effort that the team made over the last 7 days, and was a fitting end to our Kilimanjaro climb. So now we are back in Arusha before driving West tomorrow to Tarangire National Park, to begin the Safari.

 

Today’s Swahili:  Congratulations. Hongera  —  Brother. Kaka — Sister. Dada

Descending into the tree line

Our welcome at Mweka Gate

A happy team at the end of the climb

Kilimanjaro Summit!

From Kilimanjaro, lead guide Rob Smith shares the happy news:

The sunrise was beautiful and gave respite from the previous hours of climbing in the darkness. Each of us in a pool of light from our headlamps, steadily climbing up the loose rock and scree. The faintest of light on the horizon, grew larger and brighter, transforming through a range of orange, red and pink hues. We reached Stella Point on the edge of the crater rim at 18,800′, and stopped for a hot drink and some shelter from the wind. From there the slope was less steep and dawn made the route finding easier. As the sun rose higher it cast a huge shadow of Kilimanjaro onto the clouds below. It put our presence on the side of the mountain, nearing its summit, into perspective. We reached the top at 6.45am, after a harder than expected climb for some. Kilimanjaro might often be referred to as a to trek, but its 19,341′ should not be underestimated.

 

Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak, is a beautiful mountain that allowed us to step on her summit a few hours ago, giving us memories to last a lifetime.

The shadow of Kilimanjaro at dawn

Kilimanjaro Summit!

Resting up for the big climb

Karanga Camp to Kosovo Camp, the last segment before summit day. The Kili team has now climbed to high camp and will be heading to the summit tonight!  Here’s lead guide Rob Smith with the details:

We reached Kosovo Camp (4870m/15,978 ft), our high camp at 12.15pm. For the first time in our trip, we have met successful climbers who have summitted Kilimanjaro. They did so earlier this morning and were pleased to be on their way down, as we continued up past Barafu Camp, where the majority of climbers stay. The extra effort today will give us a shorter summit day tomorrow. So now we rest, and we will have an early dinner before trying to catch a few hours sleep. Tomorrow begins at midnight, quite literally, as we will get up and prepare to leave at 1am. So wish us luck and tune in tomorrow for an update.

 

Today’s Swahili: Tabasamu – smile

On the way to Kosovo Camp

Resting up for the big climb

Our high point of the day

Kilimanjaro lead guide, Rob Smith, details the team’s day moving from Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp, including the ascent of the “Breakfast Wall”:

We were awake at 5am in preparation to climb the Barranco Wall. It was a chilly morning. If we were lacking motivation, it came in heaps, from an impromptu song and dance send-off from our team. Dressed in thick coats and wooly hats, the pace ramped up until Willie threw a cartwheel followed by a backflip. Suitably impressed by his acrobatics, we left camp and were soon at the base of the Barranco Wall. 750′ of rock with a sinuous path worked into it by the passage of climbers. Part scramble, part walk, we made our way to the top. And we were rewarded with emerging into the sun and seeing a sea of cloud beneath us as far as we could see. With the crux of the day behind us, we descended towards Karanga Camp (4029m/13,220ft) with a final steep uphill to pull into camp after 4 hours.

 

Tomorrow we begin the final phase of the trip, as we continue to Kosovo Camp (4870m/15,978ft), our high camp. From there we will begin our summit climb in the early hours of the following morning.

 

Today’s Swahili: Hakuna Matata – No Problem / No Worries.

Kristin climbing the Borranco Wall

Our high point of the day

On the trail above Shira Camp

Kilimanjaro lead guide Rob Smith has this colorful description of the team’s from Shira Camp (3833m/12,575ft) to Barranco Camp (3981m/13,060ft):

Another day of beautiful weather here on Kilimanjaro. Our 6am wake up is becoming the norm, and there are no complaints when the first view is Kilimanjaro casting its shadow onto the clouds below us. The trail climbed steadily from the start, and we rose above the trees to enter a rocky landscape resembling the surface of the moon. This zone of the mountain is clasified as Alpine Desert, and is hugely different from the rainforest we started in. Despite the austere environment, there is some wildlife living here. We saw some 4 striped mice scurrying between the rocks at a rest stop. White collared ravens tustled in the air, as 2 birds locked feet together and tumbled towards the ground before releasing and flying on.

 

After 4.5 hours we reached Lava Tower at 15,000′ where we had an extended stop to take advantage of our height gain. Spending time there should help us sleep tonight as we have dropped in altitude to 13,000′. The trail down passed between Giant Scenecio plants which look like they belong to an older world. We reached Barranco Camp in time to have a look at Barranco Wall, a rock feature we will climb tomorrow. We are all in good spirits and are looking forward to the challenge tomorrow.

Passing Giant Scenecios

Passing Giant Scenecios

On the trail above Shira Camp

Happy to reach Shira Camp

Meanwhile on Kilimanjaro, here’s lead guide Rob Smith with today’s progress report of moving from Machame Camp to Shira Camp:

We have had a beautiful day today on Kilimanjaro, moving up the mountain.

 

We awoke at 6am in the shade but in good weather. By 8am we were moving up the steep rocky trail above our campsite. The landscape changed from the dense rainforest we were in yesterday, as we passed through sparser trees and vegetation. Birdsong rang out and porters could be heard singing at the camp we had just left. A thick blanket of cloud lay over the plain below us. Higher up we reached sunlight and the temperature rose. We would crest a ridge to see another in front, with glimpses of Kilimanjaro through the trees.

 

Scrambling in places we finally reached out high point after 5 hours, and had a clear view of the mountain, its wide crater rim now visible. A quick walk downhill brought us to Shira Camp (3833m/12,575 ft), where we were greeted with harmonious singing from our porters. Tonight we will be sleeping at 12,500′ so we are making good height gain. A beautiful sunset and a very fine meal rounded off our day!

 

Today’s Swahali:  Mambo – What’s up? Poa – Cool.

Sunset at Shira

Sunset at Shira

Happy to reach Shira Camp

Happy to reach Shira Camp

Welcome to Kilimanjaro

Lead guide Rob Smith provides the Kilimanjaro expedition kick-off dispatch from Arusha, Tanzania:

Welcome to the Climb for Conservation Kilimanjaro trip guided by Madison Mountaineering.

The drive from the airport passed through verdant fields of maize, sunflowers, and coffee. Roadside sellers had all sorts of goods including freshly butchered meat, charcoal for fuel, lumber for building and 3 piece furniture suites. School children dressed smartly on their uniforms made their way home. A boy with freshly caught fish slung from his hand boarded a bus and a motorbike so laden down with sugarcane veered across the lane to halt beside another stall. Small vans full of passengers decorated with everything from Jesus to football teams to machine guns picked up more passengers on their way to somewhere else. This is everyday life in this part of Tanzania, a small slice of what the country has to show us.

 

John, Jaclyn, and Kristin arrived yesterday afternoon and have settled into the hotel, despite one of the reservations being a double room for Mr. and Mrs. Madison. A minor delay while we explained there was no one called Madison in our group and no couples.

 

This morning we did gear checks, making sure we have the right clothing and equipment to take us to more than 19,000′. It’s hard to imagine in the heat of the day here, that we will need down jackets and the rest of the warm gear we have with us. But then again the famous Snows of Kilimanjaro would not exist unless the temperatures were freezing up there. This afternoon we had a look around Arusha, the town where we are staying and had lunch with our local Guide Daniel. Much more colour, hustle and bustle on the streets, compared to our ordered Western lives.

 

Tonight we make our final preparations and pack our duffles to leave for the start of our Kilimanjaro climb tomorrow. Exciting times.

John, Jaclyn, local guide Daniel and Kristin explore Arusha

John, Jaclyn, local guide Daniel and Kristin explore Arusha

Everyday traffic in Tanzania

Everyday traffic in Tanzania

Kilimanjaro weather can be great, weather on mountains can also not be great. As we tried to sleep in our tents in preparation of our 11pm wake up for our summit bid, our tents folded like tacos in the wind and sounded like chip bags with snow and hail. Needless to say, I don’t think anybody slept. We got up, ate a light breakfast and started our ascent. About 5 inches of new snow had fallen overnight and the wind had increased, we climbed higher and higher in the dark bucking a serious wind, steady and unrelenting. By around 5:15AM we stood at Stella Point, the bulk of the climbing below us the sun rose and illuminated Africa and the clouds below. We made the final stroll to the summit and at 6:40AM we all celebrated. The descent was straightforward if not muddy due to the melting snow and the wind had abated. We were in high spirits as we strolled back into camp until we saw what remained of much of our camp. The winds throughout the night had taken their toll on our cook tent, our dining tent and our porters sleeping tent leaving them destroyed. What would generally be a celebratory lunch turned into a rush to pack and head down the mountain. As the icy winds began again we hurriedly packed our gear and hightailed it down the mountain. After a 4 hour hike we finally got to relax at McKay high camp where we are, drank water and tea and slept like baby rhinos.
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The last day of any trip is bitter sweet. On one handed we long for cold beer, new food and hot showers while on the other we have to leave a place we have given so much for. We came out here and climbed the mountain and the trip is over. Now we all go back to our lives and have the memories and pictures. This was on all of our minds as we hiked the 10 kilometer hike out to the gate, through the rain forest we saw more birds and monkeys than we could count. We arrived at the gate to our team singing and dancing and congratulating us on a great climb. We feasted on a fantastic buffet lunch, thanked our staff, said goodbye then loaded up in the van back to the hotel. We are all sad to be going home, but psyched for the pool.
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Yesterday was a favorite so far for our Kilimanjaro team! The Baranco Wall can be an intimidating feature and as we woke up we could only see it for brief moments through the breaking fog. We stashed our trekking poles and steadily climbed. Mike, Todd and Cassey showed no signs of slowing as we crested the wall! As we bobbed and weaved our way around the mountain we were all in awe on the mountain to our left, and the beautiful countryside of Tanzania to our right. Karanga camp was a welcome sight!

Today we sit primed and ready for our climb tonight! The climb from Karanga to Kosovo camp at 15,500ft is a rewarding but demanding day. As usual Mike, Todd and Cassey floated it! As the scrub brush disappeared leaving only gravel and rocks, one starts to feel the change from hiking to climbing. Now we rest, drink water, eat and prepare for our late night start and our climb to the top of Africa!

Sid Pattison

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