Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in all of Africa, standing at 19,341 ft above sea level. Part of Climb For Memory's goal is to raise awareness for Alzheimer's Disease through mountain climbs around the world. We run yearly Kilimanjaro climbs to help others actualize their dreams of climbing this peak while also making an impact in the arena of Alzheimer's awareness.
This year's Kilimanjaro climb was a huge success, pulling together a group of 16 climbers, 15 of which made it to the summit. If you are interested in climbing this peak in the future, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will start helping you plan your dream of climbing the highest peak in Africa!
KILIMANJARO '18 RECAP
Jan 10th-21st, 2018
KILIMANJARO '18 RECAP
Jan 10th-21st, 2018
Back to Kili again. It’s been 4 years since my first foray on the mountain and it feels like that was just yesterday. After many years of trying to get another organized trip off the ground, finally we got 15 (plus me) go-getters who committed to the climb. THE CLIMB WAS ACTUALLY HAPPENING!!
The group was a hodge-podge of interesting folks, all somehow connected to me (save two). Groups of us met at the varying airports that we were flying through, but we all converged at the Keys Hotel in Moshi, a fantastic tour agency and location to base your Tanzanian adventures from. The “Miami Group” arrived late, but was warmly welcomed by some of the other crew that had been drinking at the hotel for a few hours already. It was so great seeing everyone pumped and excited to climb this thing. We said our hello's, ate a quick bite, then passed out to sleep.
The following day was a free day for us to check out the town and to get some last minute necessities for the climb (aka last minute wifi for Instagram/facebook posts…DUH). We made a stop at a local market to buy some candies and whiskey (we’d later find out the candy had expired back in 1997….yum), then got catfished around town by local swindlers who promised us things we were asking for but kept making us follow them to shady parts of town. This one guy kept saying his store was around the corner…we literally must have walked with him for 3 miles before saying um….no, this doesn’t look safe. We went back to the hotel instead, and stayed there for the rest of the day, enjoying Kilimanjaro beers and good pizza. Safer that way.
Day 1 was exciting. We piled on into our van and drove for about an hour to the park gate. There’s this one point on the drive where you turn off of the main road heading directly towards the mountain. You can’t really see the mountain….unless you look above the clouds. I was trying to show the team “hey, look, you can see the mountain” and everyone was looking off into the horizon and not seeing it. It was only until I redirected their gaze up higher into the sky that they saw it. That moment just leaves you floored like, “I’VE GOTTA CLIMB ALL THE WAY UP THERE??!?” Yep. Yes you do.
We made it to the gate, signed in, got all our porters arranged to help carry all our team gear and then we were off. The first hike is always a bit weird. It’s humid, in the rain forest, and you’re just getting into your stride and feeling out your team mates. We slowly got into the groove and were soon playing all sorts of fun games and chatting our heads off - this team was going to get along well, I could tell! And then it started pouring. Good thing we were almost at camp though, but we all had to jump in the nearest tent and hunker down, otherwise we would have been soaked along with all our gear.
We woke up the next day to clear skies and a peek at the summit of the mountain in the distance. GORGEOUS. We set out up out of camp and up and up we went. Day 2 out of Machame Camp is a bit of a rock hike uphill for quite a while, with some nice views along the way. After a few hours of climbing, the clouds rolled in and so did bits of rain (it would turn out to be the theme of the trip: clear in the am, rainy in the pm). We all got to Shira Camp mostly within a few hours of each other and we all got to hang out for the afternoon. We made a fun little excursion to a nearby cave and outpost that boasted some sick views (except the mountain was hidden by the clouds). Still….it was fun to take some cool outdoorsy photos and bond a little more with the team. All the while, I should mention, Lee (one of our climbers) was doing a TV show episode up at each camp. The premise: talk about basically anything between two yeti coolers (hence the name of the show Between Two Yetis). A pretty hilarious concept, and pretty impressive considering the fact that those two heavy-as-hell coolers were schlepped all the way up to the summit.
Day 3 was probably our longest day outside of the summit day. It’s just a long slow climb that taps out at just over 15,000 ft at a landmark called Lava Tower. Once we reached the tower, it was downhill into Barranco Camp. The walk up to Lava Tower again started as a nice sunny morning. But then the clouds came in and it was all rain, then snow, up at the tower. I had never seen so much snow on Kili, so it was actually a beautiful thing to see. When we got to camp that night, some of us were really feeling the altitude with some nausea and headaches. Rest for those folks! Others went and explored the camp, checking out the nearby Avatar movie-looking cliffs!
The next morning we started hot, right out of the gates up the barranco wall, a 300m headwall that requires a tiny bit of scrambling and some interesting negotiating. There were lines of people and porters galore, and we got temporarily stuck behind some uber-slow teams. But we quickly figured out there wasn’t just one way up and snuck around said teams while doing some fun Spiderman maneuvers. At the top of the wall we were greeted with the most epic shot of the mountain. Last time I was here it was all in the fog, so I had no idea there was even a mountain to see! It was a breathtaking view! From there it was all downhill (literally) and took us just about another hour to get into Karanga Camp.
This camp was great. We all got in early, had some nice chicken and chips for lunch, then did our own exploring. I went up a bit to some slightly higher elevation with Heather and Aubrey, and then later did an episode of Between Two Yetis perched on a massive boulder. Epic.
Next day was a short hike up to Barafu Camp, our high camp for the trip and the base camp for our summit attempt. We arrived and got all our gear in order for the summit evening to come. The plan: to have part of the group leave at 11pm, while the speedier part of the group leave at midnight. Roughly 6-7 hours up and that would put us on the summit at just about day break - PERFECT. We ate an early dinner and then tried to get in our tents to rest up a few hours before the big push (I doubt anyone really got any rest). As a side note, one of our climbers decided not to attempt the summit. He was really feeling the altitude and the best thing for him to do was to go down. Smart choice on his behalf.
Before we knew it, it was just before midnight and we were out in the darkness putting on all our layers, strapping on our packs, and heading up in the line of headlamps off into the distance. It had been four years since my last summit on Kili, but even with my good memory and all, I had forgotten how challenging it actually was. At Barafu camp, we’re just at 15,500 ft. The summit is a whopping 4000 feet higher! That’s an insane amount of elevation gain in just 6 hours! No matter how you slice it, you’re going to feel the altitude….and probably not in a good way. For me, that ended up meaning a pretty rocking headache at around hour 4 or 5. But we had a good crew that kept on pushing. Our speedy group preferred not to break to long, which worked better for me. When I stop too much I get out of rhythm. I stayed at the back of the group to keep everyone together (mostly keeping Rafael going since he kept wanting to stop and I could sense there was some question in his movements about whether he could make it to the top or not. I knew he could). Finally we stopped seeing headlamps above us, which could only mean one thing: that they had gone over the lip of the crater and that we were almost at the summit!! 20 minutes later, as predicted, we saw the Stella Point congratulations sign (Stella Point is the bottom of the volcanic crater). We celebrated, but then regrouped and pushed through another 45 minutes up the slope to the true summit at Uhuru Peak: 19,341 ft. We had left at around 12:30am and made it up to the very top of Africa at 6:30am. Pretty quick.
This last bit is always emotional for me. It hurts, and it’s just a boring slog, but if you time it right, it’s right when the sun is rising so you get an amazing alpenglow on the glacier. Stunning, to say the least. We arrived at the summit with few people atop. We took our pictures, danced around, took in the views, only to look back and see the THRONGS of people following suit. Seriously, there are probably shorter lines at Disney World than what was heading up to the summit at that point. Way more people that I remember from 2014. Not sure if it was just a busy day or if that’s just what this peak has turned into. Yuck. Soon there was a massive line forming just to take a picture by the sign. People doing all sorts of stupid antics, taking off their shirts, doing pranks by the sign….not what I cared to see up at 19,341 on such a beautiful piece of nature. So I jetted out of there. Lee was just arriving so he begged me to do a quick Yeti interview…FINE. Once that was done, as per what’s become tradition, I sprinted down. I was tired, so I was not nearly as fast as last time getting down to Barafu Camp (made it in 1.5 hrs or so. Apparently last time I did the descent in 53 minutes….although maybe I misremembered, because that seems awful fast….).
Anyways, that was that. We all made it down to Barafu camp safely, some taking longer than others (which was totally fine). No one wanted to stay at that camp for another night so we had to eat a quick lunch and pack up and head down a couple hours to Millennium Camp. Some had a long day of coming down, but that’s just the way it is with a big group like that -- you gotta manage all the different people’s athletic abilities and speed. SHRUG.
Our last night on the mountain was pure enjoyment. At lower elevation, we were sucking on some serious Os, enjoying each other’s company, cheerful and happy since we all summited. The next morning we woke up early and had the porters and team sing us some traditional Tanzanian mountain songs. Always love this. It sounds like something straight out of Paul Simon’s Graceland album.
After that, we were off. No rush now since we’d all have to wait for each other down at the gate anyways. I remember slipping on my ass many times on this last day, last time, so I just wanted to make it down carefully without wiping out. It took a few hours, but SUCCESS, I didn't even fall once! And when we made it to the gate, Kilimanjaro beers for everyone. It was great.
Once everyone made it down safely, we piled into the bus and headed back to the hotel for showers, pizza, and drinks. All in all, it was an amazing trip. I really think the group of people made the trip. Everyone got along so well. That makes all the difference in the world. Even though it had been 4 years since my last climb, and I had formed all sorts of great memories of that first climb, this second climb really surprised me with all sorts of new, special, unique memories that I never thought I’d make. On top of that, we raised almost $3000 for Alzheimer’s. HUGE win.
Onwards to the next Kilimanjaro climb in 2019. Until then!