Week eleven and I touched Heaven or at least got close…
Sorry for the large delay in posting I spent most of week ten prepping and all of week eleven climbing the largest mountain in Africa. Due to the Tanzanian census most regional hospitals and boarding schools closed for the last week in July and first week in august giving me the perfect opportunity to climb Kilimanjaro without missing work.
At about 5,895 meters or 19,340 feet. It is the largest free-standing mountain rise in the world, meaning it is not part of a mountain range. Also called a stratovolcano (a term for a very large volcano made of ash, lava, and rock), Kilimanjaro is made up of three peaks: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Kibo is the summit of the mountain, while Mawenzi and Shira are extinct, Kibo is dormant and could possibly erupt again. Scientists estimate that the last time it erupted was 360,000 years ago. The highest point on Kibo’s crater rim is called Uhuru, the Swahili word for “freedom.” The mountain is also known for its snow-capped peak; however, scientists warn that the snow might disappear within the next 20 years which is a tragedy of epic proportions.
I chose to take one of the most popular routes for a 6 day and 5 night trek. Called the Machame route about 50% of all climbers choose the Machame route. It is also one of the cheaper routes due to its easy access and shorter itinerary. The Machame route is also known as the Whiskey route, given its reputation for being a tough climb, in contrast to the easier Marangu route, which is known as the Coca Cola route.
It’s also considered one of the most scenic routes passing through 7 diverse climates, dramatically switching weather conditions and flora every few hours.Day one was a drive to Moshi and logistics of checking in at the machame gate with passports. After all the registration we began a six kilometer hike to the machame camp through rain forests with beautiful flowers and a low grade heat and humidity. Day two was four hours of vertical incline until we were above the cloud line where we would stay until the last day on the mountain. Day three was more alpine dessert with fewer trees and more sun and wind before lunch at lava tower. The four was by far the longest but also the best we started scaling Baraka wall where it felt like we were on top of the world but still we’re in the peaks shadow.
After what seemed like six different times going down and then back up we had lunch at Katanga camp. The last location with easily accessible water. We elected to keep going after lunch all the way to the final camp and arrived by 5. After a quick dinner we attempted to get some sleep in the freezing camp a few hours before waking up at 11pm. We donned at least six layers of clothing and ridiculously puffy down jacket burrowed from local guides and friends. After seven hours of slow incline in the dark with nothing but head lamps and hot water bottles. After stopping to admire the sunrise and a few more hours of incline we reach the summit of Kilimanjaro and the highest peak in Africa standing over 19,000 feet.
Unfortunately after a short amount of time celebrating in the very thin air we had to turn around to go down. What took us over six days to climb would only take one and a half to descend.
After arriving back at camp around 12 we had lunch and a brief nap before packing up and trekking down to the last camp. We slept in the rainforest before hiking the last few hours out on Tuesday morning.
Overall An incredible journey that showed me how capable our bodies are of intense situations even through the elevation headaches and a couple of instances of vomiting. I couldn’t be more proud of myself for accomplishing this and I’m so grateful for all the people who followed along and encouraged me to climate also the friends I made it along the way at each camp. A truly surreal moment of my Lumos trip to complete something that’s been so high on my bucket list since I was 16 years old. After coming home from the mountain we spent the rest of the week easing back into Arusha life and gearing up for my last few weeks in Tanzania.
Mary Kate Parmer