12 climbers from the US, Switzerland, and Tanzania have set out to trek up more than 19,000 feet to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in order to raise funds and awareness for neglected tropical diseases.
Day 1: Machame Gate to Machame Camp
The hikers arrived at Machame Gate already at 1,800 meters to begin their climb. Everyone was in good spirits even with the rain starting to come down, which makes sense given its name. Their first day of hiking will be up through the rain forest and likely to see some local wildlife. The majority of the hike will be under the canopy of trees and as they approach the end of day one, the hikers will ascend through the lower level of clouds. The hikers will walk for nearly five hours to reach their campsite at Machame Camp (3,000 meters) for the evening. At the campsite they will treated with some much welcomed (and deserved!) dinner and hot chocolate before they will camp the first evening.
Day 2: Machame Camp to Shira Camp
After the first overnight in tents at Machame Camp, the hikers woke early to have a hot breakfast. Today the climbers will ascend out of the rainforest into moorland for their second day on the trail. Crossing a small valley, they will make their way up a steep, rocky ridge and then turning west onto a river gorge.
Beginning at 3,000 meters (9,840 ft) the climbers will finish the day at 3,850 meters (12,630 ft). While the gained elevation is less than the previous day, the climbers will walk around 9 km (5.6 miles) to reach Shira Camp.
Day 3: Shira Camp to Barranco Camp
Today marks day 3 of the Kilimanjaro climb where the hikers will depart Shira Camp bright and early. The climbers make their way in semi-desert, their third different habitat of the trip, to Lava Tower. Lava Tower is located at 3,850 meters (15,090 ft) and the highest elevation the climbers have gone to date. They will break here for lunch, which is critical for acclimatization purposes.
Following lunch, the climbers will descend to Barranco Camp 3,950 meters (12,960 ft). This path helps prepare the climbers for summit night with the technique of “walk high, sleep low.” Symptoms of altitude can begin during this hike, so all the climbers will focus on staying hydrated and walking very slowly or ‘pole, pole’ in Swahili.
The Barranco Camp is situated in a valley beside the Great Barranco Wall, which gives spectacular views situate above the clouds and the hikers will get to witness a beautiful sunset and enjoying much deserved rest.
Unfortunately one climber descended the mountain due to an old injury acting up, but the other 11 climbers (Molly, Dan, Jenni, Fortunate, Blake, Jeremy, Kristen, Gang, Steve, Emily, and Giancarlo) are all feeling good and in great spirits at Lava Tower and ready to complete the rest of today’s hike.
Day 4: Barranco to Karanga Camp
Today is the fourth day of the climb and marks being over the halfway point. Waking up this morning in the valley at Barranco camp, the climbers will make their way to the Barranco Wall. The wall is steep and a more technical part of the climb. Hikers put away their poles, and will use their arms and legs to make it to the top. . Once at the top, they get an amazing view of the clouds spilling over to the rocks and on a clear day can see the town of Moshi.
From the top of Barranco Wall they will continue their way over scree and rocks to Karanga Valley, which is situated beneath the ice falls of the Heim, Kersten, and Decken Glaciers making their way to Karanga Camp. After around four to five hours of hiking, the climbers will eat a warm lunch and have a beautiful view of the peak.
On today’s climb, the hikers will ascend and descend quite a bit with the elevation at the start of the day being 3,950 meters (12,960 ft) and ending at 3,930 meters (12,860 ft). The path of today’s trek is going around the west side of the mountain to get prepared for the best path to the summit.
The eleven climbers are still feeling well and accomplished after making it over Barranco Wall.
Day 5: Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp
Today the hikers left Karanga Camp heading towards Barafu Camp. Starting elevation today was 3,390 meters (12,890 ft) and they ended at 4,800 meters (15,758 ft) and the highest the climbers have been on this trip. They made their way through alpine desert and scree.
The group will camp at Barafu Upper Camp, which gives them a bit of a head start on summit night as they will camp a bit higher than the rest of the groups making their way to the summit on 4 July.
Today’s hike was only three hours because it is important to rest, hydrate and sleep early as the climbers will be waking up just before midnight to start the summit night climb. After a full five days of climbing so far, the hikers welcomed an early bed time in preparation for tomorrow.
At Barafu Camp, there are wonderful views of the summit of both peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo. The hikers have now completed the southern circuit of the mountain and will meet groups hiking up different trails.
All eleven hikers are feeling good and excited for tomorrow’s summit!
Day 6: The Summit
Today the climbers woke (after only a few hours of rest) at 11:30pm / 23:30 to prepare for the climb ahead. After having a snack and warm drinks, the hikers donned their many layers to begin the freezing six hour hike to the summit. Headlamps and the stars are the only light for the hikers to make their ascent.
The hikers traveled between Rebmann and Ratzel Glaciers and ascended through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the rim of the crater–the steepest point of the hike so far. Once the climbers reached Stella Point at 5,681 meters (18,638 ft) there is a short rest and then final walk to the highest point of Kilimanjaro at Uhuru Peak: 5,895 meters (19,341 ft).
All hikers conquered the mountain, with all 11 climbers reaching Stella Point and 10 climbers (Molly, Fortunate, Giancarlo, Jeremy, Kristen, Jenni, Blake, Steve, Emily, and Gang) reaching Uhuru Peak. The photos attached show the group in the dark at Stella Point and during sunrise at Uhuru Peak. Congratulations to all of the climbers, as they reached the “roof of Africa!”
Following the summit, the hikers traveled down scree to make their way back to Barafu Camp, where they will be met with plentiful beverages and a well-deserved meal. The group will continue down the mountain and finish at 3,100 meters (10,170 ft), with the peak behind them.
Day 7: Making it to the bottom
All eleven hikers made it down safe and are feeling well!
The climbers woke up and joined the guides and porters in celebration of their Kilimanjaro efforts! Following breakfast, they made their way back through the rainforest for about a 3 hour trek down. As the name suggests, the rainforest was wet this morning and made the trail extra muddy.
Beginning the day at 3,100 meters (10,170 ft), the team met their ride at 1,800 meters (5,900 ft). At Mweke Gate they were greeted with sodas! From here they drove back to the hotel, and were able to get a well-deserved shower and nap before celebrate with dinner later today.
Neglected Tropical Disease Learning Day
Following the climb, the team had the opportunity to visit neglected tropical disease (NTD) programs supported by the END Fund and our partners in Tanzania, getting to see up close the enormous benefit their fundraising effort will have.
We were joined by colleagues from the Ministry of Health at the National, Regional, and District level and Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO). Oscar Kaitaba, Program Officer, Ministry of Health presented about NTDs in Tanzania. Edson Eliah Mwaipopo,Director KCCO presented on KCCO’s work on trachoma.
Then, we made our way to Kilari Primary School in Siha District where we were welcomed by students and teachers with songs about hygiene education.
Several stations were set up to give the group an overview of different types of NTD interventions. People were able to interview a patient with advanced stages of lymphatic filariasis (LF) about his routine of wound care to manage the disease.
There was also the opportunity to witness water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) at the primary school, which is a main focus on keeping children healthy at school. For the men and women with advanced stages of trachoma, they received a trichiasis surgery to prevent further damage to their eyes.
During lunch we met with the Ministry of Health and KCCO to learn more about the program activities we just witnessed. After seven days climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the group was happy to see the types of activities their generous fundraising will support.