Fred’s Kilimanjaro Adventure Diary
Fred’s back in the UK after climbing the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro. Why, you ask? Well it was all in aid of raising money for the deserving, local charity Zoë’s Place. Zoë’s Place is a wonderful charity that provides 24 hour, end-of-life-care for children aged between 0-5 years. They receive little government funding, and so heavily depend on the kind of support Fred will be providing. To help you get an idea of how Fred’s adventure went, and the obstacles she encountered, she’s kindly put together this mini diary for you to enjoy. So let’s see how she got on…
After a long flight to Tanzania, and a lengthy car journey to the hotel, I was able to relax beside the pool, eat delicious Indian food, and lie on super comfy beds. This would be the last piece of luxury I’d get to enjoy before my ascent to the summit began, so I made the most of it.
Day 1 – Machame gate to Machame camp (2850 m altitude)
After a 9am pick-up we were dropped off at 40 km to Uhuru Peak. Our guides were: Juma, Steve, Emmanuel and chief guide Antipas. We saw glimpses of monkeys jumping through the trees, and were overcome with nerves, emotion and excitement – there were even a few tears shed.
Day 2 – Trekking to Shira Camp (38010 m altitude)
During this part of the climb, we all suffered from a sense of frustration due to the stop – start pace. At this point, we were just below the clouds, and struggling with the heat and humidity. The view of the camp was amazing and we all benefited from a much needed second wind.
Once at camp, and after a short rest, we were shown the caves trekkers use to use prior to tents. There was an accident where one of the caves collapsed – thankfully no one was hurt but it’s now forbidden to sleep in the caves. Though exhausted, Trevor, myself and Juma the guide, took a small walk to a viewing point, about 100 meters up from camp – the view were spectacular.
Day 3 – Trek to Lava tower / Barranco Camp (4630 m altitude, very cold at top, back down to 3976 m altitude)
By this point we were pretty much at a crawling pace as shortness of breath and tiredness really hit me. As John explained to us, there is less oxygen the higher you go so your body tries to compensate by creating more red blood cells, which carries oxygen. By going up your body teaches itself what to do when next going back to a similar altitude.
Before racing the Lava tower there was a dip in the valley so we walked down and then, unintentionally, very quickly back up. This gave me a incredible head rush, nausea and dizziness. It felt like being disconnected from reality, or even my body. Adam was really affected by the attitude and threw up from the quick ascend.
During the way down, there was a feeling similar to being in a nightclub and sobering up just as the lights come on and it’s home time. Reality kicking in, like awaking from a dream.
Though this was the toughest day for me, it was also the most beautiful.
Day 4 – Karanga camp (3995 m altitude)
Possibly my most favourite day, the Barranco wall, with the added extra of the kissing wall!
We started off the day with the most amazing views: the clouds below us and the sun slowly rising above the top of Kili just behind us.
Most will say that the Barranco wall is the most difficult, but, for me it was the most enjoyable. It involved actual rock climbing, which is something I do occasionally with friends.
As we approached the kissing wall there was a sheer drop we literally had to slide down onto. This was not Trev’s most favourite moment … as we found out he was terrified of heights!
We had a fairly long, restful toilet and snack break… talk about loo with a view! And after about 15 mins, we set off once more – this time downhill! (We finally managed to get some phone reception, 4,700 meter up in the air!)
Day 5 – Barafu Camp (4681 m altitude)
This day was a bit of a blur, we were so exhausted by this point, I barely took any photos!
The landscape was barren, and it was pretty flat most of the way, not an incredible amount to ascend, but exhausting all the same.
There was a final and pretty difficult push the get to Barafu camp, Barafu meaning “ice” in Swahili. There was a great big wall to climb, similar to Barranco, but not as tight and rocky. We’d made it to camp, or so we thought! Unfortunately, it was another 10-15 min walk, uphill, to get the the ACTUAL camp. That was a nice surprise…
Day 6 – Barafu Camp to Stella point & Summit (Uhuru Peak) (5895 m altitude)
Wake up call at 11pm … with a wonderful cup of ginger tea to warm us up. The night was dry, crisp, windy but not as cold as I had expected. This was it! All of that hard work and in just a few hours, well, 7 and 1/2 to be exact, we will have reached what we had been working so hard for.
At midnight we set off, and there was quite a wind but it did not phase us at the beginning. To start off with the terrain was very rocky, very steep and very slow. This wasn’t helped by the intense wind speeds of up to 25km/h, which felt like they were 50km/h and icy cold. The temperature was bitter -10 but due to the winds felt so, much worse.
I remember the feeling of extreme exhaustion overwhelming me, but also feeling unable to do anything about it. Every time we stopped moving it felt as though the temperature fell by about 10 degrees, so the only thing to do was keep moving. Even though I felt as though i no longer had control of my own body. I was on autopilot..
After a few more hours of walking and stopping, the sky behind us finally started to turn promising colours of orange and red. “Yes” I thought. “At last, we must be close.” This wasn’t the case, we were still another 2 hours away.
After a few struggles and tears, we had finally made it to Stella point! I was elated to finally have made it. Hugs, laughter, water and snacks were had. But we were not done yet! Though we had reached Stella point, we had not reached the peak, Uhuru.
Everyone was holding on to one another for support, but Muna had taken some time out due to an injury, so we weren’t to see her until the next morning. The guides tried their best to reassure us. The Uhuru sign was well within our reach. The landscape was so barren, glaciers to the left of us and to the right in the distance. It was a fantastic view of the crater. We took a few snaps, had another 5-10 mins rest and started heading back down.
Personally I really rather enjoyed the way back down, but it still took another gruelling 3 and a half hours to get back to camp. Once there, we had a very quick lunch as we needed to head off straight away to get to the upper camp. This was about an hour and a half away.
Day 7 – Back down to earth
After another 6:30 am start, with what was to be our last every ginger tea! Muna joined us about an hour later, but she had unfortunately had an accident in which she, as we now know, had fractured her ankle!
Antipas came into the mass tent during breakfast to let us know he had a surprise for us. He had organised the whole crew, porters, chefs and guides together and they were going to sing a song for us.
We set off fairly early in the morning to try and get to the finish gate by lunchtime. It was to be another 6 hour walk downhill. My knees were really starting to ache by this point, but the thought of getting back to the hotel was keeping all of us going.
Just after we left the lower camp, we hit what i think were the clouds. We were now in full rainforest, we began to hear birds again. lower we go the warmer and louder the rainforest got. We spotted something moving in the distance and asked Emmanuel what it was … turned out to be mantled guereza monkeys. We got a treat of a show, watching them play with each other and jumping from tree to tree. Unfortunately, they were too quick for my camera.
The finish line … Mweka gate! Just as we started to feel tired again, we spotted a landrover, and just behind it, the last gate! We were greeted by the rest of our group and spirits were high. We signed in at our final and last gate with info on what we had managed to reach, in my case Uhuru, and the time we got there.
Back at the hotel, though exhausted, we had a little in us for a small celebration, and some of the guides, namely Juma, Antipas and Steve, joined us. Plus a representative from our travel company. It felt good to finally relax and think and talk about what we had just achieved. What our favourite and worst bits were and how surreal the whole experience was.
Even now as I am writing this, I find it hard to believe that I, or we have actually done it and it wasn’t just some bizarre, cold, amazing dream. It will take some time to sink in.
We’re so incredibly proud of Fred and what she’s achieved, and so glad that Rawww could sponsor her journey to the top of Kilimanjaro! Look, she even got a Rawww t-shirt!