Sunday, 31 October 2010

Hiking on Kilimanjaro

I just came back down after leading an amazing grup of 3 beginners in high altitude trekking to the summit of Kilimanjaro 5895 meters in "record speed". We sett off on our summit bid from Karanga Camp at 3943 meters 07.00 and got to the summit at 5895 in 7h 25 min and back to Kosovo camap at 4750 in 1h 25 min Friday the 29th.

I will post some thoughts on hiking on Kilimanjaro and the safety and schedules suggested by most operators and local guides.

Trip notes:

Arrive in Arusha.

Day 1. Depart from the Machame Park Gate to the Machame camp at around 3000 meters. Its about 1200 altitude meters and took us a bit less than 4 hours of trekking in slow comfortable phase with plenty of time to shoot.

Day 2. Departed around 08.30 for Shira Camp at around 3837m. This is a easy and soft day and we reached camp well before lunch still hiking in a slow phase and making sure no one in the group had any significant increased pulse or laboured breathing.

Day 3. Departed around 08.30 and stayaed just under the Lava Tower for an early lunch and then up and down to Barranco camp. Apart from summit day this was the only real full day of hiking. It took us about 5 hors in of hiking time in slow phase.

Day 4. Late departure (09.00) so we could charge toys with the solar panels. This day we did the Barronco wall and reached Karanga Camp at about 3945 meters in 3h. All of us in the group was feeling strong and with an average of 86 in Oxygen saturatio we felt ready for the final push. With the SAT @ 86 we where at the same number as the night before so we decide to go straight from this camp to the summit. It is a big day with 1950 meters of altitude gain in a day. Our local guide had summitted about 150 times but this was his 3rd ever from Karanaga camp.

Day 5. Departing Karanga Camp at 07.00. We summitted Kilimanjaro 5895 meters at 14.25 after doing 1950 meters of altitude gain in 7h and 25 min including a lunch stop at Stella Point for about 20 min. We descended to a camp (Kososv 4750) just above the Barufo camp in 1 hour and 25 minutes and sat down for tee and snacks. We stayed for the night in this camp at 4750 meters and decended to the Mweka Gate the next day in 5 hours.


I monitored the Oxygen saturation and pulse on the group 3 times a day and logged them in a book in order to keep track of performance and health. We all hiked with out ever being out of breath or going very fast. Having a good system of layering that allows you to ventilate and never get wet or cold helps save lots of energy. We worked hard on this.

Hydration and energy. Its key to stay hydrated. We all used 3 liter camel back that we all finished with in the day. On top of the 3 liters we drank as much tee as possible and each night we brought an extra liter of water to bead. During the day and night we had electrolyte spiked water by NUUN. For supplementary energy we used CLIF SHOT BLOKS and Clif Bars.

On summit day we used Caffinated CLIF SHOT BLOKS and Gels as well as Clif Bars. We had 4 liters of NUUN water. Plus a group supply of 3 liters of hoot tee. We supplied all local staff with Clif products to have them go at even phase.

I'd say if you have some kind of climbing background you may be batter off opting for the route called Western Breach starting from the Lavav Tower. Its similar in difficulty to the Barronco wall. One thing to think of is to do this with a small group that can stay close together in order to avoid having rocks falling down on fellow hikers. You don't need ropes but a helmet can be of use.

In general all trekking times outlined in the different guides and maps are hugely over estimated for any one with a very basic fitness level. With the exception of me no one in my group had any previous experience with high altitude hiking. On person had summitted Mt Blanc, one of the other two started preparing and hiking in July. The only reason not to do longer days is to have a few day around 4000 meter to get acclimatized. But be prepared for short soft days.

We opted for doing the summit during the day and I think thats way better than stumbling around at night. Its in general less wind during the day and you avoid wasting energy walking around in the dark, some thing few hikers are used to. One other bonus was that we where alone on the summit! The down side might be visibility on the summit but we had great visibility! Again, layering, hydration and energy food has to be well thought out if you are accending 1950 meters in one push. On the summit day my group was divided in to two groups so I acted as "floater" and moved between the front part and the back adding about 310 extra altitude meters to the 1950 meters so I was a bit tired at the end of the day.


I used ultra light (Gore-Tex) La Sportiva trail running shoes for the entire duration of the trip including summit day. The rest of the group opted for light weight Gore-Tex La Sportiva trekking boots for better ankle support on the summit day all other days they used ultra light trail running shoes.

We all used Patagonia Merino Wool for base layer and socks. We all used the ultra light Patagonia Rain Shadow line for protection. As warming layers we all used the Patagonia R1 Pullover. We all had a Patagonia R3 and a PrimaLoft jackets for warmth at breaks and stops. We all used the Patagonia Simple Guide Pants and Patagonia Alpine Guide Pants. Make sure you have a few extra to change with as its extremely dusty and dirty. I used CRUX eVent shell and a CRUX Torpedo sleeping bag. We all had light 40/45 liter back packs with taped seams. Non of us found gaiters to be of any use.

If you have lots of gadgets to charge you are better off bringing a HET POWER 50 Battery as a back up to your solar gear.

Thanks to Clif Bar and Patagonia