March 1, 2010
We sent IMG Guide Eben Reckord to Africa to lead our January and February Kilimanjaro climbs. Here’s a look at a Kili climb and Safari from his point of view:
Day 1: Kiss the kids goodbye and turn off the Blackberry!
Day 2: Arrival in Africa! “Oh, the heat!” “Did my bags make it??” There is a lot of anxiety the first night, but everyone made it as did their luggage… Somehow everything always works out.
Day 3: Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project briefing in Moshi and a Keys Hotel burger (beef patty with two fried eggs, sautéed onions and cheese). Time to pack and maybe hit the pool. We meet our local guide staff and then it’s off to dinner. There’s no shortage of food on Kili trips!
Day 4: With Gore-Tex ready we set out from Machame Gate en route to Machame Camp. It feels good to finally get walking, but we conserve our energy and when we arrived at camp everyone was pleasantly surprised by the nice dining tent all set with afternoon snacks – is that popcorn?
Day 5: We’re making our move to Shira Plateau Camp today. The bump to 12000ft. is nothing to shake a stick at. The air is getting thinner, but the terrain is incredible. Light headaches begin to emerge as we pull into camp. At camp some take off to check out the caves while others just rest. It’s chicken wings for the afternoon snack and then it’s dinner. I think it’s potato leek tonight! Barranco hut tomorrow.
Day 6: Barranco hut sits only three hundred feet higher than Shira, but to get to Barranco a climber must either pass through the Lava Tower Notch at 15,100 or traverse the Lower Lava variation which tops out at 14,800. For those that attempt the notch, they can be greeted with phenomenal views and a more challenging descent into camp. Those that make the traverse are in store for a rolling trail. Either way offers its own challenges.
Day 7: Moving from Barranco camp to Karanga Valley Camp. With stomachs filled with hot drinks and toast the team sets out to negotiate the Barranco Wall (921ft. from bottom to top). It’s chilly and the sun hasn’t hit just yet. We have our gloves on and our trekking poles stored on the pack. Ten minutes out of the gate it gets steep. Steep moves to steeper and then to even steeper, we’re using our hands now and there are some places where we are having to pull ourselves up by our hands. We are climbing now! We all make it up the wall and take a good rest on top. Tomorrow we are off to Barafu Camp (15,000ft.).
Day 8: We all wake up to the sun. We leave a little later than normal as we don’t have much ground to cover and could stand to use the extra hour of rest. So by nine AM we are out on the trail moving up to high camp. The move up to Barafu is pretty mellow with only a short, but steep hill right before getting into camp. When we get into camp we find tents tucked within walls of lava rock. Not much to say about Barafu other than the amazing sunset. If the clouds clear it is one of the most beautiful places on the entire mountain.
Day 9: Technically, it is still day 7. 11PM! Who wakes up at 11pm? We’ve got one hour before we’re walking. Get dressed, eat, go to the bathroom and don’t forget to breathe. It is go time. The stars are phenomenal. There is an excited nervousness in the air as folks are ready to get walking. Amazingly enough we all get out by midnight and our summit bid has begun!
The first hour is a blur. Our head lamps light the trail ablaze and it is one foot in front of the next. All the preparation and planning has come down to this. The climbing is steep and the possibility of turning around becomes real. As we get higher and the morning draws in it gets colder. It will get so cold that we will be wearing our down jackets to hike in. After six hours of climbing the sun starts to peak out along the horizon. The morning light energizes everyone and the crater rim is within site. The team collects on the crater rim… now it is time to go to Uhuru (the true summit). This 45 minutes walk will feel like the longest of some people’s lives.
I’d like to say the descent is easy, but you have to work to get down hill too… From high camp up to the summit and all the way back down to Mweka camp! A long day and some tired bodies at camps but the big smiles show how hard work pays off! Nice work everybody!
Day 10: Out to the gate and into the jeeps and time for another Keys burger in Moshi. After a shower and lunch it’s off for some shopping and afternoon wandering. Tomorrow we set out On the Safari.
Day 11: We stage out of Arusha for our Safari, but not before we have a five star lunch at the Arusha Hotel which was referred to as “the best lunch I have ever eaten in my life” by one of the climbers. After eating, it is off to the airport for our flight onto the Serengeti. Not an hour after landing in the preserve can we see giraffes, elephants and lions! Another world class dinner and a nice shower – yup these huts have showers! No wandering around camp after dark!
Day 12: We’re off to the Ndutu wilderness camp, but not before we see wildebeests, hyenas, zebras, baboons, leopards, jackals, impalas, gazelles, cheetahs, water buffalo, and more birds than you can count! What a day of game viewing – what safari is all about!
Day 13: We’ll check out a Massai Village and the Ngorongoro crater today. Words can barely describe the wildlife in the crater – what a place! Keep your eyes out for the hawks at lunch – they like sandwiches!
Day 14: It’s a buffet in the morning and then three and half hours back to Arusha. We’ll stop along the way to shop for souvenirs before a nice lunch at the Arusha Hotel. When we finish up it’s time to shuffle the weight in your duffel bags and send out any last minute emails to family eagerly awaiting your return before boarding your transfer plane to JRO for the evening flight to Amsterdam. .
Day 15: Back home, tired and proud.