Kilimanjaro - The roof of Africa
When you are climbing this mountain, you go through the rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and arctic climate zones. It’s been said that a Kilimanjaro climb is like traveling from the equator to the North Pole. Throughout this story, you can take a great part in my adventure on one of the mountains in the seven summits. The adventure takes place in Tanzania, Africa, and started out something like this;
The sun was rising on a bright and clear late summer day in Norway. I didn't sleep to much that night, I was too excited. When I woke up on this clear day in the end of August, my adventure towards the roof of Africa, Kilimanjaro, was about to begin. I gathered all my equipment I had prepared over the last couple of days and got a lift to the airport. I was traveling alone, and all the people at the airport looked so excited and ready for a time of from their everyday life and so was I. My first flight took me to the Netherlands, where I had a connecting flight to Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania. During my flight, I stared out the window for hours looking down on the white clouds that looked like cotton candy, always in a change. The feeling of being above the clouds is hard to describe, but a feeling I’m willing to chase. After several hours of staring out the window I finally arrived at Kilimanjaro airport. From the airport, I got a lift to Moshi by the agency I was climbing this mighty mountain with. The municipality of Moshi is in the Kilimanjaro Region and is situated on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
The first morning I woke up in Moshi, I felt the warmth of the sun. The first day in Tanzania was a rest day after the travel. My adventure had begun, and I had a day to experience the life of Moshi. Luckily for me I met a guy at the hotel, Agre, who wanted to show me around his birthplace. At first, he brought me on an adventure to the local food marked. The marked was crowded with people where they sold fruits and vegetables, which tasted juicy. After the food market, we drove away from the main city on Agre’s motorcycle to the sugar and rice plantations. In these areas we found some monkeys, and it was really many of them. On our way, back we had a lunch where we ate the national dish Ugali and Nayama Choma. Ugali is a stiff dough prepared with cornmeal. We combined it with nayama choma, which is grilled meat and typical for the local people. When I arrived back at the hotel I did my last preparation before a life in tent on the mountain for the following days.
I woke up early in the bed of the hotel, the last morning I was going to wake up in a bed, because on the mountain of Kilimanjaro you sleep in tent. From Moshi, we drove in jeeps to the Lemosho gate. Along our road trip the scenery of the landscape was stunning, with its iconic trees on the vast savannah. I was even so lucky to see giraffes and zebras grazed on the savannah. The sight was amazing and I have never in my life spotted animals like these in the wild before.
Eventually we reach the Lemosho gate, as the starting point for my hike. I was hiking the Lemosho rout towards the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak. The starting point is located on an elevation of 2300 meter above sea level. During this first day, our main goal was to reach camp Mti Mkubwa, which means big tree in Swahili. Too get to this destination I had to trek through the rainforest, climbing about 300 meters up towards the clouds. The path to the camp site was solid red sand, and I walked on the red sand with the jungle around me. The sounds of insects and monkeys, and the wind made me excited. On my first day of trekking we saw some colobus monkeys playing around in the high tree tops. After trekking for three hours we reach Big tree camp, and my tent was already ready when I arrived. The dinner was also ready to be served, and enjoying a dinner in the middle of the rainforest made me even more exited. The sun set, and the stars took over the skies, and I felt asleep to all the sounds of the forest in my tent made it a great rest.
The glacier on Kilimanjaro has been used for research to see how the temperature on earth is drastically changing. It's been said that the glacier could be gone by 2030. I reached Shira camp I, and had a quick stop here for lunch, before I continued my way to Shira II to meet up with rest of my group.I. I started out in the rainforest but as I quickly gained altitude towards Shira camp we came out of the rainforest and stepped into the heather and moorland climate zone. All the vegetation was almost gone, because of the heath that strikes you, and it’s hard to find any shadow. When I arrived on the Shira plateau the summit of Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak, revealed itself. I was above the clouds, and I could look down on the top side of them, almost like an ocean. A white ocean that was slowly changing into new shapes and forms. The volcano cone on Kilimanjaro was visible with its iconic glacier on top. The glacier on Kilimanjaro has been used for research to see how the temperature on earth is drastically changing. It's been said that the glacier could be gone by 2030. I reached Shira camp I, and had a quick stop here for lunch, before I continued my way to Shira II to meet up with rest of my group.
On the third day on the mountain it was finally time for me to set a new elevation record. My highest record was 3776 meters above sea level when I climbed Mount Fuji in Japan. On this third day were we going to Lava Tower on elevation of 4600 meters. This was supposed to be an acclimatization day. Acclimatization is the process by which the body becomes accustomed to lower availability of oxygen in the air and can only be achieved by spending time at various levels of altitude before progressing higher. Our final goal was to reach Barranco on an elevation of 3950m. This made the day a perfect acclamation day.
From Shira II, the path towards Lava Tower started out steep, and I could for the first time feel the thin air. I could feel it in that way that every step was more demanding than before. I also had to breath a lot more, and carefully keep track of my heart rate. To prevent altitude sickness is also very important to stay hydrated, and it’s recommended to drink 3 liters a day. From Shira II we walked for four hours to reach Lawa Tower. At this location, we ate lunch and had a short rest before the path continued down towards Barranco camp. On our decent we slowly walked into the clouds, and a new form of vegetation. In the clouds plants started to arrive. The plants that was visibly was giant groundsels. They look something like a cross between a burned-up cactus and a pineapple, and it's only found on Kilimanjaro.
I woke to the clouds acting like waves of the ocean. The bright clouds came towards the mountain as waves back and forth. From the camp site the path starts out very steep. Climbers must conquer the famous Barranco wall also known as the breakfast wall. The wall is almost vertical, and a difficult part of the path. They call it the breakfast wall because it's common to throw up during this part of the trek. The reason is a mix of elevation and that you ate breakfast only minutes before starting at this vertical wall. Luckily for me, my breakfast stayed inside me, giving me energy towards Karanga Valley. During this day, you stay on the same elevation turning it into a not so demanding path to the next camp.
The Kranga Valley is located on an elevation of 3900 meters above sea level. From this location, I could see in Mount Meru, another volcano in Tanzania. The peak was shining in the glow of the sun, majestic over the clouds, and a breathtaking view on a bright and clear new day. Our goal for this day was to reach Barafu camp, the last camp before an eventfully summit push. Starting on this path to the next camp you enter the alpine dessert climate zone.
Almost all the vegetation is gone, and rocks and sand is our new surroundings. While we walked this path, I walked with the summit on my left side. The majestic glacier and summit is still high over you. The elevation is demanding, but after the acclimatization day at Lawa Tower the body had adapted greatly. My breath slowly became a lot deeper and faster, and this is one of the mechanism in the body to adapt to greater elevation. The guides are even more careful about the phase we are walking in, and always reminds you to walk slowly. You get very familiar with the words, “Pole, Pole”, which means slowly, slowly. We reached Barafu camp around 16.00 in the afternoon. When we arrived, the tents were set and dinner was soon served. During dinner, we got notified that we were going to push for the summit already at 23.00. This gave me some hours to rest, but I found it hard to sleep because of the excitement on the summit attempt ahead.
I didn't sleep, I couldn't sleep, I was so excited on the finishing task I had in front of me. I was wondering how it would be, and if I even manage to get to the roof of Africa, finally it was time to find out. I lighted my headlamp and got dressed in my sleeping bag. As I came out of my tent, the moon was slowly rising and shining it glow down on the people on the mountain. The glow was so bright that I could turn of my headlamp, and the moonlight gave me enough light. The last part on the path consist of sand. The sand is not that demanding that you would think. Because of the altitude, the sand freeze during the night and make it hard almost like concrete. This made it a lot easier, but every step in this elevation is tough.
After we had walked for seven hours, we reach Gilman’s Point. This location is situated 5685 meters above sea level. When we arrived, the light was slowly returning after the darkness of the night. At this place on of the group member had to turn back because the member was overexerted. The rest of the group continued towards Uhuru Peak. The view of the last part is something I never seen anything like and it is hard to describe. The clouds almost melted into the glacier. It took my breath away, and I could see the icon sign which mark the highest point on the mountain. The sun was rising on the one side of the mountain, and the moon was setting into the clouds as I approached Uhuru Peak. I had made it. I had climb through five different climate zones, and stood on the highest free standing mountain in the world, the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro. No one else was higher than me on the entire continent Africa.
Thank you for taking a part of my adventure towards Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro. I hope I managed to inspire you to get out in the wilderness to experience new feelings. Bing your friends for an adventure to create everlasting memories. If you enjoyed this adventure, feel free to follow my future expeditions and adventures.
Photo credits: Joachim Andresen.
How to shoot events