Mt Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in the African continent with its highest point at Uhuru Peak (5896m). It is also perhaps one of the most popular treks in Africa. The route I took is via the Marangu trail, which is supposed to be the easiest and most popular route up the mountain. The trail is well defined and there are solar powered huts up till the highest hut at Kibo at 4700m. The trek would takes me through forested path at the beginning, pass moorland at higher altitude and finally on barren land nearer to the summit.
From the crater of the volcano, glaciers can be seen at many locations but they are reported to be retreating at a very fast pace. Thus for anyone who wants to see glaciers along the equator, this is the place and time is running out.
Having trekked on Mt Kenya a few days ago, I’m well acclimatized for this trek to the highest point of Africa. I took 5 days for the return journey on the mountain but it is advisable for climbers to take at least 6 days for the whole trek via Marangu trail with one day used for acclimatization.
Although Kilimanjaro is suppose to be a very easy trekking peak and many people may claim that it’s a “stroll in the park” along Marangu trail. Think again! During my stay in Kilimanjaro, the total success rate of trekkers reaching the summit is less then 50%. I’ve also seen two unfortunate trekkers who had to be evacuated down the mountain probably due to acute mountain sickness.
At an altitude of 5895m, it is the high altitude that “kills”. Although the path is clear, defined and easy to walk on, this proves to be the downfall for many trekkers. The ascent per day is about 1000m, which ask any experience trekkers, is dangerous given that the recommended ascent per day is 300m. Thus it is important that any trekkers to resist the temptation to walk quickly from hut to hut and look out for symptoms of acute mountain sickness. From Kibo hut to the summit, the temperature is below freezing point when the trekkers made their summit attempt at midnight.
Day 1 Marangu Gate (1830m) to Mandara hut (2700m)
From Moshi, it is a 30min drive to the Marangu gate, which is the starting point of our trek. Here, we registered our names for the climb and rent whatever equipment, we may be short of. There is an equipment shop just inside the entrance that rents everything you need for a successful climb up the mountain. The quality of their equipment is quite good too.
Just before the start of the trek, the porters would have their load weighted, as there is suppose to be a maximum load that each porter can carry.
The trek to the first hut, Mandara is very easy and relaxing. The trek here is through rainforest and is a gradual ascend, however, it is not that humid as compared to our rainforest. After the lunch stop, the trek becomes steeper but generally, it is still gentle. The trek took us less then 4hrs.
The hut can sleep 4 climbers and it is solar powered. There is a large communal hut where everybody has his meals there. There are long tables in the hut and the guide would place their tablecloth on the table to mark out the “territory” for his client. There is also a Maundi Crater about half an hour walk away from Mandara where you can pay a visit.
Day 2 Mandara(2700m) to Horombo hut (3720m)
About 30min after leaving Mandara hut, the rainforest trees give way to Moorland. The scenery begins to become more stunning as you would be able to see over a large expense of land and distant hills along the way.
The trek is relatively easy. The ascent is once again gentle and the path is well defined. However, as Horombo hut is situated at 3720m, there is a real possibility of coming down with Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) if you are not careful. In fact, along my way, I saw a lady being evacuated down using a wheel burrow. The journey takes about 4hr.
At Horombo hut, each hut is bigger and can sleep about 8 trekkers. It is also solar powered. Once again, there is a communal hut where everybody has his meals. The weather here can get quite cold and it is normal to wear fleece over our long john.
Day 3 Horombo hut (3720m) to Kibo hut (4700m)
The initial part of the trek is up a steep slope. The Mawenzi ridge can be seen clearly on the right side of the direction of travel. After the initial ascent, the ice covered Kilimanjaro can be seen.
After crossing a ridge, it’s a long endless walk through a saddle to Kibo hut. The land looks barren and flat. Only the sight of Kilimanjaro would spur you on. The wind can get quite strong and chilly here.
Kibo hut is reached after 4hrs of traveling. There is no water supply here at Kibo hut and the last water point is about 1hr from Horombo hut. The living quarter is a large hut that is partitioned into smaller rooms. The living condition here is very cram and there is a table in each room where meals are taken. The toilets here are quite primitive and the toilet bowl is just a hole in the ground. However, the hut is at least solar powered. Mawenzi can be seen clearly from Kibo hut.
Day 4 Kibo (4700m) to Uhuru peak (5895m) to Horombo
This is a very long day. The trek starts at midnight and every trekker snake their way in a zigzag manner up the steep scree slope of Kilimanjaro. The walk up is slow and steady and the weather can get very cold especially the feet. The water in my water bag tube got frozen up about 2hr after leaving the hut.
It is 6am, sunrise, when I reach the rim of the crater, Gillman’s point at about 5681m. From here, it’s another 2hrs trek along the crater rim to Uhuru peak. At this point, the effect of the altitude is clearly significant. Many trekkers turn back at this point, provided they can reach this point.
At the summit, there is a large signboard that announced the end of the trek. Getting to this point is not easy as the air is thin here. The view here is wonderful and the ridges that makes up the volcano can be seen from this point.
However, this is not the end of the journey. There is still the downhill part. The scree slope from the crater rim to Kibo seems endless and it really strains to the knees. I wonder how did I get up here in the first place.
After reaching Kibo hut, we still have to pack our stuff and head for Horombo hut. When I reached Horombo hut, it is already 3pm. That means I had trekked for more then 10hrs.
Day 5 Horombo to Marangu Gate
This is quite an easy day. It is just downhill all the way to Marangu Gate. At the gate, we would get our certificate for those who had reached Uhuru peak and a separate one for those who had reached Gillman’s point. Gears rented are returned and the tips are given out to the guide who will distribute it to the porters. For those who feel that their boots are worn out and feel like discarding them, they may gave them to the porters instead.
Estimated cost for the trek to both Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro: S$3600
The exchange rate when I was there is 1 USD = 780 Tanzanian Shillings
The cost of food there is quite expensive since all my meals are settled in restaurants. After all, it is not advisable to eat at the road side stalls due to obvious health reasons. The price of a normal meal in a typical restaurant cost about 5000 Tanzanian Shillings.
Sleeping bag (“REI”)
Fleece top and bottom (bought from Nepal)
Polypropylene thermal underwear top and bottom (”Everwarm”) for trekking
Woolen thermal underwear top and bottom (“Britain Wear”) for sleeping
Trekking boots (“Nike”)
Gaiters (bought from Nepal)
Candles and matches (No electricity in huts)
Insect repellant (Town use)
Woolen socks x 2
Polypropylene liner gloves
A pair of ski sticks (“Leki Makalu”)
Waterproofed toilet paper
Lip balm (“Banana Boat” sunscreen Lip Balm)
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