Kilimanjaro: Life Above the Clouds

(c) Jenn Winter 2009

For some reason I’ve been waiting to post about my time on Kilimanjaro, probably because there is just so much to write about! Katie, Tami and I headed from Nairobi to Arusha, Tanzania on October 18th and on the 19th started a week-long trek up the mountain. After lots of research and talking to past climbers, we decided upon the 7 day Macheme. Macheme, also known as the Whiskey Route, can be done in 6 days, but it was worth it to us to pay for one extra day and give ourselves a greater chance of reaching the summit. I have no regrets about this decision! The Macheme trail is revered as being possibly the most beautiful route up the mountain and is specifically designed to help climbers better adjust to the high altitude.
It was a difficult but doable climb and although there are no technical areas, I think that we were all grateful to have trekking poles to assist in certain spots. In order to help climbers avoid altitude sickness, Macheme goes up and down a lot. Other than the first day which was straight up and the last day which was straight down, all of the middle days would send us up for most of the trek, then back down a bit so that we could camp at a lower altitude. While going down seemed counterproductive after working so hard to go up, this method is what kept the three of us strong and healthy.
Pole pole means “slowly” in Kiswahili and it became the mantra for most of the climb. If you climb too fast, your body gets too deprived of oxygen and you get sick. It’s a bit of the old “slow and steady wins the race” mentality and while at the beginning of the climb I got a bit frustrated that I couldn’t go faster by the end I was grateful that my guides, Stanley and Hussein, held me back and kept me going pole pole. At a certain altitude, I couldn’t have gone faster, even if I’d wanted to!
Most of our trek was literally in the clouds. While trekking, we could rarely see too far in front of us and while it really only rained once, clouds are wet and cold and we’d reach our campsite at the end of the day chilled. It’s crazy, getting to a campsite on a mountain and hardly being able to see a couple of feet in front of you. But at least once a day the clouds would roll away and we would find ourselves surrounded by beauty long enough to soak it in and snap a couple of photos. Then, as quickly as they left, the clouds would move back in and once again envelop the entire campsite in mystery.
Day 1: 18 km from Macheme Gate (1830 meters) to Macheme Camp (3100 meters)
Day 2: 9 km from Macheme Camp (3100 meters) to Shira Camp (3840 meters)
Day 3: 15 km from Shira Camp (3840 meters) to Lava Tower (4630 meters) to Barranco Camp (3860 meters)
Day 4: 7 km from Barranco Camp (3860 meters) to Karanga Camp (4200 meters)
Day 5: 6 km from Karanga Camp (4200 meters) to Barafu Camp (4600 meters)
Day 6: 36 km from Barafu Camp (4600 meters) to Uhuru Peak (5895 meters) to Mweka Camp (3100 meters)
Day 7: 15 km from Mweka Camp (3100 meters) to Moshi (1830 meters)


  1. Wow ! So beautiful. Definitely your physical and mental strength were strong. Will you climb that mountain again? People say, the explorers will always return to the place they once explored.

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