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The Kilimanjaro mountain massive if located in Tanzania, about 3° south of the equator, close to the Kenyan border.
It consists of three volcanoes of different ages:
The oldest, Shira (4020 m) in the west, has been almost completely eroded to a high plain;
the second oldest, Mawenzi (5149 m) in the east, consists only of the steep and crumbly rock remainders of the former volcano chimney.
Located in the center between Shira and Mawenzi, Kibo is the only active volcano, although it is currently dormant.
The highest point of Kibo, and the highest elevation in Africa, is Uhuru Peak (5896 m) at the western rim of the crater.
The whole mountain group stretches about 60 km in east-west and 40 km in north-south direction.
Kibo towers above the surrounding plains by more than 4000 meters. Therefore during a climb one sees all vegetation zones of the earth from
rainforest to the glaciers - that is a particular charm of Kilimanjaro.
The global climate change has very pronounced effects at Kilimanjaro: Many climate researchers expect
that within twenty years, almost all of the formerly so famous glaciers at the equator will have disappeared.
Above 3000 m, Kilimanjaro is completely within a national park. For a climb one needs a guide (due to national park regulations), a cook and several porters who
carry the food for the 5 to 7 days at the mountain as well as some personal baggage of the participants.
In the national park, there is nothing availabe for purchase.
Unorganized climbs are not recommended because the guides are obliged to report about tourists who are not accompanied by a guide.
In the shortest variation (as we had chosen it) one reaches the summit on the fourth day after leaving the national park gate. Including the descent, thus one spends 5 days in the national park.
Planning one or two days more for the ascent usually increases the chances to reach the summit, because there is more
time for acclimatization before the last day goes above 5000 m.
There are several different routes at Kilimanjaro:
The normal route which leads to Gillman's Point (5681 m) from Marangu Gate (1800 m) in the southeast of the massive
via the huts Mandara (2700 m), Horombo (3700 m), and Kibo (4700 m).
From Gillman's Point, Uhuru Peak (5896 m) is reached in 2 hours walking along the southern crater rim.
Especially the second and the third day contain long distances with few altitude gain. We descended this route
and found the middle part rather boring. One reason probably was that several square kilometers along the route
were strongly affected by a forest fire about a year ago.
The route becomes steep only after Kibo Hut; from there, the trail climbs in endless zig-zags through a scree landscape, until the
crater rim is reached (Gillman's Point); 5 hours from Kibo Hut. The rest of the trail is not very steep and takes about 1-2 hours.
Obviously most visitors climb the mountain on this route.
From Nalemoru (2000 m) close to the Kenyan border, the route leads towards Kibo saddle on a rather direct way with two overnight stays (at 2600 and 3900 m).
Before reaching the saddle, the trail turns a little to the right, and one reaches School Hut (4700 m).
Until there, it is steeper than on the normal route, but still everything is comfortable hiking terrain.
After School Hut, the trail leads up through the steeper slopes and joins the normal route after two hours, below Hans Meyer cave.
Differs from Nalemoru Route only in the lower section: Starting point is Rongai (a little further west than Nalemoru).
Similar route like Nalemoru, except that a detour towards the foot of Mawenzi makes it one day longer, giving correscpondingly better acclimatization.
Leads from the northwest via Shira Plateau to the summit, joins Machame Route at about 4000 m.
From Machame Gate (about 1900 m) in the southwest the route leads to Machame Hut (3000 m) and further to Shira Hut (3850 m) in the west of Kibo, where it joins the Shira Route.
Further up there are two variations: Via Barranco Hut (4000 m) to Arrow Camp (4800 m), and on the fifth day via Western Breach (some easy rock climbing) to Uhuru Peak, or first
traversing the southern slopes via Barranco Hut to Barafu Hut (4600 m) and from there on the fifth day in steep zig-zags to Stella Point, a saddle between Gillman's Point and Uhuru Peak where the crater rim is reached.
The Umbwe Route leads to Barranco Hut more direct than Machame Route.
The Mweka Route is the direct access to Barafu Hut from the south.
In all cases one starts very early for the summit day. So one can reach the
summits before the rising clouds obscure the view. The walking times on the other days are about 3 to 8 hours.
Even if choosing the shortest program to climb Kilimanjaro, one should dedicate at least one day to African wildlife. Approaching from Kenya, Amboseli National Park is a good choice.
The number and variety of animals is really worth a visit, even if on cloudy days one won't have Kilimanjaro as picture background.
For Kenia, Germans need a visa which is issued rather quickly by the embassy in Berlin. Being 57 EUR it is not really cheap.
The visa for Tanzania costs 30 EUR and is issued by Tanzanian embassy in Berlin, also within a week.
When crossing the border from Kenia to Tanzania, a yellow fever vaccination is officially needed. This is not necessary when traveling directly from Europe to Kenya or Tanzania.
In our case the vaccination was not checked.
Agencies and prices
We booked this trip completely in Germany at Hauser Exkursionen, Munich.
Since we both had not much time left for job reasons, and the date of the Hauser trip did fit very well,
we just didn't try to organize an individual trip in Kenya/Tanzania.
That is, of course, also possible. But it costs a certain amount of time and won't become much cheaper.
Anyway a team of guide, cook, and porters is necessary because that is fixed in the national park regulations.
Besides the wages for the team, there are the national park fees (about 300 US$ per person).
That all was included in the package booked from Germany at a price of around 2200 EUR. Additional costs are only tips (about 50 Euro), visa fees (87 Euro), the safari day (78$) and personal expenses and drinks.
Our team at Kilimanjaro
The team consists of a guide, a cook and several porters. Usually there is also an assistant guide - so if some participants cannot continue, he can go down with them and the rest of the group
can continue with the guide.
Our team in January 2004:
- Emmanuel Ndemi (guide)
- Aloyce Alfready (assistant)
- Arcard Stanslaus (cook)
- Evance Costantine
- Muibu Bakari
- Zamiru Abdi
- Elias Mgonja
- Efrem Farosi
Each of them always worked well, friendly and with engagement in order to ensure us a smooth and convenient
Kilimanjaro climb. Emmanuel had a relatively easy task because our three-person group was quite homogeneous. Surely it would be much harder with a big group inluding all ages, like the French group that went in parallel with us.
The almost overcautious "pole,pole" and the obsessively long and frequent rests are surely a consequence of the fact that (especially on the normal route)
many unexperienced and imprudent hikers are on the way who never really thought about the topic of acclimatization.
Anyway, it is not a bad idea to start slowly, there is plenty of time. Beyond 3000-4000 m it is hard to compensate for any
short-term overexertion, and that can easily cost the summit success. Better pole, pole.
Altogether, we were very pleased with our guide/cook/porter team and with the whole organization. Compared to our previous mountain trips
this might be a short trip, but a perfect one.
Suaheli and other original sound for beginners
- pole, pole - slowly, slowly
- haraka, haraka - quick, quick (usually not needed)
- jambo - (general greeting)
- karibu - (no, not a reindeer) welcome
© 2004 Hartmut Bielefeldt
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Last updated 21 March 2004 by Hartmut Bielefeldt