Enjoying the sunset at Shira Cave Camp (Stig Nygaard)

Kilimanjaro: a typical climb

What's it like climbing Kili? A day-by-day account of a typical climb up the Machame route

Henry Stedman | Issue 117 | January 2011

Day 1: Leave Arusha

From Arusha (1,380m) drive to Machame Gate of Kili NP (1,800m) - great views if sky clear. Join crowds to register at office while porters' loads are weighed. Set off through forest. Arrive at Machame Hut (3,000m) six hours later. Eat. Get briefing for next day. Try to sleep.

Day 2: Trek gorge

Up at 7am Porters provide water and lunch for day. Start in forest; walk through gorge. By afternoon trees sparse. After five hours walking see scary Kili views from Shira Cave Camp (3,940m); views north to Mt Meru. Eat lots.

Day 3: Get acclimatised

Another 7am start Cross barren Shira Plateau, Kili summit ahead. Ascend 4,600m Lava Tower for acclimatisation - hard work. Descend through beautiful lobelia valley. Arrive Barranco Hut (3,950m) after 6-7 hours walking; Kili summit bold as brass. Eat. Swap health-status updates. Bed.

Day 4:  Barranco Wall

7am and off again Hard scramble up near-vertical Barranco Wall. Walk over lunar landscape. In distance see last night's summiteers descending. Shudder. Arrive at Barafu Camp (4,600m) after 6 hours walking. Eat. Last briefing - on tenterhooks. Bed by 6.30pm.

Day 5: Night climb

Those that slept are woken at 11.30pm. Put on all clothes. Midnight - start climb. Join snake of headlamps zigzagging up. Feel sick. Keep climbing in dark. Bored. Steep scree section. Knackered. Break Stella Point, notch in crater rim. Freezing. Gentle plod to summit - see sun rise from roof of Africa. Relief! Take photo. Descend fast - skid down scree, pause at Barafu, continue down to Mweka Camp (3,100m), terrain now greener. Have been walking for 13 hours - collapse, with beer. Sleep.

Day 6: Heading down

7am and the porters are singing Tips handed out. Speedy descent through forest. See monkeys. Pick up certificate at Mweka Gate (1,980m) after 3-4 hours walking. Feel amazing.

Henry Stedman is the author of Kilimanjaro: The Trekking Guide (Trailblazer, 2009)

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