During the summer of 2013, I embarked on an adventure to hike kilimanjaro. Climbing Kilimanjaro is not just a hike, but a journey and a lifetime experience. The Lemosho Route is widely considered to be the best route on Mount Kilimanjaro. The Hike begins at Londorossi Gate, located in the western base of mountain. The route heads across the Shira Plateau through lush, fertile rainforest, before circling along the southern circuit halfway around the mountain, exposing the climber to great views from all angles. The approach to the summit is made from the east, and the descent follows the Mweka trail. With eight days (seven nights) on the mountain, your chances of reaching the “Roof of Africa” are very high. Here is an 8 day Itinerary to do Lemosho route. I climbed the mountain with 2 other friends (who I met while traveling in Iceland). You can find more details on how I hiked kilimanjaro here.
The Lemosho route is approximately 70 km/ 42 miles from gate to gate. It is designed for physically fit people with some hiking experience.
Day 1: (~6 hours, 5 Miles, 9400 ft, Mti Mkubwa camp)
After a long bus ride from marangu hotel, we started our hike from the Lemosho gate. It was a cold and rainy afternoon. After a solid 6 hour hike in the rain through the tropical rain forest, we stopped at this point called Mti Mkubwa. Be careful during the hike as the path is really slippery when wet. It was complete darkness when we got there. Our tents were pitched by the porters and they had hot tea ready for us. After a heavy dinner, we went to our tents and passed out.
I was hoping to see a lot of wildlife and flora but the rain was intense. We slipped and fell so many times on the hiking path because it was very slippery. Word of advice is that, you walk really slow and wear a poncho (Even if you have a rain jacket).
Day 2 : (~7 hours, 5 Miles, 11,500 ft, Shira 1 camp)
We gained serious elevation on Day 2. The day started off promising because the sun came out and dried our rain jackets and other stuff. There is possibility of seeing wildlife on day 2. We saw a lot of colobus monkeys, birds and interesting flora. Shira plateau is a nestled between the shira mountain range. Surprisingly, it gets really cold in the night here. Make sure to pack plenty of dry clothes. Once you cross the forest tree line, the view of Kibo from across the plateau is amazing.
If it’s a clear night, spend some extra time in the cold and check out the stars. It’s an extremely humbling experience.
Day 3: (~7 hours, 6 Miles, 12,500 ft, Shira 2 camp)
Day 3 was probably the best day of our hike. We woke up and saw the mountain for the first time from our tents and it was very crisp and clear. We explored the Shira plateau for a full day. It is a gentle walk east toward Kibo’s glaciered peak, across the plateau which leads to Shira 2 camp on moorland meadows by a stream. It was sunny the entire day and we briefly stopped at this place called “The Cathedral” which probably had some of the most amazing views where we were standing above the cloud line starring. There wasn’t much elevation gained on day 3 but we could seriously feel the effects of altitude sickness if we tried to walk faster. We reached the campsite around 4 in the evening and had a lot of time to relax and enjoy the sunset on one end, views of Kilimanjaro on the other end. It is also one of the highest plateau’s in the world.
Day 4: (~8 hours, 6 miles, 13,000ft, Barranco Camp)
This was one of the most difficult day to hike as we didn’t get proper sleep at shira 2 because the temperature at night plummeted to -15 degrees with winds gusting at 30 miles an hour. To reach Barranco camp, we had to cross Lava tower at 15,200 ft and then come down to Barranco camp. It was cold, rainy and windy the entire hike. The vegetation here was simply amazing. To make things worse, we all got headaches because of the high altitude and cold rainy weather. The descent from the lava tower to Barranco was steep and brutal. Again, Rain jackets and ponchos are your best friend here!.
Day 5: (~4 hours, 3 miles, 13,100 ft, Karranga Camp)
Not much elevation gain or distance but the day started off bright and beautiful. Our first task was to climb the huge Barranco Wall which we had to do some scrambling. Once we got to the top of the barranco wall, everything was pretty smooth. We did have an emergency here as one of our porter had a Pulmonary Edema and he was carried off from the mountain. Rosario, Irene and I got to know each other well at this campground as we reached the campsite by 1:30 and played cards. Once it was dark, I had a chance to take some amazing pictures. The views at the night time when clear are better than the views during day.
Day 6: (~5 hours, 3 miles, 15, 330 ft, Barafu hut)
Another easy day and we used the last 2 days just to get used to the elevation and took it easy. The hike itself was pretty good and everything starts drying out here. It almost looks like an alpine desert here. Not much vegetation or shrubs here. After a couple of switchbacks and passes, we reached Barafu. The sun at this altitude is very intense and can give you really bad headaches and burns if you are not protected properly. Once we reached the campground, we saw a bird called “Lemagaya” which is a sign of good luck according to the locals there. And, it was good luck indeed!
Day 7: (~11 hours, 4 miles, 18,385 ft, Uhuru Peak) The Final Ascent
This was one of the most brutal events I have ever endured in my life. The hike started at midnight and it was very windy. On top of all this, it was incredibly cold. The temperatures were -25 degrees when we started the final ascent. None of us got enough sleep because of anxiety of the climb and it was very cold and windy.
Each of us had about 5 layers of clothing on and set out to climb the final ascent. Every single step was a struggle. No matter how much we climbed, we still kept seeing the peak so far away from us. It wasn’t getting close. To make matter’s worse, our water lines froze and we had to split the water from our guide Charles. After 5 hours or so, we saw the sun come out slowly on the east side of the mountain. It was a magical sight for all of us. After 8 hours, we reached the first peak called “Stella Point”. At Stella Point (18,600 ft), we stopped for short rest. From Stella Point, you may encounter snow all they way on your 1-hour ascent to the summit. At Uhuru Peak, you have reached the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa. Faster hikers will see the sunrise from the summit.
We took some pictures, saw the views and climbed onwards to Uhuru peak. The winds here were insane and knocked few people off their feet. It was -30 degrees at the top with little oxygen to breathe and 40 mile per hour winds. All of us were incredibly tired and oxygen deprived that we just couldn’t wait to descend.
Once we got to the top of Uhuru Peak, it was simply magical. The clouds floating below the mountain, the crater, massive glaciers on both all sides of the mountain. The views from the top were simply stunning and we forgot the pain, wind, cold and sickness. It was worth it. We were advised by our guide not to stay there for more than 20 minutes, so we descended immediately to Barafu hut and took a nap there before we headed to Millenium Camp.
Day 8: (~5 hours, 8 miles, 5000 ft)
After a good night’s rest at millenium campground, all we did was descend to Mweka gate. Once we got to the gate, the bus was waiting for us and we went straight back to the hotel. The first thing we did after we go to the hotel was to drink a really cold beer. That beer was worth a thousand dollars. The other thing we were excited for was to take a hot shower. We haven’t showered for 8 full days and were eager to jump into a hot one.
Funny thing is, I delayed the pleasure by simply staring at the hot shower for 5 minutes and then slowly stepped in. BEST THING EVER!.
Once we were done, All the porters, Rosario, Irene and I met at the bar area, drank beers together and we tipped the guides. They sang for us and cheered us the entire time. We were just happy to came back in one piece and go all the way to the top. We did it!!!!