“Wifi? Where we’re going we won’t need wifi.” – Doc Brown, 2021 (probably)
Since I’ll be AWOL on the internet for pretty much this whole trip I thought I’d give a rundown of where you could find me (why? for what reason? LET ME BE) on my Kilimanjaro sojourn and which day you can raise a glass to my likely summit! A lot of this was lifted from the Mountain Madness (my guide company) itinerary and is heckin’ useful.
Day 0 – Friday, 9/10
Depart home late afternoon and fly Chicago > Amsterdam (sadly, not leaving the airport; I’ll be back to explore another time, I promise), +7 hour on US Central and +9 on US Pacific Time.
Day 1 – Saturday, 9/11
Fly from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro (JRO) Airport, landing around 9pm. I’ll have a rapid COVID test and get my Tanzanian visa; a Mountain Madness rep will meet us and drive to their private compound. I’ll be +8/+10 hours ahead of CT/PT, respectively.
Day 2 – Sunday, 9/12
This is a bonus day – most people fly in/land this night – but it was $2100 cheaper to fly in a day early! So fingers crossed we do something fun local like visit a coffee farm, shop in Arusha or walk around a bit.
Day 3 – Monday, 9/13 – Elevation: 6,500 ft / 1981 m
Transfer to a private camp in Arusha National Park. Here, at about 6,500 feet / 1981 meters, we’ll begin to acclimate; Chicago is about 597 feet above sea level. With only our climbing team (guides, porters, fellow climbers) here, we’ll ease into our adventure, enjoy some game viewing, try to relax from traveling, and prepare for the climb.
Today our guide(s) will host a trip briefing and review our equipment. There may be time for a walk or game drive, which will be taken out into the grasslands for views of African game and Mount Kilimanjaro, as giraffe, buffalo and antelope usually seen in the area.
Day 4 – Tuesday, 9/14 – Elevation: 9,000 ft / 2743 m
MONTANE FOREST — LOMOSHO APPROACH – Hiking Time: 3 – 6 hours (3.2 miles / 5.2 km)
After a short drive through the grasslands and scattered Maasai villages we’ll arrive at the forest edge of Kilimanjaro National Park. From here we’ll walk a few hours through the undisturbed lush jungle to our camp for the night. Our Tanzanian guides will share their knowledge of the local ecology as we walk through the fantastic plants and trees, hear birds, and see other exotic wildlife. Y’all know I’mma be asking tons of questions here. With luck we’ll be able to see Colobus monkeys and signs of elephants on the walk to camp. If I see an elephant I will attempt to hold in an excited squeal. ATTEMPT. Upon arriving at camp, we’ll find our tents set up as well as hot tea and snacks waiting for us in the dining tent.
Day 5 – Wednesday, 9/15 – Elevation: 11,400 ft / 3474 m
SHIRA PLATEAU — WEST SIDE – Hiking Time: 6 – 8 hours (4.8 miles / 7.7 km)
Our Tanzanian guides will greet us at our tents with tea and hot water to wash with before enjoying breakfast as I try to rouse my carcass and tame my inevitable hair tangles. We’ll take our time walking through the forest, which enables us to acclimatize comfortably and spot the plentiful game and bird life while enjoying the views down canyon through breaks in the jungle. Today’s hike will take us through the Montane Forest and the Hagenia Zone. We will point out the unique environmental differences that characterize these separate equatorial zones. Harlan Kredit would be proud (I think). I shall endeavor to ask as many kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species as possible and reward myself with a Jolly Rancher.
Day 6 – Thursday, 9/16 – Elevation: 13,500 ft / 4115 m
MOIR CAMP – Hiking Time: 3 – 6 hours (4 miles / 6.4 km)
It will take us roughly three hours to hike across the Shira Plateau and then one hour up the western slope of the Kibo Massif. Our Camp will be in the upper Heath Zone. We pass the Fischer Camp, which has a plaque dedicated to Scott Fischer, friend and founder of Mountain Madness. In the 1980’s, Wes Krause and Scott Fischer pioneered the Shira Plateau route on Kilimanjaro, which we travel. The views of the mountain at sunset and sunrise are truly spectacular – I’m attempting to make the instructors at Chicago Photography Classes proud (or at least not embarrassed!).
Day 7 – Friday, 9/17 – Elevation: 15,000 ft / 4572 m
LAVA TOWER – Hiking Time: 5 – 7 hours (3.6 miles / 5.8 km)
After breakfast, we’ll slowly hike to 14,850 feet / 4526 meters, just under the “Lava Tower.” This will be our first introduction to the Alpine Zone where the only plant life is the hardiest of grasses and lichens. We will have a spectacular view of the final route of ascent up the Western Breach. There is an exciting optional rock scramble (non-technical) to the top of this unusual lava tower – its gotta be easier than the Roman Headwall, right? The views from the lava tower summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Meru and the surrounding valleys are quite impressive – fingers crossed I capture them in their glory.
Day 8 – Saturday, 9/18 – Elevation: 16,000 ft / 4877 m
ARROW GLACIER – Hiking Time: 2 – 3 hours (1 mile / 1.6 km)
The Western Breach ascent route is now in full view. We spend a few hours climbing to the base of the route and make camp near the Arrow Glacier at 16,000 feet / 4877 meters. To further our acclimatization, we take an afternoon hike up a spectacular ridge further up the route before relaxing in camp. This camp is famous for the absolutely magnificent sunsets, which illuminate the African sky.
Day 9 – Sunday, 9/19 – Elevation: 18,700 ft / 5700 m
SUMMIT CRATER CAMP – Hiking Time: 7 – 10 hours (1.6 miles / 2.6 km)
A looooooong day but should make the next day easier. Today we climb up the Western Breach for about seven hours to the top of the crater rim. There will be time to explore the inner crater before moving to our high camp on the crater floor. It is common to find snow along this section of the route. Our high camp will be next to a spectacular glacier and the summit merely a short hike away! The rest of the day will be spent drinking lots of liquids and enjoying another fabulous sunset dinner (plz yes).
Around 8-9pmish for you Central folks and about 6-7pm for the Pacific ones – this is when I should be summiting (the next morning for me) – raise a glass at your dinner (or from your couch) and I betcha I feel it.
Day 10 – Monday, 9/20 – Elevation: 19,341 ft / 5895 m
SUMMIT DAY, Y’ALL – Hiking Time: 1 – 2 hours to summit
This is one of the big reasons I chose MM; I loved the idea of camping in the crater, close enough to touch the stars at 18,700 feet, and making the very hard summit day/night a little easier. After breakfast, we’ll leave camp and hike to the top of the crater rim. From there it is just a ten-minute hike to Uhuru Summit, the highest point in Africa at 19,341 feet / 5895 meters! We arrive at the summit and are rewarded with clear views before the mid-morning clouds roll in. We will bask in the glory of our accomplishment, grab a bite to eat, enjoy the views and take lots of photographs. PLZ BATTERIES DO NOT FAIL ME NOW. I SURVIVED CHICAGO SNOWPOCALYPSE WITH AN iPHONE I GOT THIS.
Now we go down, down, down 9,000 feet and descend to Mweka Camp – Elevation: 10,500 ft / 3200 m
Hiking Time: 8 – 10 hours to camp (6.8 miles / 11 km)
After summit celebrations we will begin our descent past Barafu Hut and down to our camp near Mweka Hut, where our porters will have prepared a special celebratory feast! We will have descended almost 9,000 feet / 2743 meters today and will feel intoxicated by the oxygen rich air. AIR DRUNK AIR GUITAR, GO GO GO. Will sleep a deeeeep sleep.
Summit day is ~10-12 hours and that’s a ‘shorter’ one compared to other companies. Although Baker took 16 hours so honestly, bring it, Kili.
Day 11 – Tuesday, 9/21 – to 4500 feet / 1372m, then drive
Hiking Time: 4 – 7 hours (5.2 miles / 8.4 km)
Hiking time will vary depending on the trail conditions while traveling through the lush vegetation at this elevation. Rain can occur any time of year at this location and can make the trail muddy requiring a slower pace. Once we have descended the 4,500 feet / 1372 meters to the road head we will have our lunch and say goodbye to our mountain staff before heading off to safari with our same guide team. We’ll night at Ikitoni Private Camp (where we started) before transferring to safari the next day.
Day 12 – Wednesday, 9/22
LAKE MANYARA NATIONAL PARK AND NGORONGORO PRIVATE CAMP
Safaaaari szn, bbs! We continue on our journey with a visit to Lake Manyara National Park, a park Ernest Hemmingway described as “the loveliest I had ever seen.” Found amid the variety of animals is an abundance of bird life, including the pink flamingos that enjoy the water-based microcosm of the lake and its environs, all of which add to the ecological diversity of your safari. After our visit we drive to the highlands of Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. We stay for two nights at MM’s deluxe private camp at Ngorongoro, near Olé Dorop’s, our Maasai friend and walking safari guide.
Days 13-16 – Thursday, 9/23 – Sunday, 9/26
Continue exploring Ngorongoro and Serengeti, seeing animals, visiting villages and taking all the photos my heart can stand! Return to Arusha for our final night.
Day 17 – Monday, 9/27
Another ‘bonus’ day that saved me another $2100 on the flight – shop, connect, savor – and fly out at 9pm from JRO > Amsterdam.
Day 18 – Tuesday, 9/28
Fly Amsterdam to Minneapolis (there were no directs to Chicago, so odd); then MSP to Chicago, landing around 3pm local time. Customs, bags, Lyft, home. Greet my plants, eat whatever dry goods I’ve squirreled away in the cupboards and likely crash/sleep because my body will still be +8, soul stuck in Tanzania time.
So that’s the plan…