Mt. Kilimanjaro Charity Climb 2004

Short Story - Long Summary - Group Photos - KVEP Charity - Participants - MOVIES - Next 2005 info


[ Day 1 ] [ Day 2 ] [ Day 3 ] [ Day 4 ] [ Day 5 Summit ] [ Day 6 ] [ Going Home ] [ Elevations ]

Kilimanjaro Trek (Long) Summary

(Many photographs will take a while to fully download on slow modems)

April 2nd, 2004, the trip starts by our group meeting for the first time at London’s Heathrow Airport. This was followed by a very nice well looked after British Airways flight to Nairobi. We had a view of slightly smaller Mount Kenya as we started our decent, but the Kilimanjaro view was exclusive to the pilots out their front window. Upon landing we started a long bus ride through to Tanzania and onward approaching the mountain from the southwest. It was here we finally had our first glimpse of the mountain. After a delicious donated lunch in Moshi, we carried on through to catch sunset at our base, the Marangu Hotel (more).  The next day we had an all day walk seeing the benefits of “KVEP” the Kilimanjaro Village Education Project (more). We also saw the sight of where the new Nursery was to be built (more) and had a congratulatory lunch. We then returned to the hotel to ready our gear for inspection for tomorrow's start of the climb.



The trek's Day 1 had us drive many hours on a dirt road from the hotel, walk up through logged forests replanted with corn, until we were above some remnants of old forest where the vegetation was merely large bush size. This was Camp 1 and we enjoyed a great view of Kilimanjaro's summit (19330 ft, 5896m) and the plains of Kenya to the north below. The trek starts off quite shallow, but always relentlessly continues to go uphill. I found this to be quite a relief because each foot climbed becomes a foot closer to the actual summit. We ascended using the northern “Rongai Route” that gave us an extra day for acclimatisation and greater variety, as we returned on the more utilised southern “Marangu ("coca-cola" Tourist) Route”.


Day 2 had us climb steadily upwards for lunch near a large cave (2nd Cave, 11310 ft, 3450m). We then turned slightly eastward towards Kilimanjaro’s much shorter twin peak “Mawenzi” (16,880 ft, 5149m). By the time we stopped for the night at Camp 2, Kikelewa Caves (11802 ft, 3600m), the vegetation comprised mostly of just short bushes. Despite some breathtaking views of Kilimanjaro during the morning, it managed to cloud up and rain on us in the afternoon, perhaps an omen of further rains to come.



Day 3 comprised again of steadily climbing upwards. The weather had turned and the many rain showers had us conclude the possibly that the “wet season” was in the process of starting. Luckily, we still managed a brief view of the summit’s glaciers. We climbed to Camp 3, Mawenzi Tarn Hut (14195 ft, 4330m) at the base of Mawenzi’s steeper rock bluffs where there was a tiny little lake. By now the majority of the vegetation were merely clumps of grass. My father and I were prepared to go for a comical swim in this little tarn, but alas it was so miserably bitter with low blowing wet cloud, that the fun of a splash in this muddy puddle and the poor prospect of re-warming afterwards, killed this idea dead!



Day 4 saw us to the foot of Kilimanjaro’s final ascending point. From Mawenzi, we walked almost level across a great saddle that strutted between the two peaks. The lack of air at this considerable altitude made this slight inclination seem quite steep and tiring. There was no real vegetation, simply rocks, as we trekked along this cold wind swept barren path in the clouds. Reaching Camp 4, at “Kibo Hut” (15418 ft, 4703m), the strain started to take its toll. It was apparent that group member Jim was being affected by altitude sickness, and the Guides properly decided to take him down the mountain immediately. Suddenly the mood over dinner changed as we began to absorb the seriousness of our situation and impending ascent. It was a bitter evening and I believe nobody was truly warm as we settled in for an early night. Interestingly, Jim later revealed to us that his condition rapidly improved as he descended. Climbing down with one of our specialist guides in the darkness, he became as good as new within a few hours.



Day 5 “Summit Day” was the big day. Very big! We woke about midnight to start our slow strenuous accent of the mountain. Now that we were back on the main trail, there were other groups of climbers in our company. In the darkness from camp, we could see the lights of other climbers ahead high up in the rocks above. We decide to walk without light and use just the bright general illumination of full moon, but it was pretty to see the other lights twinkle in the eerie dark shadows of the mountain. The weather was at times poor and a very light snow fell upon us, but at all times there was sufficient moonlight until daybreak.


Climbing steep slopes at extremely high altitude is very strange. There is no way to describe it unless you have experienced it yourself. The body simply doesn’t work and you must go very slowly in order to have any endurance. Besides, it’s impossible to go quickly anyhow.  Any sudden thrust will cause exhaustion. Several simple steps may take minutes. Climbers that are ten minutes up ahead, could scramble down to you in several seconds. Its simply strange and it affects all members of the “human race”. To make matters worse, there are complications, generalised as Altitude Sickness, which can be very serious and require immediate descent. Conditioning doesn’t seem to have an affect on your abilities at altitude and it seems to affect people indiscriminately on the day. Our group struggled a bit that morning going up the steep final slope.

As the sun rose and exposed our poor progress, we separated into two groups in order to enhance our progress. Miraculously the lower group found hidden strength and simultaneously pushed its way to the top. By achieving the crater rim at “Gillmans Point” (18638 ft, 5685m) we were victorious and would get our Kilimanjaro Certificates! 

The weather was miserable and cold with snow showers blowing through. Between the cloud and snow were the exciting short glimpses of the summit’s glaciers. We had a warm cup of tea and split again into two groups. Group One started descending almost immediately. My Father was pretty fatigued, as were we all, and taking into account the miserable weather and huge day still ahead decided that he should go down with this first group. I joined Group Two that pressed on to the actual summit of Kilimanjaro. Fatigue had caught up to me and I was psychologically upset that the mountain’s glaciers were mostly hidden behind cloud. I had wanted to walk among these vanishing glaciers almost more than I had wanted to achieve the summit. I was going slow, and stopping to take pictures every time there was a break in the cloud, which slowed me down even further.  

After an exhausting non-scenic hour and a half, we reached the actual summit. Ian, Carol Ann, John Eagles and myself (Brian) had made it! From the very top of Africa we could see… nothing! Thick cloud robbed us of any view whatsoever of anything. At least the fog was light enough to allow summit photos. I took one holding the "Turks and Caicos Islands" flag, an expression of love to my wife for all her affections (a/b). But now our new task was ahead, to get down. I tried to linger a bit, praying that it may clear up and I’d get the million-dollar view that was hidden only feet away. But there was no clearing. At one point I almost jumped down the slopes to touch an outcropping of glacier, but my fatigue coupled with the fact that I was now holding up the group made me bow out (my only regret of the trip).  

Going down was extremely easier and quicker than coming up. Despite this, I ran into a problem with my boots mashing my throbbing toes (quite irresponsible of me really). I actually ended up walking almost half the way back to Kibo Hut backwards, holding the hand of my seasoned local guide, "Martine", down this very steep slope! After a quick rest and some lunch at Kibo Hut, we walked several hours further beyond to the south at Camp 5 at "Horombo Camp" (12196 ft, 3720m). Very few photos taken this afternoon.



Day 6 was our last day. We all had a great night's sleep and were ready to walk the many hours out. The general vegetation started off as small bushes and steadily became thick tropical forest, complete with monkeys! We stopped for a quick look at lower “Maundi Crater” then had a deluxe lunch that had been carried up from our hotel that morning to Mandara Huts (8933 ft, 2725m). We eventually finished the trail exhausted, in the pouring rain at the park boundary called Marangu Gate (6098 ft, 1860m). A quick bus trip took us back to the Marangu Hotel (4262 ft, 1300m) and we had our very memorable Award Ceremony.



The next day we took the long bus ride back to Nairobi for our flight with British Airways back to London. Along the way we were spoiled with another donated lunch and a visit to the Amani Orphanage, recipient of next years 2005 climb donations (more).  

Well, what do you think? Are you up to it yourself sometime?  


Brian Whittaker,  Participant,   Charity Website and CD creator.

For "Me and my Dad", go to bottom of this page.


Elevation Notes


(m x 3.2785 = ft) 

Selected Mountains / Locations of interest. (Elevations) feet (ft) metres (m)
Everest (Highest Mountain in the World) 29028 8848
K2 (Himalayas) 28231 8611
Mt. McKinley (Alaska, highest in North America) 20320 6197
Kilimanjaro- Uhuru Peak (Kibo summit) 19330 5896
Kilimanjaro- Gillman's Point (crater rim) 18638 5685

Half the world's Atmosphere is below this level

18300 5580

Everest Base Camp

17600 5360

Mount Kenya (Africa's 2nd highest mountain)

17044 5199
Kilimanjaro- Hans Meyer Cave (1/2 way ascent day) 16884 5150
Kilimanjaro- Mawenzi -twin sub peak  (Hans Meyer Peak) 16880 5149

Mount Blanc (Alps, highest in Europe)

15759 4807
Kilimanjaro- Kibo Huts (camp 4) 15418 4703
The Matterhorn (Switzerland) 14654 4470
Mount Rainier (Seattle, USA) 14410 4395
Kilimanjaro- Mawenzi Tarn Hut (camp 3) 14195 4330

Mount Shasta (north California, USA)

14162 4319

Mount Fuji (Japan)

12379 3776
Kilimanjaro- Horombo Huts (camp 5) 12196 3720
Kilimanjaro- Kikelewa Caves (camp 2) 11802 3600
Kilimanjaro- 2nd Caves (day 2 lunch) 11310 3450

Mount Etna (Sicily, Italy)

10894 3323
Kilimanjaro- Mandara Huts (day 6 lunch) 8933 2725
Kilimanjaro- Marangu Gate (day 6, trek finishes) 6098 1860

Ben Nevis (Scotland) UK's largest Mountain

4419 1348
Kilimanjaro- Marangu Hotel (on SE mountain slopes) 4260 1300
Sea Level 0 0

Interesting Facts

Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, above more than half the world's air.

Kilimanjaro is 2/3 as high as the world's highest mountain, Mt Everest, and higher than the Everest Base Camp.

Kilimanjaro is almost as high as North America's highest mountain, Mt. McKinley, missing it by less than 1000 feet.

Kilimanjaro is 1.22x bigger than Europe's highest mountain, Mount Blanc, and towering almost a mile above The Matterhorn.

Kilimanjaro is almost 4 1/2 times higher then the UK's highest mountain, Ben Nevis.