I have no good reason for having not put this together earlier. I’ll do my best in highlighting the most important bits. This remarkable hike was made possible by Xtrym Adventures (https://www.xtrym.com). Look for me if you need the juice :-).
Day 1 : Sunday 24 February
We left Nairobi at 5:00 a.m. for Marangu in Tanzania (1860m) getting there by about 1 p.m.. The paperwork was sorted, we met our guides, porters, chefs and waiters, had some awesome lunch and were good to head to Mandara huts (2720m). Beautiful day, excited chatter, butterflies danced about as we made our way through the trees that were rough with age and disappeared into the sky. Just about 6:30 p.m., the rain started pounding heavily on us. The canopy possibly helped but by the time we got to camp 2 hours later, we were soaked.
Day 2: Monday 25 February
There’s something about a bright morning in the mountains. Raises the energy levels. We get ready for Horombo huts (3720m). The pace is slow, suggish., to help with acclimatization. I fell in love with the accommodation; nothing comparable with what we have at Mt. Kenya. Hikers can camp if they wish but our package was the boarding option. Everyone is in one piece as we get to Horombo. The elevation is quite mild, vegetation lush and the serenity that nature beholds makes it an enjoyable hike.
Day 3: Tuesday 26 February
This is a slow day for us-acclimatization day to Zebra rocks and back to camp. We don’t have to rise at the crack of dawn. All we needed to take with us was water. Hydration in plenty is a must in the mountains- 3 to 4 litres per day at the least. We leave camp at about 9:00 a.m. and are back in time for lunch. This slow day was important to us because day 4 is the toughest and most daunting.
Day 4: Wednesday 27 February
It’s an early rise and we hit the road to Kibo huts (4720m) right after breakfast. We’d walk through an alpine desert all day. Sun scorching hot trying to burn any bare skin. It’s sort of hot, but cold wind blows across our faces. Gaiters are important. Not for the rain but the intense dust. I had butterflies in my stomach. There was was something about the piping wind and scavengers flying above us that made me flinch.
Kibo huts. It’s cold…biting cold. The rays of mellow sunlight are deceiving. We clean up, dress warmly, have early dinner and have to sleep by 6 p.m. after the briefing by our lead guide. We would to be up by 10:00 p.m. in readiness for the summit. The mood was somber as we sluggishly layered up for the cold night that awaited. I possibly had 2 hours of intermittent sleep.
Summit Night : 27/28 February
I hardly had any breakfast. I could tell that soon enough, I would be throwing up. Our summit attempt starts by 11:00 p.m.. A few steps into the hike and everything that was in my stomach is out. I feel alive. We have over 10 guides with us who sing and cheer us on for the better part of the night. I am grumpy and tired by 4: a.m. as I question my decisions and long for my warm bed. We had hot ginger water served in the night which helped ease the altitude sickness.
I get to Gilman’s Point (5685m) at around 10:00 a.m.. I’m super tired and so are my other fellow hikers I find lying on the dirt. There was a group that was already headed to Uhuru. I wasn’t sure I had the energy to summit considering we had to walk back to Horombo huts. I had a chat with my guide and he convinced me to walk to Stella Point (5756m) . Gathering my remaining energy, we took off as some of the hikers decided to turn back. It’s always important to respect your body and turning back shows you’re strong enough.
As we head to Stella Point, I developed this sharp pain on my lower back. The ascent had been quite steep and this may have contributed to the discomfort. The path was slippery with frozen snow. We walked over an hour but with the excruciating pain, I wasn’t going to summit. After some photos at Stella Point, we had to turn back.
The descent is easy, similar to skiing but on very fine sand. The shoes and hiking socks have to be the right fit else walking like a duck afterwards is assured. There’s a hot meal awaiting at Kibo Huts after which we head to Horombo Huts. We got to camp slightly after 6:00 p.m.. Drenched in sweat, tired to the bone, ecstatic to have faced Kibo. They don’t allow more than one night at Kibo due to the high altitude.
Day 6: 1 March
Our last day in the mountains. We packed our bags for the last time, danced with the crew, and head off for Marangu gate. All I have in mind is a long, hot bath and a comfy bed.
Tips to Hikers
- Lower beds are better and warmer.
- Slow does it, take it easy in the mountains, acclimatize.
- Get the right socks-the last thing you want is blisters.
- Cut those toe nails short!
- Get a day bag that you can strap around your mid and chest sections.
- Listen to your body and alert your guide if feeling unwell-you’d rather turn back than end up hospitalized.