Climbing Kilimanjaro - August 2003


The climbing of Kilimanjaro was a great team effort and after it was over and we'd returned home we compiled CDs of photos and a PowerPoint Presentation which forms the basis of all the photos accompanying this diary.  All the photos can be accessed via a set of thumbnails by clicking here or individually by following the appropriate links in the text. If you would like to see the slide show which does not use PowerPoint then click here.   We organized the climb through African Enviroments who were most helpful and after the climb was over Graham and Jane went on an excellent one week safari with them.

Sunday, August 10th

Having spent a very pleasant Saturday evening in Hampton with Bill and Mary we went to sleep at 11:30pm only to wake up at 3:00am and get up.  Mary drove us to Heathrow and we queued till the desks opened at 5am.  Rosemary joined us.  When the desks opened and we checked in we discovered our luggage was too heavy and we had to pay an excess luggage charge on the 8 kg overweight at a rate of £28 a kilo.   We had no choice but to pay it and we didn't even get upgraded.

The plane was 20 minutes late and we took off at 6:55am arriving in Amsterdam at 8:45am.  The next plane to Kilimanjaro left on time at 10:40am.  The plane was crowded and they were looking for someone to get off.  The flight was OK, with food, films and books and an occasional sleep to pass the eight and a half hours.

When we arrived we waited for our baggage but discovered it had been unloaded from the carousel without our noticing it.  We were met by Samia who will be our mountain guide and Elly who drove the dark green Land Cruiser through the dark to our hotel on the outskirts of Arusha.  On arrival at the Mount Mehru hotel Rosemary was allocated a room next to us which she will share with Kathryn when she arrives on Monday afternoon.  After unpacking we ate a meal of tomato soup, fish and vegetables followed by fruit salad.  And so to bed at 11:30pm - 8:30pm in the UK.

Monday, August 11th

We woke at 6am, read and watched TV and then got up at 7:30am.  The room is very basic but clean.  It is on the third floor, has two single beds and a view over the swimming pool and a golf course.  Outside it's very cloudy and we cannot see any mountains.  Some people are walking around and there are some banana trees in the distance.  It's 20C - slightly colder than in the UK.  We go down for breakfast and it's a buffet with plenty of food to choose from.  We pottered around till 12:15pm when we met Samia who checked to see that we had the right equipment and clothing.  Fortunately we did.

The others in the party arrived from Nairobi on a bus and we all had lunch together at about 2:15pm.  We then clambered into 2 Land Cruisers and went for a tour around Arusha, which is very crowded, and up an unmade road to a restaurant where we sat outside in the garden.  Samia presented John and Jane with a bottle of bubbly which we all drank.  We returned to the hotel at 6:45pm and both of us dozed off.  Jane had a splitting headache.  We had dinner at 8pm and went to bed shortly after that.

Tuesday, August 12th

Up at 6am, washed hair had shower and packed.  Breakfast at 7am. We all met in reception at 8am.  We all set off in two Land Cruisers for a 3 hour journey to the Kilimanjaro gate of Londorosi at 7000ft.  We all had to sign a visitor's book giving our address, passport number and age.  Whilst permits were being purchased we watched the local children push hoops made from tyreless bicycle wheels and push large wooden scooters.  We also read the rules of the park painted on a large wooden notice board.

We retraced our path and were driven to the trail head at Lemosho.  There we were introduced to our personal porters.  Jane's porter was Simon and Graham's was Adamson.  Once we'd identified our luggage the porters put it into large dark green plastics bags.  We walked through the forest for a couple of hours till about 1:00pm and then we got around a corner and saw a table all laid out with food and surrounded by tripod collapsible canvas seats. It was a wonderful sight to behold.  We are given bowls of water with hypochlorite in it so that we can clean our hands. We were told to eat and drink lots and if we had to relieve ourselves we carried out a tyre pressure check.

We walked on through the forest and saw a few flowers and birds.  A dog rushed passed us and tried to bite us.  The last part of the walk was quite steep and Jane was tired and hot and lagged behind the others by about 10 minutes.

When we arrived at Forest camp (8750 ft)  we found our two-man tents had all been set up.  There are 4 bell tents for all the porters who with the guides number about 50 though we think this is a slight exaggeration.  There is a mess tent where we can eat and two loos.  Each loo consists of a hole in the ground surmounted by a toilet seat on legs and surrounded on three sides by 5-foot high canvas.  On one of the poles is the toilet paper.  On the ground by the hole is a trowel and a pile of soil.  The used toilet paper is put in a can to be burnt.  The toilet is engaged when the occupier places a hat on one of the poles. Nearby are some of the Americans who were on the plane from Amsterdam who joined us for a chat.  For supper we had chicken and coconut rice with tomato and avocado salad. After the meal Samia and Lawrence explained what would be happening the next day.  We retired to bed at 9:00pm.

Wednesday, August 13th

We were awoken at 6:30am with a cup of tea.  Jane had slept badly and had been to the loo 3 times. All the men had agreed not to shave for the climb. We had breakfast at 7:00am consisting of scrambled eggs and bacon and toast and cheese.  At 7:30am we packed up. Pascas helped us do this, packing our sleeping bags and mats and putting our gaiters on us.  Graham's sleeping bag was very wet on the outside.  Maybe his silk liner had been ultra efficient. We filled up our water bottles with filtered water.  Jane was a bit scared as we set off at about 8am and walked through the forest.  We had a break at about 11am where dried mangos,  raisins and bananas were handed out.   The trees were lush with lots of hanging Spanish Moss and there were some flowers that only grow on Kilimanjaro.  Shortly after the break were reached the top of the tree line and now saw proteas and other plants.  A malachite sun bird was sitting on a branch. Lunch was laid out on a table in a valley.  We had soup, salads and plenty of yoghourts, mangoes, passion fruit and short bananas fruit.  Jane was not that hungry.

After lunch and some tyre pressure checks we set off on a long trek up the edge of the Shira plateau.  It was a bit taxing for Jane and she had a headache but Humphrey set a slow pace for her.  We got to the highest point for the day at 11500 ft and then traversed the side of a ridge. We saw helichrysums and St John's wort. After a bit we stopped for a longer than normal break where we could eat some energy food and drink water.  Jane and Kathryn didn't feel too good and neither did Roger. After another hour's walking we arrived at Shira camp.  Kathryn retched a bit and took 250mg of Diamox.  Jane took 125mg of Diamox and Roger took some Imodium.

From our camp we can see Kilimanjaro. It is a wonderful sight with the moon shining on it.  Earlier we seen it with clouds on top but these had cleared as the moon shone.  Dinner consisted of lentil soup, Tilapia fish and chips with cucumber salad, banana fritters and custard.  Samia told us a some stories about his tribe, the Chagga, and how he'd gone AWOL from the army.  Lawrence, who is a member of the Mehru tribe, told us how his grandfather had been up a tree for 3 days to avoid a Cape buffalo.  Eventually he threw a bee's nest on to the buffalo which made it mad and run away thus enabling grandfather to go home.  We got to bed about 8:30pm.

Thursday, August 14th

When she woke up Jane felt better than ever even though she had peed for England 3 times during the night.   Kathryn is fine and has been up twice during the night.  The Diamox is effective.  Breakfast consists of porridge or cereal, pancakes, leaks and potatoes and toast.  Graham is not feeling too well.  We walked for about 3 hours across the plateau, passed the end of a road and a disused lion's cave.  We climbed slightly uphill to Scott Fischer camp at 12,700 ft although the last bit to the camp was quite steep and took Jane's breath away but Samia stayed with her.  We saw Forest Groundsel and Giant Groundsel.  Lunch was tuna salad plus all the other bits.  Kathryn, John, Roger and David walked further up the mountain to get a telephone signal whilst Jane and Graham slept at the suggestion of Samia. Graham is not feeling with it at all.  Jane used wipes to clean her feet and legs and found a large burst blister which she did not know she had.  Jane feels better today but is not confident that either Mama Lawrence or Baba Lawrence will make it to the summit.  Samia says you cannot tell.  You just have to go 'Pole Pole' (slowly, slowly).  We (Roger, Rosemary, Jane and Graham) played scrabble before supper.

Friday, August 15th

We got up early and had porridge for breakfast.  Graham is not feeling well and has very puffy eyes. It's a long day today to Sheffield camp at 14,850ft, just below Lava Tower.  We had lunch at about 11am in a tent.  Jane didn't feel well and neither did Kathryn.  Jane was OK when walking but felt sick when we stopped. We got a signal on the mobile, long enough to receive 4 text messages but not to send any.  After lunch we had a long haul uphill and then down to the camp.  Jane retched a lot on arrival.  John is not at all well. The Bentotes are now the only ones not taking Diamox.  We played Scrabble again before supper.  Supper was soup followed by pasta with a sauce and cheese followed by fruit salad.  Several people have bowel problems.  All of us on Diamox are told to up the dose to 250mg n the morning and at night.

Saturday, August 16th

We slept better and Jane is feeling very well but Graham is not really right at all.  We had an easy day.  We left camp at 9:15am and walked up to Lava Tower and then further up till we had our second water stop. The route got steeper and Samia explained mountain walking which we have since discovered is also called the Kili Shuffle.  You lock your back leg for 2 seconds then move your weight to your front leg swinging the back leg through to become your front leg.  Wait 2 seconds and repeat operation until you arrive at your destination. Jane found she was good at this and the pace was just right.  She could even talk!!  We arrived at Arrow Glacier camp (15,850ft) at 12:30ish and had lunch consisting of chicken soup, toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches, poppadoms etc. Jane is eating well but Graham isn't.  He is having difficulties swallowing.  Samia once again explained the importance of eating and drinking a lot.  Tomorrow we will travel 0.9 miles but it will take more than 9 hours.  It is a very steep climb to Crater Camp at 18,500ft.  At 3:30pm there is an hour-long non compulsory walk.  Graham is asleep and breathing badly.  Jane has organized the clothes for tomorrow as it will be quite cold at times.

Sunday, August 17th

This has to be the hardest and most stressful day of our lives. We left the camp at 6:30am when it is light and started slowly up the hill.  It was steep and not impossible. Then we got to rocks which we had to scramble over on and on and on.  Jane and Kathryn were at the back helping each. Sometimes it was hairy and very dangerous - we got to Western Breach, God knows how and a bit further on was lunch.  Samia had phoned to get a porter down to help Graham by carrying his back pack for him as Graham was exhausted. Lunch was the usual spread.  Jane made herself a cup of soup which she enjoyed. Two porters helped Graham get up the mountain by letting him put his arms around their necks. We scrambled up crevices and along rocky ledges on and on up to the top.  When we got  to the top our own porters met us.  The porters all congratulated us ("good job, good job") and Kathryn and Jane shed a tear or two. Pascas and Simon walked with Jane down to the camp.  The camp was situated at the bottom of the climb to the summit and opposite the glacier.  It was very cold that night, probably -20C.

Monday, August 18th

We got up early and climbed very slowly up to the top of the Kibo crater by clambering over rocks.  Graham was helped by two porters.  When we got to the top of the crater we found a plateau, part of which was covered in hard patches of snow.  We had to walk half a mile to the top of the mountain where we stood in front of the marker board and had our photographs taken.  After the photo shoot we walked for miles and miles down scree which could have been skied down.  We had lunch at the Barafu Huts.  We then walked for many more miles across barren landscape and down a stepped path to Mweka Camp.  For supper we had fresh fish (Tilapia) and chips which we could wash down with beer.  Samia has given Graham some Amoxyllin for his chest problems.  Jane has a pain in her left foot. We give tips for the guides and the porters.

Tuesday, August 19th

We wake up and have breakfast and sign the visitors book. We can see the mountain top in the distance and start to walk downhill.  The path is stepped and winding as it passes under the trees of the forest.  Jane is helped down by Samia and Graham is helped down by Adamson and Blackie.  Jane got a lift for the last 2 kilometres in one of the Land Cruisers.  We arrive at the end of the trail and sign the visitors book, purchase tee shirts and have lunch.  After lunch we climb into the Land Cruisers and are taken back to our hotel. We are driven by Exaud who picked up Jane and who will be our guide on the safari. When we get back to the hotel we have long baths and a sleep.  At 5pm we meet in the bar where we are greeted by the UN representative for Tanzania who looks remarkably like Samia.  Lawrence was also there.  Samia presented us with our certificates and we then dined.  Rosemary left to catch her plane home. Our legs ache.