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  • Writer's pictureBecca Jackson

Personal experience climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro | Get prepared for epic!

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

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Panoramic view of Mount Kilimanjaro base camp

Journey to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro - “Earth, Wind & Yahaya”


When we were researching and planning for our journey to Tanzania we managed to find information, although somewhat disjointed, that helped us with the practical aspect of the trip such as the logistics, physical training and what to pack, but I could only find one detailed account of what it would actually be like on the mountain.* I wanted to know what to expect. ? What would it be like not showered for 7 days? I know no-one can ever give you a solid answer to these types of questions as they are personal, but I wanted re-assurance. We were committed to go on this challenging but hopefully incredible journey, and I wanted someone to tell me it was going to be okay! This is what this blog aims to do - reassure. Yes, your experience will be different to mine but by painting a picture of our mountain experience you can begin to mentally prepare for yours.


*A hilarious book called 'A walk in the park' by Jonathan Chadwick - if you can get your hands on a copy I would definitely recommend reading this too.


Prologue


The itch to climb Mount Kilimanjaro started following the Comic Relief Celebrity Challenge in 2010, in which a team of 10 celebrities; including Fearne Cotton, Gary Barlow, Chris Moyles and Denise Van Outen; reached the summit of the World’s Largest Freestanding Mountain. I remember me and my then boyfriend, Dave, watching the hour-long TV show documenting their 7-day challenge, that focused in particular on the horrendous effects of altitude sickness, the tears & exhaustion amidst what appeared to be a tremendous physical test. However, instead of being horrified or questioning why on earth anyone would want to put themselves through something that appeared that awful, (as many of our friends did!) we watched in awe. We were so jealous that this team of people had been given the opportunity to embark on such an incredible adventure, to conquer something so challenging and to raise a lot of money for a very worthwhile cause all at the same time.


And so, it was at that point that we added Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to our bucket list. I think at this stage it seemed so unachievable and we could not imagine a scenario where the opportunity would present itself. But hey, we were young; in our early 20s; and so, didn’t worry about that minor point.


3 years later in 2013, Dave and I married and his sister presented us with a beautiful carved wooden chopping board that listed 24 of the bucket list adventures we had said we wanted to tick off together. So there, carved in solid oak, waiting to be crossed off, was ‘Climb Mount Kilimanjaro’. Once again, we smiled at each other, how on earth would that opportunity ever come about? Ah well, we’re still young…….


We love to travel and spent much time doing so before we got married. Following our wedding, we embarked on many more exciting holidays and journeys, including a 13-month adventure living and working in Australia and travelling through South America but still ‘the opportunity’ to climb Kilimanjaro didn’t present itself. It was in October 2018 that that long awaited day came.


I was sat at the breakfast bar in our kitchen Googling the best times of the year to visit Borneo, Japan and The Philippines (all destinations on my ‘yet to visit but can’t wait to’ list), trying to find a suitable destination for a holiday in September the following year. Dave arrived home from work and announced, ‘hey you know September is an ideal time to climb Kilimanjaro’! I was immediately filled with a very strong mix of excitement and fear. The time had come, the mysterious pieces of the universe that need to fall into place had done so…we were going to attempt to climb Kilimanjaro!


Planning for Mt Kilimanjaro


When we told friends and family about our plans we were met with a mixed reaction, ‘amazing!’, ‘why?’, ‘rather you than me!’, ‘that sounds incredible’ and the most extreme ‘but you might die!!’. We were really excited and immediately set about planning our trip. Sadly, my step father, Mike Fox, had passed away the previous November following an 18-month battle with Motor Neuron Disease and so it also seemed a perfect opportunity to raise money for a brilliant charity. When my brother, Stephen, heard about our trip he was very keen to join us. Having had his first taste of travelling a couple of years earlier; when aged 18 he had made the journey out to Australia to come road tripping with us up the East Coast; he wanted to once again scratch the travel bug itch, and honour his late father by raising money for The Motor Neuron Disease Association. In quick succession came Stephen’s fiancé Evie, and thus ‘Team4Fox’ was born!


Finding a reputable, reliable company to do the climb with was one of the hardest tasks. Not because there are none out there but because there are so many! In the end we decided to go with Pristine Trails, a Tanzania based company, run by a local man called Edward, and his American wife, which was a member of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP). KPAP is a non-profit Tanzanian organisation whose mission it is to improve working conditions of the porters working on the mountain, by advocating for fair wages and ethical treatment.


The training for Mt Kilimanjaro


Having read much online from people who have climbed the mountain we were none the wiser about how physically demanding it was actually going to be. All made reference to their experiences of varying degrees of altitude sickness, some of which sounded completely awful and debilitating! We decided not to dwell on that too much as there isn’t a lot you can do to prepare yourself for the effects of altitude sickness. Instead, we decided it was better to be overprepared in terms of our fitness level and set about training.


Our trip was booked for mid-September so straight after Christmas we hit the hills. Starting off with short 4–5-mile walks, building up over time to 20+ miles a day. We also all joined the gym and discovered the joys of the stair master! Oh sorry, not joys, pure hell!!! We persisted, as we were working on the basis that if we trained our leg muscles to just keep going, just keep climbing, our bodies would carry on and we could focus on the mental challenge of it.


An extremely wet Kilimanjaro training walk halfway up Scafell Pike in the Lake District
An extremely wet training walk halfway up Scafell Pike in the Lake District

One weekend we took on the Yorkshire 3 peak challenge; 3 small mountains in Yorkshire, a 24-mile route, with the challenge being that you complete all 3 within 12 hours. About halfway through we took a wrong turn in the fog and having unknowingly deviated from the route by a good couple of miles it seemed like our hopes of getting back on track and completing it within the 12 hours were slim. It was raining and time felt like it was running away from us as we desperately tried to find a suitable path to get us back on track. I found myself suddenly really angry! How could we have let this happen? How stupid had we been not to check the paths properly on the map? The rest of the team were frustrated but very practical about the situation, what was done was done and so we needed to find a path and carry on. Having managed this, the sun came out and gave us the second wind we needed to get the job done. We completed the walk in 11 hours flat, having run the last half a mile to enable this to be possible!!


It was at this point that I realised how important it was to me to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. Up until now we had discussed the difficulty of the challenge and agreed that as long as we all gave it our best shot, regardless of what happened, we could be proud of ourselves. But now, having allowed my ambition to get the better of me in Yorkshire, I realised that not making that summit was not an option, and I felt the pressure even more.


Equipment/Kit for Kilimanjaro


We are keen hikers anyway so we already had some walking gear, but we did need to make a few additions never-the-less. It can be a bit of a minefield and you can spend an absolute fortune on the most expensive brands, but it really isn't needed, and you can make sensible, affordable choices that will serve you well on the mountain. A full list of the gear we took & the reasons why is in our post Preparation for Kilimanjaro.


Tanzania bound


After months of planning, organising our kit and training, September arrived and we boarded our plane to Tanzania. We had all agreed that we wanted to ‘get the mountain out the way’ as soon as we got there so we could then relax and enjoy the rest of our trip!


On the plane waiting for take off from Manchester
On the plane waiting for take off from Manchester

We were flying via Dubai and we confidently told Stephen and Evie how fancy Dubai airport is; huge, glamourous & impressive. The 6 and a half hour flight on the Emirates Airbus was great, lots of leg room, Wi-Fi onboard and free booze! Landing at Dubai for our 2 hour layover we were immediately ushered onto a bus that took us to another terminal, that can only be described as a rather large shed. We were met with a McDonalds, a duty-free shop selling shiny pieces of tat, rows of plastic chairs and two disappointed faces! We were flying on from Dubai to Kilimanjaro airport with Fly Dubai, which apparently being a local, budget airline does not warrant the glamour of the main terminal.


The onward flight with Fly Dubai was less than pleasant; extremely cramped & uncomfortable & distinctly lacking in the refreshments department. We attempted to sleep the time away with mixed success.


5 hours later we landed at Kilimanjaro airport at 3.30am.


We were met at the airport by two lovely members of the Pristine Trails team who helped us load all our bags onto the minibus where we joined 7 other trekkers.


Pristine Trails usually book guests into the hotel Kili Wonders in Moshi – a lovely, very modern hotel with a pool. Dave, always wanting to save where he could, had asked when we booked if there was any way to reduce the price, so we were staying in Leopard Hotel instead. Rooms were clean albeit a little outdated and no pool, but we were very happy to have a place to lay our head at 4.30am!


The next morning, we went for an exploration of Moshi, the place is nothing to write home about and you wouldn’t be staying there if it wasn’t for Kili, so there is no need to stay longer than necessary.


At 4.30pm we were picked up by one of the Pristine drivers & taken to Kili Wonders Hotel for our briefing, where we met our guides and the rest of our group. Yahaya, our main guide and Linus, our assistant guide, told us what to expect from the mountain and the details of our pickup and first day walking tomorrow. They also told us not to think past the next day as we would receive a briefing each evening on the mountain. After the briefing we were taken back to Leopard Hotel so the Pristine team could check over our gear to make sure they were happy we had everything we needed. Luckily, we all passed; Evie may have gone a bit over the top with the number of pairs of socks she brought as they asked her if she planned to open a shop on the mountain!


Pre trek beer the evening before
Pre trek beer the evening before

Start of the Trek – Machame Gate (1811m) to Machame Hut (3021m)


Our pickup was about half an hour late, just after 8am. We were taken to the Pristine office to pay our balance and store our other luggage and valuables before setting off.

It was less than an hour's drive to Machame Gate, including a stop at a supermarket for any last minute snacks that you may have forgotten to bring along. At the gate we waited while the guides sorted our luggage with the porters. Then we waited, and waited, and waited, along with many other tour groups until our lunch was brought over. A delicious packed-lunch of chicken, crisps, carrot sticks, an apple, a muffin and a carton of juice. Then we did a little more waiting for good measure!


We eventually set off at 12.50pm at a very slow & steady pace set by our assistant guide, Linus, with another guide, Edie, at the back. Our group totalled 7, all from the UK. Joining the 4 of us, were Sam and James, a couple from London and Callum, also from London, who had travelled alone. It was only about 30 minutes in when Callum decided “pole, pole” wasn’t for him, and he decided to walk off ahead on his own (this happened every time we set off) so 7 became 6 for most of the trek, apart from at meal times.


It was a lovely walk through the forest, the temperature was quite cool and not as humid as we were expecting. We covered about 11km in about 5 hours.

Upon reaching camp we signed in at the hut and then were shown to our tents. The porters, who are the real heroes of the mountain, are incredible. They go ahead of you each day, carrying all the equipment and your main backpacks and by the time you arrive at camp, everything is set up waiting for you.


"Hero's of the mountain" AKA porters
"Hero's of the mountain" AKA porters

We slept in twos in three-man, all-weather tents. They were brand new, and we were told Pristine only uses the tents for two seasons before investing in new ones to keep them waterproof and warm. Looking around camp in the evenings you could see other companies definitely do not do this!


We had chosen to hire sleeping bags from Pristine which were in our tents waiting for us, along with our backpacks and a roll mat; nothing special but a few inches to lift you off the hard ground and keep you warmer and dry.


We had seen online that you could pay extra to hire a porta loo that would be carried up the mountain by one of the porters for your use at camp. We decided against this as it was $100 more and seemed a luxurious spend and so we decided we would just use the long drop toilets at each camp like everyone else. However, to our absolute delight, when being shown round our little tented community, we were shown our private toilet tent!! Apparently, this is something Pristine Trails include in the package now, they just hadn’t updated their website to reflect this. The toilet was for trekkers use only so it was just the 7 of us that could use the toilet and it was emptied and cleaned regularly by one of the porters (who received a generous tip off us at the end, because, what a job!!) It was a God send as some of the ‘public toilets’ were extremely smelly!


We were all given a small bowl of warm water to take to our tents to wash before dinner.


Dinner was lovely. We were amazed throughout the whole trip how the chef could produce such delicious food up a mountain. We were served soup to start, followed by macaroni cheese pasta and minced beef.


Yahaya our main guide delivered our briefing for tomorrow and we went to bed.


Day 2 – Shira Cave (3839m)


We were woken at 6am by Omi, our ‘waiter’; as he was referred to as; and offered warm bowls of water for washing and given a hot drink of tea, coffee or hot chocolate in our tents. Omi is the happiest man you will meet, he was constantly making sure we were all comfortable at camp, running around with the biggest smile on his face!


The rest of the group had slept well but Dave and I had struggled to keep warm during the night, Dave’s sleeping bag didn’t even come up to his chin! We were worried as the nights were only going to get colder as we ascended. We mentioned this to Yahaya at breakfast, who after giving us a puzzled look, strode off wordlessly towards our tent. When he returned, he explained that the sleeping bags, whilst they looked identical, were in fact different sizes and he suspected Dave had used the small one which explained why it wasn’t long enough for him and me the large one meaning there was too much room inside for my body to keep warm!! Oops!


Breakfast was porridge, frankfurter sausages, omelette & bread. It was filling and plentiful. After breakfast we were asked to bring our hydration bladders to be filled. One of the porter's responsibility at each camp was to source water from nearby and purify it by boiling so each morning we could be given clean, cold drinking water.


The walk today was in the sunshine, it had been frosty when we first got up but the sun soon came out and warmed us as we walked out of the forest and into shrub land. We walked for about 5 hours, steadily uphill, climbing 818m in altitude but only covering about 5km. We didn’t struggle as the pace was so slow and we entertained ourselves by talking about music and films. Linus, who’s English was incredible, is a big film buff and he loved talking about films he wanted to see.


We arrived at camp by lunchtime where once again everything was waiting for us. The porters pack up after you leave camp, overtake you on the path, and set up before you arrive. They are machines with superhuman strength.


Lunch was courgette soup followed by chicken, veg, lots of roast potatoes and fruit to round it all off. Any chances of losing weight on the mountain were rapidly going out the window!!


As we had arrived at camp so early and the sun was gloriously warm, me, Stephen & Evie shared our afternoon water bowls and came up with a system to wash our hair! One bowl kept aside for body washing (strictly no rinsing your dirty cloth back in the bowl!), one bowl for shampooing and the last for rinsing - genious! For those of you wondering, no Dave isn't less clean, he just doesn't have any hair!


Around 4.30pm Yahaya took us up to a local high point to help with acclimatisation, which took about 45 minutes. The views of Mount Meru in the distance were spectacular and we were rewarded with a great sunset that lit up the peak of Kili with some amazing colours.


Sunset reflecting off Kili
Sunset reflecting off Kili

This was the first time we had got a glimpse of the summit. It was magnificent but also terrifying as to how high it looked. The summit has a number of glaciers on it, but Linus told us the area they span has greatly reduced due to global warming.


Day 3 – Lava Tower (4627m) – Barranco Camp (3986m)


We both slept much better in the correct sleeping bags! Wake up by Omi was at 6am and he brought our ‘washy washy’ as he called it. After a bowl wash, breakfast of porridge, omelette and cooked banana we set off walking at 7.50am.


I had been very worried about how it would feel not showering for so long but we were all feeling surprisingly fresh! We had each taken a small cloth, like a thin flannel to use for washing which turned out to be a great idea as you felt you'd had a decent wash and it could dry tied to your bag or hung from the tent ready for your next washy washy!


Our mission today was to make it to Lava Tower by lunch time. At 4,627m this would give us our first real taste of altitude and the effects it can have. It was sunny again but slightly cooler than the previous day, and there was nervous anticipation in the air. We had so far avoided any ill effects from the altitude, I had a slightly queasy stomach this particular morning, but it was hard to know whether that was altitude, anxiousness or perhaps even the food not agreeing with me. Nothing an Imodium couldn’t cure immediately.


As usual the 6 of us took a really slow, steady pace and made it to Lava Tower unscathed. When we arrived, we discovered Callum had been there for a couple of hours already, having stuck to his ill-advised accelerated speed and was nursing a nose bleed and severe headache!


We enjoyed a soup and potato filled lunch at Lava Tower before starting our descent into the Barranco valley. The path was dotted with huge giant groundsel plants called Dendrosenecio, found only on Kilimanjaro. Yahaya told us that each ‘branch’ takes at least 25 years to grow!

About 10 minutes before we reached our camp for the night, a group of our lovely porters came and met us on the trail, insisted on taking our day packs off us and congratulated us on our day!


Dendrosenecio
Dendrosenecio

Dinner was at 6.30pm and we all had an early night. Despite not covering excessive kilometres we were all tired when we reached camp each night, walking at altitude even without suffering from headaches, sickness and all the other nasty effects is certainly tiring.



Day 4 – Karanga Valley (4,034m)


Our challenge today was to make it up the famous Barranco Wall. It wasn’t a technical climb as such but you needed your hands to help you scramble up the rocks. We had to walk in single file and there was one particularly nerve-racking part where you had to hug tight to the rock to cross, with a sheer drop below. Going up the wall was actually quite fun and not as scary as some of the blogs I read made out. You must take care and treat it with respect, but it would certainly be a freak accident for something to happen. It took a couple of hours to reach the top where we had a break and took some silly photo shots. You could see the summit again from here and it felt like it was slowly getting closer.


We were encouraged to descent into the valley quite quickly to mimic what would be required on summit night. The views across the valley were incredible. We descended right down into the valley and back up the other side with a final descent back down to camp in time for lunch.


Luca, our chef gave us all the most amazing pick me up – fried chicken and chips!! It was delicious. All the food is carried from the base of the mountain, nothing is sourced on route, so someone had carried a bag of potatoes for 4 days to allow us to have chips for lunch!


Some very happy faces after chicken & chips!
Some very happy faces after chicken & chips!

We had some free time after lunch, some of us napped, others read or played cards.


At 5pm we were gathered to have a proper introduction with our team of 27 porters, apparently this normally happens within the first couple of days but our main guide, Yahaya, kept getting called away for emergencies (one porter had to be signed out and had to head back down as he was sick, another twisted his ankle so had to be relieved of the bags he was carrying and also head back down, and a third had fallen and hurt his neck and so Yahaya had to go back to meet him and carry his bag for him – certainly a hazardous profession!). Each porter introduced himself by name and we tried to remember them all – with little success! Yahaya then introduced the four ‘special porters’ as they were referred to – John, who was in charge of selecting our camp spots (& always did a fabulous job), Hamado who cleaned and emptied the toilet, also known as ‘running the internet café! (What a job! But man were we grateful for him), Pedro (we never did find out his real name!) filtered our water to make it safe for us to drink and Omi our ‘waiter’. We thanked them for their superhuman powers, introduced ourselves and explained why we were climbing Kili. We then played catch with some of the crew before dinner.


Our guides & porters for the trek
Our guides & porters for the trek

Dinner was the usual soup, meat and carbs but tasty as always and we were told to ‘eat for the mission’ so we did.


Day 5 – Barrafu Camp - Base Camp (4662m)


The walk today was short, only 5km across lunar like landscape. As you climb higher you lose the trees and plants and are left with only the hardiest of shrub. The walk only took about 3-4 hours and so we were at base camp by lunch time.


Once again John had picked us a good spot in what was an odd, inhospitable, and very rocky landscape. Our tents were up, Lucas was cooking up a storm and Omi was running around with his standard smiley face!


After lunch we were told to rest before an early dinner & we all managed to get a couple of hours sleep. It is amazing how you can be so worn out after such a small walk at altitude.


We had dinner and then were briefed for our summit attempt. We were going to be setting off at 11.30pm, our water bladders would be filled with warm water to help stop them freezing and we would be joined by 3 porters in addition to Yahaya and Linus. We all felt motivated by their talk and keen for the time to come.


Base camp photo opportunity with Kili in the back ground
Base camp photo opportunity with Kili in the back ground

Day 6 – 21st September 2019 – Summit attempt (5895m) to Mweka camp (3100m)


After grabbing a couple more hours rest, we were woken at 10.30pm & once dressed in all our summit night layers were given hot drinks and biscuits.


The summit attempt was split into three sections. The first section involved climbing up some pretty big boulders, which thankfully the team were able to help those like me, with short legs, up. Yahaya had planned summit night to a tee, and we were keen to stick to his plan in order to stand the best chance of reaching the summit. He led the group and insisted that we walked in single file in a certain order behind him. We think the order was to do with having the slowest walkers at the front and keeping partners apart so that we couldn’t moan to each other about the small discomforts, and instead encourage us to be brave and keep going. The first section was fine; albeit quite surreal walking in the pitch black, lighting the way with only our headtorches. As we climbed higher you could look down and see lots of little groups of people winding their way up like little fireflies. Dave had carefully selected a music playlist to keep us upbeat and we had everyone singing and dancing, even other groups, as we wound our way up.


We were told there are two reasons you attempt the summit at night. Firstly, it would be too difficult in the heat of the da, and secondly, the path snakes its way up, switching back on itself constantly. In the light you would be able to see your destination and be completely disheartened about how long it was taking to get there. In the dark you are blind to this and almost on autopilot, just keep putting one foot in front of the other with no goal in site other than to keep going.



It was bitterly cold but we all had plenty of layers on and so were fine. Mine and Evie’s hands were tingling from the cold but other than that we had no real complaints. We later learnt that it was about minus 5°c the whole night, which meant we were lucky as it can drop as low as minus 25°c!


The end of the first section was marked by a break in which we were given ginger tea and told to eat one of the snacks we had been given as we set off from camp (we all had a juice carton, a chocolate bar and a small packet of biscuits). The ginger tea is great for warming you through and helps keeps symptoms of altitude sickness at bay.


The second section was up to Stella Point at the top of the ridge, at about 5,685m. Yahaya had warned us that this would be the hardest section and the one where people are most likely to give up. It certainly was long and the many switch backs in the path made it feel endless. The first few hours in this section were okay, but the last few started to drag. The music continued but the chatter quietened, and we all just focused on keeping going. You know when you attend a gym class and you are out of breath, your muscles are burning and the instructor tells you to dig deep? I feel like that is what we were doing for the last couple of hours before reaching Stella Point, we focused our energy and dug deep to keep going. Chatting afterwards we all agreed there wasn’t even a second we considered giving in. Our guides and porters were amazing and if they thought any of us looked like we were flagging they started singing! As I have already mentioned though, we were lucky and none of us felt the effects of altitude too badly. We passed one man who looked exhausted, he was struggling to even put one foot in front of the other and kept having to stop to vomit – he was forced to turn back.


There is a path up to Stella Point and a different one down that is much steeper and more direct back down to base camp. We met Callum, the 7th member of our group with Edie our other assistant guide at this crossroad. Although he set off at the same time as us it had been agreed he could go ahead with Edie and had successfully summited and was now on his descent. He seemed okay and clearly very proud of the time it had taken him, but the sun hadn’t risen yet, so his summit had been in complete darkness! I guess we all have different goals, so hats off to him for achieving his.


Shortly after this, the sun began to creep into view over the horizon to our right and gave us the boost we needed to make it to Stella Point. It was beautiful!


Sun rise from Stella Point
Sun rise from Stella Point

At Stella Point we had more ginger tea and another snack, but Yahaya was keen for us to not stop for too long and keep going to the summit. Looking around the group, although tired, we knew we were going to make it from here.


The final section was about an hour long, slightly uphill but along the ridge so the hard climb was done. The approach was quite emotional, but the lack of oxygen makes it very hard to cry without hyperventilating! So we pulled ourselves together and reached the famous summit sign and finished ‘the mission’ together, the 11 of us, at about 7am.


Summit shot with the MNDA banner
Summit shot with the MNDA banner

Pictures galore at the summit and lots of hugs! Not sure if you noticed but we summited on 21st September, so Earth, Wind & Fire’s song, ‘September’ became our summit song. Throw in Yahaya, our lead guide and you may now understand the name of this blog 😉


After about 15 minutes Yahaya was keen to get us down below 5,000m as quickly as possible. We descended to Stella Point where we took a few more photos there as we hadn’t on the way up. The descent was incredibly fast and steep, down scree which slides beneath you and means you sort of ski your way down! We were back at base camp at 10am – tired, dusty but incredibly proud of ourselves. Yahaya has decided to take Evie down a different, even steeper route. We are not totally sure why as she said she didn’t feel particularly bad, but he must have detected something that made him think she needed to get down quicker, so he took her on the ‘Yahaya Express' and she was practically dragged down the mountain and had been at camp for a good half hour before we arrived! Evie suffers with anxiety so on top of all the other challenges we faced she had worked hard to overcome her fears & so she was very proud of this achievement (as were we!).


We were greeted by high fives from the porter team and the most delicious pineapple squash from Omi!


We were told we had until 11.30am to sleep before continuing our descent from base camp. I think we were asleep before our heads hit the sleeping bag and the alarm an hour later was not well received!


After a sort of breakfast/lunch mix we felt a bit more alive and set off, descending to the next camp. We were told camp was 7.5km but James tracked it and it was just short of 11km! It was all downhill and extremely hard on our knees. We were all shattered and our legs were like jelly; I think we all hit the deck at least once!! However, spirits were high and we made it to camp in about 3.5 hours. Our obligatory ‘made it to camp’ photo is hilarious as we all look exhausted!


Dinner was early at 5.30pm and then it was pretty much straight to bed.


Day 7 – Exit gate (1600m)


We agreed to get up really early today so that the porters who lived in Arusha would have time to get out the park and catch the last bus home which, as it was a Sunday, was earlier than normal.


We rose at 5am and were walking by 6am. It was about 10km to the gate, all downhill and a similar rocky terrain to yesterday. We made it by 9.30am.


At the gate, feeling more energetic than we had last night at camp, we celebrated our success with some cold beers (yes, we are aware it was only 9.30am but climb Kili yourself before you judge us 😉). Yahaya had been off sorting our paperwork but when he reappeared, he led us around the other side of the building where we were greeted by 35 porters (our team and the team from the other Pristine Trails group that had been on the mountain at the same time as us) singing and dancing to celebrate our achievement. More beers were thrust at us and we were encouraged to join in! After this we were back on the bus where the singing continued and Yahaya found out it was Dave’s birthday and made a quick call to arrange a surprise.


Dave with his Birthday cake
Dave with his Birthday cake

At the office we sorted out the tips (guidance on this here), gathered the belongings we had left pre trek and were ready to head back to the hotel, but not before Dave was presented with a huge iced birthday cake that said ‘Happy Birthday Dave’ on it and bottles of sparkling wine. The guides got wind of the fact it was Dave's Birthday & Pristine kindly arranged a cake as a surprise. It was such an amazing gesture and Dave was made up. He did then however have to spend about half an hour trying to cut up this massive case for 35 porters, 5 guides and 12 trekkers with a butter knife 😂


Rather than head back to the more basic Leopard Hotel, we decided to upgrade to Kili Wonders where we enjoyed a much needed and very well deserved shower! The hotel was lovely, clean modern rooms, a swimming pool, bar and restaurant. That night we celebrated our success with a meal and drinks in the hotel restaurant before heading to bed for a good night’s sleep in a proper bed.


We'd love to hear from you if you take on Kilimanjaro, to hear about how you found it too. Please drop a message in the comments at the bottom of the page. For answers to more questions, you may have about Kilimanjaro or maybe ones you haven't thought of yet.


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