Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mt. Kilimajaro Tips

I am writing this in response to a request from a friend, Hillary, who will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with her father Mitch and friends in January 2009. I thought some of you may find it interesting.

Our guide service was Kessy Brothers, we did the Machame Route. There website may be linked below. With the 6 of us we were able to pay only $816 to get up the mountain. This did not include tips.

The Kessy Brothers was a middle of the road guide service, no frills, but enough to get you up the mountain. The best guide service I heard about and saw on the mountain was Tusker, I'm sure they cost more but your trip is sure to be more comfortable.

Things to consider:
-The 6 day 5 night Machame Route was great, very scenic, I highly recommend it. If you have time and money you should strongly consider adding one more acclimatization day, it will only help. When you go up the Machame Route you go down the Mweka Route, a route only for descending.
-Kilimanjaro Porter's Association Tipping Recommendations ( We tipped lower than recommended and it was awkward because we gave the tip the morning of the last day on the mountain. We tipped lower because we didn't have the money to tip more, our service was fine, US Peace Corps volunteers don't make much money. The main guide argued with us for a long time and it made the hike down unpleasant. I recommend giving the tip at the office to the guides so that if they want to argue the company representative is present. Or just give big tips and then you shouldn't have any worries.

Main Items to Bring:
-Tent (if you go with a reputable company they may have tents you can use, we had our own tents and the porter set the up for us in a rough manner, broken tent stakes, if the company has tents it could be worth using theirs)
-Sleeping Bag (bring a 10 degrees Fahrenheit bag, it gets really cold up there)
-Sleeping Pad (you don't want to be directly on the frozen ground)
-Hiking Boots (waterproof or all leather are recommended, I climbed the mountain in flip-flops and trainers)
-Sandals (light weight, to wear around camp and let your feet air out)
-Gaiters (to keep out rocks and dirt on the climb down)
-Socks (you will want to wear 2 pair on the summit day)
-Thermal Pants
-Fleece Pants
-Convertible Pants (or shorts and pants)
-Rain Pants (these are necessary for the rain and the wind)
-Short Sleeved Shirt
-Thermal Shirt
-Fleece Top (a full zippered with pit zips for ventilation would be nice)
-Down Jacket (or something really warm)
-Rain Coat (with hood)
-Scarf (this was a clutch item for me blocking the wind from my face on summit day)
-Balaclava (I did not have one but it would have been nice to use on summit day)
-Warm Hat
-Sun Hat
-Gloves (light weight)
-Warm Mittens (for summit and cold days)
-Sun Glasses (with Chums)
-Sun Screen
-Chap stick (for your mouth, I also used on my nose as it will get chapped from wiping)
-Trekking Poles (they are great for the way down, save your knees, I used the whole time up and down)
-Day Pack (you will hike with it, pack up 3 liters of water, extra clothes, rain gear, etc.)
-Pack Rain Cover (for your day pack)
-3 liters worth of water containers (I used one water bottle and a bladder, to help your bladder hose from freezing after you drink blow air into the hose)
-Water Treatment Drops (I used Aerobic O7, you may order it at, 2 drops per liter for water treatment, got the idea from the wilderness therapeutic camp I worked at)
-Large back pack for porters to carry (will have your tent, sleeping bag, and other belongings in it, you may want to bring a large plastic sack to put your items in to keep them dry as you will not be hiking near your large pack)
-Head Lamp (with new batteries, bring at least one set of extra new batteries for summit day, you start hiking at midnight)
-Travel Pillow (guide services may have or you can just use extra clothes)
-Bandanna (use as a sweat/snot rag, you nose will be running a lot and cloth is nice on it)
-Snacks/Treats (we had plenty of food from our guide at camp, but snacks like peanuts or dried fruit during the day you keep in your day pack are nice)
-Journal and Pen
-Reading Book (optional)
-Cards (optional)
-Camera (fully charge the battery and make sure you have enough memory)

These are a few of the things I was thinking about for Mt. Kilimanjaro. For me it was a lot more physically challenging than I thought it would be, especially summit day. Good luck Hillary and Mitch!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

We spent Christmas in Moshi, Tanzania. I went with the Swedes to the center for street children they volunteer at. It was fun spending time with them, both the kids and the Swedes. That night we made Christmas dinner at the Swedes apartment, good old American pancakes. Then we caught a bus to Dar Es Salaam on Dec. 26 and spent the night with a local, thanks to Kristina, named Esther who was nice enough to pick us up from our hotel, take us to her house for drinks, and take us to a buffet. Who could ask for anything better.

The next day I made a decision to travel by myself and stayed in Dar Es Salaam while the others got on a bus around 5:30am to head south. They all need to be back in Mozambique relatively soon and I have a few months left before I head back so I decided, since the visa entry for Tanzania was $100 for 90 days, I would stay. I miss the group but am excited for the solo time ahead of me. So I got to spend a day with Esther's nieces in Dar Es Salaam. The next day I went to the beach with a friend I met at the YWCA hostel. And on Dec. 29 I caught a bus to Lushoto, Tanzania. It is a town located up high in the mountains, the perfect place to spend New Years!

Me absolutely dominating Pastory at arm wrestling, yes!!

Pastory and Maggie.

My favorite, even though you shouldn't have them, street kid, Pastory and I.

I taught the kids how to make snowflakes.

Maggie with the street kids in front of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.

The wonderful lunch that was donated to the shelter.

The Swedes (three girls from Sweden) that let us share Christmas dinner with them as long as we cooked them American pancakes, we accepted.

Ali, Chase and Hans throwing down some Christmas pancakes.

Freshly trimmed Paul on Christmas day, thanks Maggie.

Hans, a very strong mountain climber, showing his honor to the Disney movie Lion King by being Rafiki's stunt double. They speak some of the native tongue in the movie that is used in here in Tanzania, Swahili.

I was fortunate enough, thanks Kristina, to have some local hook ups in Dar Es Salaam. They took me to the beach front where we relaxed.

An ocean shot in Dar Es Salaam.

Oh how they love Obama here! If you can believe it, he is even more popular than Derron Williams of the Utah Jazz.

Resting up on Coca Beach in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

My feet deserved some beach time after climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I was one of four white skin colored people I saw on this beach, it was great!

This is the town I am staying in, Lushoto, Tanzania, for New Years and maybe more. I plan to do some hiking while I'm here.

Monday, December 22, 2008


The highest point on Mt. Kilimanjaro is Uhuru Peak on the volcano Kibo. It stands at 5,895 meters (19,341 ft).
Learn more about it at

We reached the summit via the Machame route at 6:20am on December 21, 2008

We are back from climbing to the highest point on the African continent, Mt. Kilimanjaro! It was a great time and 5 of the 6 of us made it to the summit, one person got altitude sickness about 2 hours from the summit and had to go back to camp. It was a very challenging climb, greater than I expected. On summit day, four people in our team threw up including our head guide, one person was very delirious and couldn't walk in a straight line for the last hour of the climb, and as mentioned previously one person had to turn back.

I wish this computer had the capabilities to crop photos, oh well, the photos below will give you an idea of what our 6 days on Mt. Kilimanjaro were like. Chase is updating his blog about the climb, visit his blog by linking to it on the top right of the page under Chase in Africa.

Camp 1.

Day 2, just hiking up and up. Our climbing team including our head guide. Standing from left to right: Chase, Hans, Jimmy, and Rasta (our guide). Sitting from left to right: Patrick, Ali, and me.

One of our delicious dinners in the mess tent, Jimmy is being served by the Assistant Cook. Our Head Cook Richard was wonderful and we always had plenty of food.

Climbing through the steep green portion of the mountain.

What appears to be a leopard print on the trail. Too bad we didn't get to see the cat.

Some trees and clouds.

Another camp's tent and a beautiful ridge line.

A tent from another climbing team and a mountain in the distance, not Kili.

The sunset from camp 2 looking out to another mountain, not Kili.

Mine and Chase's feet in our sandals at 4600 meters, 14,950 feet. We hiked in them all the way up to this point. After that is was too cold to go further without shoes.

Chase and I, loving life on the mountain!

Chase and I lounging around, the clouds rolling in.

Camp 3.

Mt. Kilimanjaro from camp 3.

The climbing team in the clouds at camp 3.

Sunrise on camp 3.

These trees are so bizarre, we loved them.

An amazing view.

A portion of the steepest part of the hike, nothing too technical.

Some trail action. Notice how much the porters carry, they hold rice bags full of gear on their heads. They are amazing.

Ali and Jimmy cruising up the trail.

Me with the trail we hiked in the background on the right, the same trail from the photo just above.

Hiking on day 4.

Camp 4, a view of my tent and Mt. Mawenzi in the background.

The sunrise while reaching the summit.

I finally reached the summit!

It took us 6 hours to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro where we watched the sunrise. From left to right: Chase, Ali, Hans, Me, Rasta (our Head Guide), and Patrick.

A view of the crater on Mt. Kili, looking west.

Our porters, cooks, guides, and climbing team on Day 6. An entourage just shy of 30 people.

An view from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro of the glacier to the south.

Cloudy Mt. Kili.

Me and the mountain during our descent.

Kids getting firewood and grass to feed there cattle from the mountain.

Me with two of our Assistant Guides, Anew and Happy God, at the gate leaving the Mt. Kilimanjaro national park.

My certificate saying I reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro at 6:20am on December 21, 2008.