18 Dec

Tim's Epic Kilimanjaro Adventure

Tim's Epic Kilimanjaro Adventure Tim's Epic Kilimanjaro Adventure Tim's Epic Kilimanjaro Adventure Tim's Epic Kilimanjaro Adventure Tim's Epic Kilimanjaro Adventure
Day 1
Nalemoru Gate to Simba Camp, 11.8km

The whole team has met for the first time at Heathrow - some of us had met up briefly in the previous weeks to undertake training walks. There is an air of shared anticipation and anxiety, for both the able-bodied and the amputees for what the mountain may challenge us with.

Arriving in Tanzania, we stay overnight at a hotel in Moshi before a three hour drive to the Nalemoru Gate, the start of the Rongai Route. The clouds have cleared after the previous night’s downpour and we have clear views of the Kilimanjaro, as the road arcs around Mawenzi Peak until we finally see the Kilimanjaro Cone.

Our first day trek takes us through the rainforest. After two hours we break cover into the moorland zone and look back over the plains of below. Another two hours brings us to Simba Camp.  
Day 2
Simba Camp to Second Cave Cam, 13.2km

We are woken at 6am with a mug of tea and a small bowl of hot water for washing. Breakfast is at 7am, with departure scheduled for 8. It is the first time that we really get to meet the whole support team from the Tanzanian Travel Company (TTC), upwards of sixty personnel from porters to cooks and guides. We are welcomed with the traditional ‘Kilimanjaro song and dance’ by the whole TTC team before we start on the long and often rocky path upwards.

The first of the group reach Second Cave camp by 4pm, but a few of the group are struggling and don’t get in until 6pm. The clouds clear and we get views of Kilimanjaro. As night falls the temperature drops and the tent flysheets start to freeze.

Day 3
Second Cave Camp to Kikelewa Camp, 13.3km

We awake to fine views of Mawenzi Peak. Yesterday has taken its toll on some of our team both with illness and exhaustion, and sadly we have to say goodbye to three of our amputees and two of their partners who have to head down the mountain. For the rest of us we turn our attention back to the task ahead and start walking slowly. On Kili the phase is ‘Pole – Pole’ (pronounced ‘Poly-Poly), which means ‘Slowly-Slowly’; any attempt at going fast will leave you short of breath.

The track climbs steadily, contouring the side of the mountain with numerous ups and downs as we cross small mountain streams. We always have a view of Mawenzie Peak ahead and Kili behind us, and by mid-afternoon we reach Kikelewa Camp and take a well-earned rest.

Day 4
Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp, 11.9km

This morning we awake to find ourselves above cloud base with sunshine and no wind and one of the best sun rises I have ever seen. The mess tent is removed so that we can breakfast alfresco. We have views of Kilimanjaro and Mawenzi Peak.

Today the path appears to go on a continuous upward ascent with no let-up; Mawenzi Peak above guides us onwards. Only when we crest a final ridge do we contour into the bowl which holds the Mawenzi Tarn around which the tents are scattered.

We have reached camp by mid-afternoon and after a mug of tea we take a short acclimatisation hike up to the western ridge. The sun is almost down by the time we have descended and the temperature drops rapidly.

Day 5
Mawenzi Tarn Camp to Kibo base camp, 17.2km

Today’s walk takes us on a steep descent from the western ridge of Mawenzi then an ascent before we reach the ‘saddle’ - an area of high altitude desert between Mawenzi and Kilimanjaro. The altitude is taking its toll, and the group naturally divides as people move at different speeds.

Kibo huts acts as a base camp for the summit ascent from the eastern side of Kili. It's colder up here and everyone is breathless. We now have limited time to acclimatise a little more before we start the trek to the summits at midnight. There are three recognised summits on Kilimanjaro; Gilman’s Point the third highest, Stella Point the second highest and Uruhu Peak the highest. We sleep fitfully for 3-4 hours before our alarms wake us at midnight

Day 6
Summit day, 14km

We depart camp at 1am. A procession of head torches start to wind slowly up the lower scree slopes of Kilimanjaro. Fortunately we have clear weather. Ahead we can see other torch lit processions each heading for a summit.

Dawn breaks with the sun rising over a high cloud base that obscures Mawenzi Peak.The loose scree and rocks slow us down considerably and the final haul up to Gilman’s Point is a hand and foot scramble over rocks. We are on the rim and can now view the whole expanse of the crater below us. Chris and Rebecca (both above-knee amputees) reach Uruhu - the team has now achieved four amputees on the summits of Kilimanjaro.

We stay the night at Kibo again and have a well-earned rest. The weather sets in and it starts to sleet and snow, and we are thankful that we are not setting out this evening.

Day 7
Kibo to Horombo, 14.1km

We awake to views of Kilimanjaro with its slopes dusted with snow. We are above cloud base and feel on top of the world. Although not far in distance, it will take as much time as an ascent - it often takes an amputee 50% longer than an able-bodied person to descend a mountain track depending upon terrain and confidence in the prosthetic leg.

We descend from the high altitude desert, down through the alpine moorland zone and pass through the cloud base and swirling mist; until after six hours we reach the road head and Horombo Camp.

Day 8
Horombo to Marangu gate, 29.2km

We awake to the most surreal mushroom cloud formation over Kilimanjaro; it’s a cold start to the morning and once again the slopes of Kilimanjaro are swathed in snow. It’s our last day on the mountain and the final 12 miles drops steeply from alpine zones and down into the rain forest.

The descent is tough and relentless; with our legs still aching after summit day. Gradually we drop through the moorland zone and into the forest zone, We hear, and then spot a troop of Colobus monkeys high up in the trees just before a quick lunch stop at Mandara Huts.

As we near the park gate we hear music and singing and we emerge to a welcome ceremony in our honour hosted by park officials, members of the Tanzanian Parliament, leaders from Tanzanian disability groups and a host of media personnel. On summit day, the large team that we had passed so happened to be government employees - including the Minister for Tourism. Inspired on by our team they wanted to meet us and share our experience. It was truly a meeting of minds where disability needs to be an accepted part of our culture and society and everyone should seek to achieve equality. 

See the link for a video of the team on Tanzania News:
A huge congratulations to Tim and the entire team from all of us here at Steeper!