Kilimanjaro, Part 1

tlt-kili-kenyaviewWhen I interviewed my friend, Dave about his climb of Kilimanjaro I had one burning question: Why? To my relief he had a better reason than, Because it was there. His story will span the next three blog posts.

Part 1

When I was eight years old my parents took me to the Rocky Mountains. Ever since then I’ve loved the mountains—their vistas and remote feeling. I also like the physical challenge and accomplishment of climbing.

During my college and grad school years I organized some backpacking and climbing trips with friends. However, it had been over ten years since my last backpack trip.

Kilimanjaro was different than anything I’d done previously. In some ways it was the most challenging. Of course, I was older, too.

It took me three years to organize this trip. I invited many friends. In the end, four of us were able to make it. Aside from looking forward to the climb, I hoped to renew and deepen these friendships. More than that, I hoped it would be a kind of spiritual retreat. The part God would play was the most important aspect to me.

The part God would play was the most important aspect to me.

We flew into Nairobi, Kenya and took a bus to Moshi, Tanzania. I was grateful we did it that way because it gave me a greater sense of African culture. It also helped renew my perception of the majority of the world, to see the people’s subsistence way of living—kids herding goats, arid villages—mile after mile after mile.

In our western culture, we tend to love stuff. The trip reminded me to be a good steward. More importantly, it reminded me to love people with God’s love.

The bus ride was good for me, but it was very challenging for one of my friends. He’s 6’4”. For him it was a long uncomfortable ride with his knees crunched up against the back of the next seat.

To prepare for the trip, I trained with a 30 lb. pack (including 1 ½ gallons of water/approximately 13 lbs). I hiked the hills surrounding my neighborhood. However, the altitude of those hills wasn’t nearly as challenging as I needed.

Altitude is the nemesis.

Kilimanjaro is on the equator. Since the temperature remains basically the same, the climbing season is year-round. However the most popular months are August-September when there is little rainfall and few clouds.

We took the Lemosho route, which is moderately difficult. I sold it to my friends as a very long walk in the park, at high altitude. There’s a little rock scrambling, but no need to rope up for it. We had four guides and fifteen porters.

It was dry all 10 days we were there. We passed through 5 ecological zones including a short walk through jungle as we made our way up. We ascended fast that first day reaching semi-alpine level with Heath vegetation. When we began our trek it was low 80s.

tlt-kili-1As a self-sufficient backpacker, I felt like I was cheating with my 25 lbs. personal daypack. But I got used to it fast. The porters carried the bulk of our supplies, provisions, and water. They accompanied us to the base camp at 15,600 feet where they waited while the eight of us continued to the peak.

At 12:45 a.m. we began the final leg of our ascent to the summit. Night climbing is good because you don’t rely on your eyes to do it all. You use your other senses to check your balance—your grip or your sense of touch tells you if you’ve got a good handhold or foothold.

full-moon-11064_960_720We walked by the light of the full moon. I’d never done that before. I much preferred it to the headlamps. Some in our group left their headlamps on. That became a problem for me since their lamps caused confusing shadows.

“Pole, pole,” the guides said.

“Slowly, slowly” is the translation of their mantra. As I said, Altitude is the nemesis. You need to conserve your strength. I never got altitude sickness, but I did get so very tired and drowsy. All I wanted was to sleep.

Our lead guide insisted, “You need to eat. What do you have?” He dug in my pack and handed me a Snicker’s Bar. “Eat this.”

When I finished eating, I wanted more. But there wasn’t any more. The guide allowed me to sleep for ten minutes while I sat on a rock. Then we had to move on.

End of Part 1

Travel Tips:
Dave used Ultimate Kilimanjaro’s web site for research and planning purposes
There are 7 main routes to choose from. The longer you take, the more time you have to acclimate and the better your chances of reaching the summit.


I guess we never know when a Snicker’s Bar will come in handy. This is great advertisement for them. Join us next week as we continue the climb with Dave and friends.

In the meantime, tell me what mountains you’ve climbed. Or tell me when a Snicker’s Bar has saved you.

Giveaway Results: Only 2 people commented here to participate in the drawing for the free book. However, many of you participated through my Facebook Author page via the Facebook button under my name on the upper right side of this page. A winner was chosen and has been notified.

Until next time…Travel Light,

© 2017 SuZan Klassen

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