Tanzania 2016

Mt. Kilimanjaro


The map above shows the trekking route in red with the campsites indicated.  We started at the top of the map where the blue meets red at Rongai Gate, and ended at the bottom at Marangu Gate.  Kilimanjaro has three sub-peaks, two of which are shown here.  Kibo is the center peak and is the highest.  Mawenzi was a frequent view for us throughout our trip.  The third peak, Shira, is to the west of Kibo.  We never saw Shira.  The summit of Kibo is referred to as Uhuru Peak.  This is the high point of Kilimanjaro, and Africa, at 5895 meters = 19,341 feet.

To get to the start climb, our guides picked us up at our hotel in Arusha with a bus that had a roof rack loaded with the gear and food we would need.  Our bags were added and we were off for the long drive to Rongai Gate right on the border with Kenya.  We started trekking mid-afternoon.  The table below shows the elevation and distance of each day:


start elevation (ft)

end elevation (ft)

net ascent (ft)

distance (mi)


10 Jan






11 Jan






12 Jan






13 Jan






14 Jan






15 Jan ascent






15 Jan descent





16 Jan







Ascent to Kibo Hut camp

The ascent of Kilimanjaro cannot be done too fast due to the need to adjust to the altitude.  Our itinerary allowed for a five day ascent to the base camp we used for our "summit push," including one rest day where we stayed at the same camp for two nights with a short acclimation hike on the day between.  With this itinerary, most of us didn't have too much trouble with the elevation gain.

The ascent starts in the forest outside the national park, with fields of crops being grown by local residents.  By the middle of the second day, we were above treeline where we would remain until the last day on the mountain.


Kilimanjaro in the haze, packing the bus, and Mt. Meru Hotel, our base in Arusha


Bus loaded, porters being hired at Rongai Gate, the group on the first section of trail


First camp, Mawenzi


Two views of Kibo and a small cascade


First cave, four striped mouse, second camp at Kikelewa Caves


Kibo, Mawenze, porter on trail


Kibo Hut camp in the distance, Kibo, Mawenzi over third camp at Mawenzi Tarn


Our tents at Mawenzi Tarn camp, dining tent, Mawenzi looming above camp


Clear view of Kibo with glaciers, Mawenzi Tarn and camp


Mawenzi and two views of Kibo


Views of Kibo and the trail through the "alpine desert"


Across the saddle toward our summit base camp at Kibo Hut

Summit Day

Summit day actually started at 10:30pm the night before, with a wakeup call to get ready for the climb.  We started the climb at 11:30 under the light of our headlamps.  There were stars in the sky as we pushed upward slowly ("pole pole" as the guides repeated endlessly, means "slowly, slowly").  The elevation gain from camp to the summit is nearly 4000 feet.  As we approached the crater rim, the trail turned into more of a rock scramble and snowflakes began to fall.  Gilman's Point is where you first reach the crater rim, and we took a short break here.  By the time we left, the wind was blowing and snowflakes continued to come down.  In the dark, we made our way around the crater rim to Stella Point, and then finally to Uhuru Peak, the high point on the mountain.  By now, it was starting to get light and it was evident that we would not have any wide-ranging views due to low clouds everywhere.  We posed for our picture at the summit sign, then started making our way back down by the same route we ascended.  We stopped on the way back for more pictures at Stella Point where there weren't as many people waiting for their own pictures as at Uhuru.  The trek back down to Kibo Hut camp was somewhat treacherous as the snow had gotten deeper and extended much further down the mountain than when we had ascended.  We all trickled back into camp between 9:30 and 11:00 or so, and had a short rest there before lunch and our afternoon move to the next camp.


Camp at Kibo Hut, the group at the summit sign, blizzard conditions


The group at Stella Point including our guides

Descent to Marangu Gate

The descent was much quicker than the ascent, as there is no need to worry about acclimation to altitude and most people hike downhill much faster than uphill.  We were on the Marangu Route for our descent, which was much more crowded as this is one of the most popular routes on the mountain, and it is used for ascent as well as descent.  We passed an area with many senecio trees on our way to Horombo Hut camp at 12,200 feet.  This represented a total of over 7000 feet of elevation loss from the summit.  The last day of the trek involved another 6000 or so feet of elevation loss to the Marangu Gate where our bus was waiting to take us back to Arusha.  Back in the trees we saw a tree hyrax in a tree who kept perfectly still for pictures, as well as some monkeys further down.


Brief clearing on Kibo late morning, Senecio trees, Kibo from the descent route


Mawenzi from the south, tree hyrax, Mandara Hut


Colobus monkey and blue monkey seen on lower section of trail the last day


Back to Tanzania main page