Ascent of Kilimanjaro on 2006-01-25

Climber: Ben Lostracco

Others in Party:guide Joaquim
cook Prosper
plus 3 porters
Date:Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:19341 ft / 5895 m

Ascent Trip Report

For the Mount Meru climb and other activities prior to Kili (Jan 9 - Jan 19) see the Mount Meru TR dated 2006-01-17.

As usual Lisa gives you excellent service, she picked me up at the Lodge and drove me to her WS Safari Office, in Arusha town center (elev 4000ft). Joaquim and Prosper loaded the gear. We all drove to Machame, on the way we saw a lot of people and animals on the side of the road and in the fields. We drove thru a "banana market" mostly attended by a few hundred brightly dressed women, a most beautiful site. In Machame we stopped at a butcher shop to by fresh meat for the trip. The Chaga people inhabit this area.

We arrived at the MACHAME GATE (elev 5900ft), driving past approx 100 porters, waiting to be hired, as we entered the gate. We were the first to arrive (more or less a daily occurence - which I like), not long after the parking area inside the gate was full of outfitters.
Lisa brought me to the Machame Park Office to register a la Mount Meru. She had to pay 60$/d + 240$ for camp fees + 24$ for porters, for a total of 684$. I have never paid this kind of money for a park - a Government money grab ?
The gates are opened and the porters are let in for a very interesting scene. They probably go to the outfitter that they know, everyone moves every which way ! ! it appears very disorganized and chaotic ! ! probably not the case for those involved. There doesn't seem to be a priority system, yet. I can see the porters unionizing themselves. Similar to the old days at our ports when they hired daily labour. Kili is a job creation business. Once the porters are chosen and the gear is divided into backpacks or baskets it is weighed (45# max).

11h00 HOURS - Joaquim instructed Prosper to lead me up the trail, while he stayed back to sort out the porter situation. The mostly smooth trail, well drained and graded, is covered by a canopy of lush tropical vegetation - which you loose as you climb higher and reach the first camp site. Some rock and steps as you near the camp, you are on a ridge for most of the climb. Half way up we stopped for lunch at an area c/w benches and latrine. Easy/mod climb "pole pole" (which I would hear for the rest of the trip).

15h00 HOURS - We arrived MACHAME CAMP (elev 9800ft) located on a somewhat flat part of a ridge, campsites spread all over the place in mid-sized vegetation, tall blackberry bushes (ate some), you don't see the other sites. I was the first to leave and the first to arrive.
Prosper brought me to the Ranger Station for registration. With the Ranger's approval I checked his register - approx 1100 signed in since January 1st,2006 and at 684$ a head that's a lot of $$$$$. German's are the big travelers, most Canadians are from Quebec (27 Montrealers signed in on Jan 16). Joaquim and the Porters arrived as I was talking to the Ranger, they set up camp - kitchen and sleeping tents. My (2 person) tent away from theirs (the royal treatment).
Not long after the rains started, I got into my tent and didn't get wet, sorted my gear. A bit later Prosper came in with hot water, followed by cookies and tea. I rested as I snacked ! ! great royal life ! ! you don't have to do any work. Joaquim came in to inform me that he had to accept a 3rd porter because of weight. He was telling me this because they apparently don't get paid and they rely on tips (I would never see this 3rd guy, apparently after each days carry he went to his friends). My Kili team - Joaquim, Prosper and 3 porters. Kili is much more regulated than Mount Meru, its a bigger deal employing more people. People come to Tanzania for Kili.

17h30 HOURS - The rains ceased with signs of sun, dinner is served. Prosper and the others bring a table to the tent c/w table cloth, china and utensils, running back and forth from the kitchen to my tent. Served like a king ! ! I really didn't like this service, uneasy about this whole scene, I employ 5 people ! ! for things I normally do myself. On Kili you got no choice, it's obligatory. Dinner of soup, boiled potatoes with onions, beef stew, cukes, tomatoes, fruit and drinks - it was very good. You can eat as much as you want, the rest eat after you are finished.
After dinner the sun came out and lit the inside of the tent, a very quite peaceful scene. Everything is wet and the only noise you hear is the faraway Swahili language with some laughter and the clanging of dishes. I walked around to check out the others. I am feeling great, no altitude symptoms, some soreness in my ankles, oxy reading 94. Today's gear - nylon shirt and pant, hat, limmers with 2 pairs of socks, no hiking poles.

DAY #2 (Jan 21) - MACHAME CAMP/SHIRA CAMP (elev 12500')
Had a hard time sleeping, I went to the toilet really early under a starry, 5/8 moon skies. 0xy reading 90, I feel good. The AM routine is the same as Mount Meru, the difference being I am in a tent instead of a hut, hot water is delivered to your tent before breakfast which was served on a flat rock near the tent.

I started out following Joaquim as we climbed a ridge to a large plateau, then slightly downgrade to Shira Camp. The climb was mod/steep with rock steps and some scrambling, weaving around huge volcanic rocks, few small caves. We had fast moving clouds with holes of sun, and when available super views of Kili and Meru. Interesting/exhilirating climb, 5 short breaks, not difficult, "pole pole". We've climbed 6600 feet in 2 days, 6840 feet to go. Clear sunny AM but cool. I got cold when we stopped, I kept the stop to a minimum. I wore the same gear as yesterday but added a sun hat.

11h45 hrs - Arrived Shira Camp located before the large cave, a short day. A huge, rocky, scrubby looking camping area among low brush/rocks/grass. Prosper and the porters, who passed us on the way, had camp already set up. The usual routine, changed into camp clothes, after lunch I walked around camp, visited the cave (once used by porters, now prohibited due to safety concerns) and talked to numerous climbers. The Ranger came around to register the different groups.
Short rain in PM so I was served dinner in the tent - pasta with meat sauce, soup, banana fries, fruit and drinks.
Oxy reading 85, I feel good, some ankle soreness. Updated my dairy and as usual I got comfy in my bag very early.

Once again I had a hard time sleeping, usual AM routine. I met/talked to Jeff, a 77year old Stratford ON, Canadian, his first time at this kind of altitude, was having trouble.
I left camp (12500') with Joaquim leading the way up the ridge with a light wind, to a TRAIL JCT (14500') just before LAVA TOWER, at this point it was very cold and windy. Here you have the choice of going straight over Lava Tower's shoulder (15000') for a better acclimatization, or turning right and descending to Barranco Camp (13000'). I chose the Lava Tower route, the porters will go directly to Camp. At the Lava Tower campsite you can keep going up to Glacier Hut (another route to Kili) or turn down to Barranco Camp, our route and destination.

At the trail junction noted above I had to go to the toilet really bad ! ! the 2nd time this AM ! ! very unusual, very soft stool. We took a 1/2 hour break here to add clothing, vey windy and cold.

The moderate trail ascending from Shira Camp to the forenoted trail junction climbs on an open ridge, snaking its way thru huge boulders, then once on the Lava Tower campsite it drops steeply/rocky/slippery to Barranco Camp (most difficult section to date). The descent to Camp is spectacular, lots of huge lava rocks, rocky and loose gravel and weird shaped trees. On these open trails you can see the other climbers/porters, up and down the trail, as far as the eye can see. A beautiful sight.
The climb was "pole pole", didn't tax the cardio system, however I couldn't move all that quick, lots of water breaks. The scenic PANORAMA IS AWESOME. We can't see the summit from here.

14h00 hrs - Arrived Barranco Camp (13000'), again Camp was all set up. The usual routine for lunch ! ! I had to rush to the toilet for the 3rd time ! ! Relaxed as much as possible. I need the recovery time. Jeff walked in after 16h00 hours looking tired, he didn't go over Lava Tower. The Ranger came around for the registration.

Today I wore the same gear as the last few days except that I added a windbreaker because of the wind. At the trail junction I was freezing. I added a 2nd layer, heavy jacket + gortex top and bottom and a touque, I was ok after that. Once I started the descent from Lava Tower I gradually started to shed the extra gear. So far all the gear that I brought is working ok, I had to borrow from Joaquim the items I forgot - poncho, camp pants, thermos for tea.

19h00 hrs - Joaquim gave me his daily briefing for tomorrow, it will be shorter than today. I like this slow approach, it is enjoyable. To bed, oxy reading 86, I feel good. Ankle soreness not as bad today.

DAY #4 (Jan 23)- BARRANCO CAMP/KARANGA CAMP elev 13100'
Met SIMON PETER MTUY, a popular ULTRAMARATHONER from Tanzania.
I had to get up in the early AM to go to the toilet, starry sky, lights of the town of Moshi down in the valley, beautifull serene sight. I later arose to a frosty, clear AM followed by clouds in the late PM. The usual AM routine, calves a bit sore otherwise I feel ok. I took my weekly malaria pill, chatted with Denis & Hal from MD,USA. ! ! toilet again ! !

Joaquim led me out of Barranco Camp (13000'), a late start due to a short day. The highlight of the day came early, the climb up "the BARRANCO WALL or breakfast wall", a very steep scramble with hand work in a number of places. In a few places it is very narrow, you walk side ways facing the rock face. Once on top of the wall (14100') the trail drops steeply over rocks, undulates over small ridges, before going up the West ridge of the Karanga Valley. A steep drop brings you to the valley floor where you cross the river and climb steeply up the other side to the top of East ridge and the Karanga camp (13100'). I concentrated on the breathing and a "pole pole" pace.

12h15 hrs - Arrived karamba camp after a 3 1/2 hour climb, the temperature a cool 50F with a light wind. We registered at the Ranger Station. The usual routine, ate a hot lunch - roasted chicken, french fries, cole slaw, soup, fruit, tea. I have no complaints with the food, its been good. I rested in the tent ! ! AGAIN THE TOILET ! ! I walked around the camp and checked out the other sites, chatted with Denis & Hal. A group of porters, dancing to music and putting on a show for their clients, "cool dancers".

I met Simon Peter Mtuy, 35 year old Tanzanian, ULTRAMARATHONER, has a fiancee in Boston. I saw him run down into camp a bit earlier. He started at Lava Tower ran up to the Kili Summit and down to here, 15.5 miles in 2 hours. He is a 6'4" super fit looking guy, sponsored by a number of companys (Hind, Mountain Hardware and others). Told me he has a resting pulse of 34. He has participated in CA'S WESTERN STATES ENDURANCE RUN 100 and races up and down Kilimanjaro. Has an outfitter business and is chairman of Tanzania's hope foundation. A real nice friendly guy.

Dinner in tent (pasta), once again toilet ! ! Joaquim briefed me on tomorrow's climb, another short day similar to today's. Beautiful evening scenery. Laid down for the evening very early, oxy reading 88, feel good.

DAY #5 (Jan 24) - KARANGA CAMP/BARAFU CAMP elev 15000'
Had to use the toilet during the night ! ! very runny ! ! and once again when I got up this AM. I decided to take a "DIARRHEA PILL", hopefully its the right decision. Oxy reading 88. Same weather as the last few days, stars, frost and cold. Usual morning routine.
Todays gear - nylon pants, 2 top layers, sun hat & gloves, hiking poles.

I followed Joaquim out of camp, the trail fairly amooth and moderate to the first major ridge (I stayed with Denis & Hal). Here it descends, before the final steep rocky climb to Barafu Camp with some scrambling similar to yesterday. Fairly easy day, however you do have to work going up the steep sections, "pole pole" and always the need to concentrate on your breathing. At the first ridge we took a good break, again the toilet ! ! took another diarrhea pill.

12h30 hours - Arrived BARAFU camp after a 3 1/2 hour climb. A rocky camp on a ridge, small flat areas the size of tents, scattered throughout the ridge among the rocks. An awesome view of Mawenzi to the east, Stella Point to the north and the surrounding plains below. After lunch I once again had to use the toilet. I didn't do much so I didn't take another pill.

I discussed TOMORROW'S SUMMIT DAY with Joaquim.
Gear - bottom (long johns + nylon pants), top (underwear + 2 layers + gortex), down mitts, touque with headlamp, start without poles, limmer boots with 2 pairs of socks. Extra gear which Joaquim offered to carry - heavy poly jacket and a down parka.
Snack at midnight - tea and cookies. So I will start getting ready at 23hoo hours.
LEAVE CAMP at 0h30 hours with 3 liters of water + chocolate bars for snacking. I will loan my small flashlight with 2 spare batteries to Joaquim

Talked to Elena with 7 other women from Saskatchewan, on an 8 day trip. They are all taking Diamox, one woman was coughing badly, I wished them well. Chatted with Denis & Hal. Most of the groups are planning to leave at midnight. Had to go to the toilet in late PM ! ! runny !! my sore annus !! took another diarrhea pill. Hopefully I won't have to go during tommorow's climb, especially in the cold and wind. I'm just about out of toilet paper?

18h00 hrs - I laid down, rested as much as possible, hard to sleep ...... all pumped up for the midnight start. Oxy reading 84, no altitude symptoms, feel good.

I perhaps had 2 hours of sleep, the rest of the time I tossed and turned, constantly reviewing the climb in my head. I slowly started to move around 22h30 hours, at the same time I could hear chatter coming from the camps. I visited the toilet, before Prosper brought me tea, cookies and extra hot water for 2 packets of my own soup, silhouettes of people already leaving for the summit. I tried to get as much liquid as possible into my system.

0h30 hours - Joaquim and I leave Bafaru Camp (15000') for the summit, we were perhaps the last to leave. At the start the trail was moderately steep, I moved well, concentrating on the job ahead. The last few hours, to Stella Point, the trail somewhat steeper, I slowed "pole pole" with a lot of granny stops, labored heavy breathing, huffing and puffing, really tough on my cardio system (similar to Aconcagua). My cardio system has always been my limiting factor. We passed everyone on the way up to Stella Point, except for Denis and Hal, who I would learn later summited at 6h15 hours (30 minutes before us).
When you climb in THE DARK IT IS A UNIQUE BEAUTIFUL EXPERIENCE. All you really see is part of the person ahead of you and the trail just ahead of your feet. You hear the sound of your heavy breathing, the pounding in your head and muffled chatter from the other climbers. And, my very favorite, the bobbing headlamps scattered up and down the trail, as far as the eye can see.
It was really cold and windy, my water froze. My gear worked well except for the wind in my face. I was a bit chilled by the many stops, as we neared Stella Point.

5h30 hours - We ARRIVED STELLA POINT (19,012'), the tough clmbing over. It was really blowing hard and I got very cold very quickly, I thought of adding my parka however that was a bit of a problem in the strong wind (memories of Elbrus, I lost gear in the strong wind). I decided to tough it out as the rising sun would soon improve conditions, it was getting light, I got rid of my headlamp. We took a snack break, chocolate bar and hot tea. No signs of altitude except for the slow zombie like movements.
The RIM TRAIL was much less taxing, I concentrated on the climb ahead and looked back, from time to time, at the beautifull sunrise behind our backs. I took photos, enjoying this awesome site and forgetting about the tough climb to Stella Point. The comfortable trail, the sun getting higher with every look back and the awesome setting pumps you up for the exilirating last section to the summit. However your pounding head and the huffing and puffing does not want to go away, Kili won't allow you to relax. There is still a lot of work ahead and you cant afford to lose your concentration.

6h45 hours - SUMMIT, UHURU PEAK 19341', the 2nd group to arrive, full sun. We didn't meet Denis & Hal, I could see them at bottom of the South Glacier far below us, they summitted before the sunrise ..... both much stronger than I.
The sunrise, rim, glaciers, landscape, panorama and the size/scale of the summit area is truly awesome. No other summit that I've been on to date, and I've been on a few, compares with this setting. I am truly blessed and thankful to be here, worth every bit of the hard work and hardships that you have to endure. " LUCKY ARE THOSE WHOSE FEET WALK THE MOUNTAINS". It's times like this when you think about your loved ones, I wish Rose could experience the feelings that I have in these situations, brings tears to your eyes.
It was windy and cold and I wanted to get down, however Joaquim didn't know how to use the camera and I couldn't leave without a photo, so we waited for the next group to arrive.

7h30 hours - WE LEFT THE SUMMIT right after the photos, passing the uptrail bound climbers as we descended. Not much said as everyone was laboring/concentrating on their job, we of course were on a "high".
At STELLA POINT Joaquim chose a more direct, steeper descent route, mostly loose cinder fines. It was really soft as we slid down at a very fast pace, causing a lot of dust, hard on the legs. We shed gear on the way down.

10h00 hrs - Back down to BARAFU CAMP, straight to the toilet (lucky that I didn't have to go earlier). Prosper brought hot water for washing and a lunch, I didn't feel like eating. Laid down in my tent for a good rest. I readied myself for the rest of the descent, the Saskatchewan women started coming into camp one by one, they all summitted. ! ! It's really nice with a support crew, all you do is look after yourself, you tend to get spoiled. Joaquim and the crew have been great.
Two hours after arriving at Barafu we were the first to leave, except for Denis and Hal (I didn't see them at camp, they must have left before my summit descent). Joaquim led me out for the descent, Prosper stayed back to pack up the rest of the gear. The first part of the trail is open and a moderate , comfortable downhill. The last section, thru vegetation, is moderately steep with rock and lots of steps, a real knee cruncher. At the Mweka High Camp I had to use the toilet again ! ! I took a diarrhea pill.

15h00 hrs - MWEKA LOWER CAMP (10170'), located in heavy vegetation. Had a long chat with the Ranger after registering, Denis joined us - they arrived here just before us, summitted Kili at 6h15 hrs (they took Diamox) and were the first to arrive here. Besides our 2 groups the camp had a lot more climbers, on their way up. I bought a book on Kili from the Ranger.
The usual camp routine, walked around and chatted with the Saskatchewan women among others, exchanged addresses with Denis. Dinner of 2 bowls of soup, roasted chicken, noodles and beans, chips, fruit and tea.
I had no soreness to speak of, except for the usual tight legs and a stiff back and neck, after a long day on the trail. Oxy reading 93, 6 1/4 hour climb to the summit and a 14 1/2 hour day, I felt really good about my effort.

This hike out of the park will not be entered as a climb in PB.
My toilet movement of this last day was normal, hopefully I won't have to talk about this anymore, by the way, I did run out of paper - Joaquim provided me with all the toilet paper that I needed. I have a sore rear end from all that wiping ! !
After breakfast I tipped the 3 porters - to one guy, who was really nice the whole trip, I also gave him my black EMS poly jacket and a pair of socks, he was visibly pleased. I wish I had more gear to give away but my trip is far from over .
We left camp early, descending thru a canopy of lush tropical vegetation, mud trail with rock and wood steps, tough on the knees. I registered at the Mweka Gate, as the porters, Prosper and the driver Peter, loaded up all the gear. We drove back to Arusha thru huge lush coffee plantations, beautifully farmed.

12h00 HOURS - Back to Arusha and LISA AT THE WS SAFARI OFFICE. She gave me a bunch of emails from my daughter Julie and she has me booked on a 7 DAY SAFARI starting on the 30th. So far there are 2 people and she is hopeful for more, as it will reduce the cost (luck would be on my side as she found 2 others on the 29th).
I tipped Joaquim, Prosper and the driver and I promised Joaquim some gear, he'll come to the Outpost Lodge this evening. Lisa drove me to the Lodge to ensure that I had my room. I did and the Lodge was full. After checking in, I started to look after a whole bunch of errands.
Joaquim, a very humble , nice person, has a wife and a 6 year old daughter. He came over to pick up his promised gear, he walked 10km from his house to get here. I gave him a polyester(2 color) underwear top, rain pant, poly blue tshirt, touque, carabiner and a bike water bottle. After the Safari I promised him a few other things. He was really pleased and said that the tip alone would have been enough.

My ideal plan for the rest of this trip is to go on a 7 DAY SAFARI, bus to Nairobi on Feb 5 and find an outfitter for a POINT LENANA (MOUNT KENYA) CLIMB, before flying home on Feb 10. It will be a very tight squeeze but feasible, I got my fingers crossed - everything on this trip, so far, has gone exceptionally well and I'm sure Kenya will be the same. As Johnny Cash sings "Life is good to me."

See my Point Lenana (Mont Kenya) TR for the continuation of this trip.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4341 ft / 1323 m
    Total Elevation Loss:9171 ft / 2795 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4341 ft / 1323 m
    Distance:10.6 mi / 17 km
    Route:barafu camp to stella pt, to rim trail, day #6
    Start Trailhead:barafu camp  15000 ft / 4572 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:9171 ft / 2795 m
    End Trailhead:mweka camp  10170 ft / 3099 m

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