Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 3. Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp

Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 3. Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp. Third day 3.7km walk into the alpine desert zone.

In September, Lady Lynne and I completed the 70km, 6 day Rongai route ascent of Kilimanjaro. This is our day by day recap of that walk.

Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp was our third day hiking to Kilimanjaro. Make sure you’ve caught up on the previous 2 days first :-

Today, Day 3 on route to the Mawenzi Tarn Camp and indeed for most of the next 3 days we were mostly climbing through the alpine desert zone before we get to the arctic zone at the summit.

This alpine desert region receives less than 10 inches of rain per year.

Temperatures range from 21 to 27 degrees Celsius during the day to below freezing at night. Only some plants like moss or lichens can survive here.

Morning at Kikelewa Camp, Kilimanjaro. Frost on the ground around some plants.

Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp

We awoke that Wednesday morning to our first frost of the trip.

It had been a cold night. Even in our cosy tent and arctic sleeping bags and wearing most of our layers of clothing!

The delivery of the hot water for hot drinks was much appreciated.

Once we had regained our composure we were able to better appreciate the stunning morning light and surrounding views.

Kibo Peak seen from Kikelewa Camp. Kilimanjaro.

We could clearly see the Kibo peak this morning.

Breakfast was African porridge, omelette, pancakes and sausages.

After a quick wash of our hands in our wash basin (because that was all the skin we were prepared to expose!) we were off again.

Heading today on a short trek to the Mawenzi Tarn Camp at 4,315m.

On route to Mawenzi Tarn Camp. Looking back last of the tents of the Kikelewa Camp still in view.

Turning round and looking back down the path we could see the last of the tents of the Kikelewa Camp still in view.

The approaching daily cloud beginning to build beneath us could also be seen.

Lynne and I both felt humbled by the view. Looking North over Africa you could see for miles.

Mawenzi Peak as seen on path from Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp.

Shortly after the Kikelewa Camp had disappeared from view, the Mawenzi Peak appeared.

The Mawenzi Tarn Camp is situated near the base of Mawenzi.

This is where we were walking to today. Today’s distance to walk was much shorter than the previous two days due to the fact of the altitude that we were now at (over 3000m).

Dried up stream bed on route from Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp.

Although there was water available from streams flowing next to the campsites we’d camped at, it’s barely a trickle in places.

Above you can see one of the beds of these streams. It only really gets going during the short rain season which is from the beginning of November to the beginning of December.

All water that was collected from these streams and used during our trip was boiled for a long time before being used for cooking and/or drinking.

Bushes and mountain trees Kilimanjaro path from Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp.

It wasn’t long before our porters had packed up our campsite and caught up with us!

There was a long line porters which we moved aside for carrying the loads of different goups of climbers.

We were in no rush and stopped to take in the view at several different places.

Always walking as per the advice from our guide Gilibert. “Poli, poli” – slowly, slowly…

Lynne Lockier looking at moss and lichens on the rocks within the alpine desert region of Kilimanjaro National Park.

As I mentioned earlier only plants such as moss or lichens can survive within the alpine desert region.

In fact only three species of tussock grass and a few everlastings such as Helichrysum newii can withstand the extreme conditions.

Plants here have to survive in drought conditions and also put up with both freezing cold and intense sun. Both usually in the same day!

Mawenzi Tarn. Camp just over the ridge.

After a couple of hours of this short but steep climb it wasn’t long before we were close to the Mawenzi Tarn Camp. Just over the ridge.

You can summit Mawenzi, but that requires another permit.

Mawenzi is the third highest peak in Africa after Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. The latter being just 50 m taller!

However Mawenzi is steep and spiky and requires climbing experience, mountaineering gear and a professional guide.

Descending from the Mawenzi ridge, Mawenzi Tarn Camp and tents in the distance.

Descending from the ridge we reached our campsite for the night, Mawenzi Tarn Camp.

There were a few other groups there already but much less so than the first night at Simba Camp.

We signed in with the camp ranger and showed our necessary permits and documentation.

We had also signed in at Simba Camp on the first night but not at last night’s Kikelewa Camp. For some reason there was no camp ranger or camp hut there.

Mawenzi Tarn Hut Sign Post. Kilimanjaro National Park.

After posing for our usual photographs at a new camp signpost it was time for lunch.

Lunch today was potato and plantain stew with half a chicken. Then an assortment of fruits – mango, avocado and orange.

We were just beginning to feel sleepy after our huge lunch (which was already on top of our huge breakfast only a few hours earlier) when we were advised we would be doing further acclimatisation climbing that afternoon!

That soon woke us up!

African white-necked raven in the Mawenzi Tarn Camp. Tents and people in the background.

African white-necked ravens are native to the Kilimanjaro area. They hang around the campsites and huts scavenging and hoping for scraps.

These huge birds have large scary looking beaks!

This bird was trying to get scraps but wasn’t having much luck. All litter and food scraps are taken back down the mountain. There is no waste left at the campsites!

However, I was witness to one chef who put his used pan outside his tent briefly. Only for a flock of these ravens to descend on that pan, picking at it and at each other for the leftovers!

Lady Lynne and I decided we would definitely not be allowing ourselves to become the food for these creatures!

View from the climb to Mawenzi Peak.

So that afternoon we climbed higher into the Mawenzi Peak.

Obviously not summiting but high enough to get some more altitude acclimitisation done.

So far Lynne and I hadn’t experienced any negative affects or feelings from the altitude we were at. Other than the cold!

The English family who gave us their playing cards, that I mentioned in the previous post weren’t so lucky. They suffered altitude sickness badly and their daughter wasn’t allowed to summit Kilimanjaro.

Perhaps all our climbing and walking in the Scottish Highlands had helped?

Lynne Lockier and guide descending from the Mawenzi ridge, Mawenzi Tarn Camp in the distance.

We spent about 2 hours climbing in the Mawenzi Peak that afternoon. At some points we couldn’t see where we were going due to the cloud and mist.

It was again really cold when we were exposed on the ridge. We were glad to come back down to the campsite.

Then it was time for dinner!

The soup was cucumber – interesting! That might be one for me to recreate here in the future. There’s so many recipe ideas I brought back.

Next course was freshly made onion bhaji’s.

Then we had beans and pasta with a vegetable medley for mains. Finally, watermelon for dessert.

Do you think it was that huge feast that helped us to get to sleep that night? 😉

So folks that ends Day 3 Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp.

Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks for Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 4. Mawenzi Tarn Camp to Kibo Camp.

If you enjoyed reading this then you might also be interested in reading about our other walking adventures such as when we climbed Ben Nevis. The UK’s highest mountain.


  1. Jeff the Chef

    I cannot believe you’re doing this! My response is so conflicted. On the one hand, I’m sure I will never do this, and on the other, I’m so fascinated by it and would love to be doing it. I’ve hiked in the Rockies before. I had one of the most singularly impressive moments of my life on one such hike, when I came out to a small ledge with such a majestic view that I literally was struck with awe. I mean, people use phrases like that often, but I’m telling you, I think it was the only time in my life that I truly experienced awe. Another time, I began a hike in shorts and a t-shirt, and about two or three hours later, was suck in a snow squall. I was sure I was going to get lost and freeze to death. So, like I said, part of me is thinking I hope I never go to Kilimanjaro, while another part of me wants to know where to sign up.

    • Neil

      Jeff you would honestly be fine with a hike like this. You’re guided all the way. And, as you’ve probaby read fed really well too!

      I can easily point you where to sign up. And recommend a seriously good guide and team. 😀

  2. mimi rippee

    I’m with Jeff. I’m a little jealous, but will most likely never do it. I’ve been to Ben Nevis and had no desire to climb it, either! But I love following your stories. There are no mountains where I live, and we’re going to Machu Pichu next year. Hopefully my husband and I will be able to enjoy the thin air!

    • Neil

      Aw Mimi! You would have been able to climb Ben Nevis. It’s a bit of a slog but there’s a path all the way up and lots of people on it! I could have guided you! 😀

      Machu Pichu is on our list too. Our ever growing bucket list….. 😆

  3. Ron

    Neil, sounds as if the easy parts over for now. Great walk today. I’ve experienced altitude sickness and it’s no fun, so I can feel for you English friends. That last dinner seemed substantial and perhaps intended to help warm your bones. Looking forward to the next walk.

    • Neil

      Thanks Ron. I think we were really lucky in only experiencing slight altitude sickness in the way of migraines. We saw some people that had to be helped off the summit in pretty poor states.

  4. David @ Spiced

    Stunning doesn’t even begin to describe this landscape, Neil! Like Jeff, I am a bit in awe that you guys actually did this hike. I know I won’t ever do this, so I’ll just be content living vicariously through you, Lynne and these posts. I can’t imagine what it was like experiencing those wildly different temperatures on the same day!

    • Neil

      When we were really cold, especially on the last 2 nights in the tent before the summit, we kept reminding ourselves that we had a week in the sun (Zanzibar) at the end of these extreme temperatures. It kept us motivated! 🙂

  5. Ben|Havocinthekitchen

    Neil, I was taking stairs today (I needed to get to the 11th flour), and somewhere between the 6th and 8th flours I realized I’d never like to climb a mountain haha. But I do appreciate these breathtaking views! Your menu sounds interesting too, so you should consider recreating some of the dishes you tried.

    • Neil

      Ha ha! Well at least you climb the stairs my friend! When I worked in the City of Glasgow there were but a handful of people including myself who climbed the stairs on a daily basis to the 7th floor where my work was!

      Yes, I’m definitely going to be recreating some of these dishes. All in time my friend! Have a great weekend! 🙂

  6. Shashi at Savory Spin

    So glad you and lady Lynne didn’t have any altitude sickness! Your active lifestyle is sure to have helped. I am totally blown away at how clean they keep the campsites – sending all the waste back and forth must happen more times than one, I’m assuming. And wow, the amount of food they prepare is impressive! Another wonderful read, Neil! Looking forward to day 4!

    • Neil

      Thanks Shashi. The Tanzanian people are very proud of their country so they make sure its kept clean and tidy. Just adding the finishing touches to the write up for day 4 now! 🙂

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