Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 5. Summit Day. Six hour climb to Uhuru Peak (5,895m). Then 10km walk from Kibo Camp to Horombo Camp.
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.
After hiking from Mawenzi Tarn Camp to Kibo Camp we had finally arrived at our base camp!
Make sure you’ve caught up on the previous 4 days first :-
- Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 1. Moshi to Rongai Gate to Simba Camp.
- Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 2. Simba Camp to Kikelewa Camp.
- Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 3. Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp.
- Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 4. Mawenzi Tarn Camp to Kibo Camp.
After arriving at Kibo Camp, having lunch and resting for a while we took a walk up part of the path that we would take later that night as another acclimatisation exercise.
Back at our tent, as mentioned in the previous post day 4, we had had an early dinner. That had consisted of vegetables, beans, pasta and onion bhajis for main course. Plenty of carbs for the climb! Then watermelon for dessert.
We both had our pulses taken to make sure we were fit enough for the final part of what we had come so far for and after an equipment check it was time to get some sleep.
It was around 11pm when we were awoken. Hot drinks were had as well as a final welcoming bowl of that African porridge we’d both come to love and look forward to.
Despite wearing nearly all our layers of clothing in bed, 2 layers on the bottom (thermal leggings and hillwalking trousers) and 4 layers on top (thermal top, t-shirt, long sleeved top and fleece) we still had more to put on!
Waterproof trousers over our two bottom layers came next. These would be invaluable for blocking out the piercing freezing wind. Then fleece jackets and waterproof jackets.
Balaclava’s 2 pairs of gloves and 2 pairs of thick socks too!
At just after midnight we began the long slog upwards. We wore our head torches as it was pitch dark. The only thing that could be seen were the head torches behind us and ahead of us, of other groups of climbers.
As we slowly progressed upwards the temperature steadily dropped to between -10°C and -15°C (we were told), and the wind got stronger. I took no photographs during the 7 hours of climbing. It was too cold to take my gloves off and too dark to see anything anyway!
We only stopped briefly to grab some water or a coffee boiled sweet that our head guide Gilibert had. They were life savers!!
We reached the summit (Uhuru Peak) on Friday 7th September at 06:54.
You’ll notice my bare hand. It was the first time I’d taken my gloves off since starting the climb. I had to do it in order to get my camera out. It was so cold. Colder than any temperature I’d experienced hillwalking in Scotland!
My legs had turned to jelly too. I’d struggled from Gilman’s Point (5,681m) to Uhuru Peak (5,895) which is the toughest bit. Lynne experinced trouble with breathing.
Neither of us were for giving up though and both of our guides supported us. They were also carrying our rucksacks at this point too.
It got a lot busier at the summit from about 7am onwards.
We didn’t want to hang around too long. We’d done what we had come to do and it was an exhilirating experience.
On our way back we had to navigate through an ice field. It hadn’t been so bad getting through it on the way up, but now with more people on the path we had to give way to them and there was only a very narrow gap in places to get through.
Both Lynne and I were exhausted. So having to move aside for other people was challenging to say the least.
I had planned to take loads of photographs with my camera. I’d carried an extra battery too!
But with the exhaustion we were experiencing our brains were not functioning very intelligently at this altitude.
Fortunately Gilibert took my camera and took pictures for me. I’m glad as I would have regretted not having pictures of this special time.
Sadly, the Kibo glacier is slowly melting away.
Scientists have estimated that the glacier will have completely melted away by 2030.
As yet, there is no conclusive answer as to what is causing its decline. Though global warming and the change in weather patterns that has lead to less snow falling on the summit is one theory.
Looking back on the path we had walked up in the dark, the crater rim looks treacherous.
We hadn’t seen much of a view when climbing other than the light from our head torches shining down to see where our boots were going.
It had been more sensible then to watch our footing!
The weather remained good all the while we were up near the summit.
The sky was so blue and clear. The views stunning.
This was another reason for climbing to the summit so early. We were told that the clouds usually roll in and block the views from mid-morning.
I’m glad that when we got back down to Gilman’s point we had the chance to take this photograph.
As we were concentrating on the ascent and it had been dark and we were so consumed with the walk I was glad to be given another opportunity.
Gilman’s point is the place on Mount Kilimanjaro that marks the end of the scree slopes of the Kibo volcanic cone and the start of the crater rim and the path to the summit. The most difficult part!
We started descending the loose scree just after 8am.
Lynne and I took it easy going down as we were both wobbly and tired.
Our two guides had other ideas for us though. Each guide linked an arm with one of ours and we scree surfed all the way down to the bottom!
There were some huge rock boulders to manoeuvre around which meant we had to take a break every now and then.
This was good though. Not only for the reason it meant we weren’t going to die, but for the fact we could enjoy the amazing views!
You can see the Kibo summit base camp down below and Mawenzi in the distance as the clouds began to roll in, in the photograph above.
I found the scree surfing fun. I was lucky that I’d had an opportunity to do some practice on some Scottish mountains over the years.
Lynne didn’t find the scree surfing much fun though. She was traumatized by it!
We stumbled into Kibo Camp just after 10am.
Yes. Seriously. It had only taken us 3 hours to get back down as opposed to 7 going up!!
Back at the tent we had a short lie down before we were served brunch. Potato soup and pancakes. They were delicious!
The porters had already packed up the rest of our campsite when we had arrived at our tent.
I though we might have been allowed to rest a bit longer but now I see the reason for setting off for Horombo Camp, our last campsite of the trek, just after 12. It was to keep our aching limbs from seizing up!
Kibo Camp to Horombo Camp
The desolate landscape were pretty amazing as we walked “pole pole” to Horombo Camp.
Fortunately the whole 10km walk was flat. No climbing at all. Just descending gradually.
We passed a couple of porters who were on their way up to the Kibo Camp carrying huge roof timbers for those new wooden huts in the pictures on day 4. I didn’t envy them.
It might look like a road we’re walking on, but no vehicles are allowed into this national park. All equipment is manually carried. And that includes construction material.
It slowly became moorland as we descended 1,000m from Kibo Hut to the Horombo Camp.
These giant groundsels (above) are native to this moorland area and to the higher altitude zones of ten mountain groups in East Africa.
Every now and then we would turn round to see if the Kibo peak was in sight but it was now covered by clouds. As we had been told it would be after midday.
We finally arrived at the Horombo Camp after about 3.5 hours of trekking.
It was nice to have a seat in our tent and enjoy a dinner of vegetable soup and a delicious rice and bean stew.
After all we had just descended 2190m in 6 hours!
Both of us could hardly wait to roll into our sleeping bags after dinner.
What a day! Good night Kilimanjaro!
So folks that ends Day 5. Summit Day. Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks for the final day, Climbing Kilimanjaro Day 6. Horombo Camp to Marangu Gate!
If you enjoyed reading this then you might also be interested in reading about our other walking adventures such as our Broadmeadows House weekend including Yarrowford Circular via Minch Moore, Brown Knowe, Three Brethren & Broadmeadows walk.