Deciding to return to Kilimanjaro for the second time wasn’t hard. The thrill of summiting Africa's highest peak yet again was an opportunity too good to resist. My first ascent at 12 years old, accompanied by family and legendary guide, "The Commander" Jonas Rutta, left an indelible mark and helped inspire me to pursue a life of adventure.
This time around our expedition dream team included Zane, a fellow NWP guide, and father-daughter duo, Eric and Paloma. Supported by 26 skilled porters and camp crew, our group was set for the Lemosho Route, promising scenic beauty, lower foot traffic, and optimal acclimatization. (Note: While the Marangu Route, aka the "Coca Cola Route", is the most popular trail to the summit, we do not recommend following this more crowded and less adventure optimized route.) The 7-day ascent and 2-day descent plan were set and we were excited to get going.
Despite a soggy first 4 days of rain, the beauty of the mountain and thrill of the climb kept the unseasonal weather from dampening our spirits. Each day's hike, spanning 3-7 hours, unfolded through diverse landscapes – from lush jungle to frosty glacier, a testament to Kili's varied beauty. Our talented chef, Damien, turned lunch breaks into culinary delights, fueling our journey through heather, moorland, and alpine desert. The ascent was rather gradual as we continued to “hike high and camp low.”
Summit day arrived, and we were ready. The 7-hour push to Stella Point at 18,800 ft was relentless but rewarding. We breaked for some warm ginger tea and cookies before setting off for our final push. We were able to reach the summit around 2:30 pm and spent some time taking celebratory pictures. Although we were overjoyed to finally be at the top of the mountain, we were definitely ready for some down time. We headed down to camp in the Crater, which was a must-do, unique experience that very few others get to have.
The following day, we descended for about 4 hours to Mweka Camp, journeying back into the jungle. The final day's march brought us to the entrance gates, marking the triumphant end. A celebratory closing ceremony and a round of well-deserved beers capped off our unforgettable achievement. Kilimanjaro, with its rain-soaked start and summit glory, had once again etched its mark with incredible memories and a group of great new friends.
For those looking to embark on their own Northwest Passage Kilimanjaro Climb, read on for a few words of wisdom and things I wish I knew prior to our journey:
Gaiters proved to be indispensable during muddy and wet forest hikes, significantly elevating our overall experience and keeping our feet dry, warm and cozy.
Opting for a substantial rain poncho along with a rain jacket and pants not only provided better temperature/wetness control but also helped to ensure the dryness of our daypacks.
Trekking poles were particularly useful during slippery forest days, aiding both ascent and descent—a must-have for anyone that experiences joint pain.
While not essential, a blow-up sleeping pad can enhance comfort, especially during nights at Crater Camp.
The men, especially those on Diamox (a diuretic that treats / prevents altitude sickness symptoms), found that a pee bottle would’ve been greatly useful to avoid having to leave the tent frequently in the night.