March 6, 2016

On The Trail: KILI Day 4

DAY 4. MOIR CAMP  (13,800ft ) TO BARRANCO CAMP (13,000)

The night was a little cold. The sleeping bag I was supplied had a bit of a zipper issue. The zippers met in the middle but couldn’t close two gaps. On top of that, I slept with my sleeping bag zipper side next to the edge of the tent (instead of the middle of the tent) which made it even chillier. I had to keep all of my batteries warm, it would be an interesting night of sleep. I made it through the night and yes, I saw another spectacular view of the stars.

Morning came and everyone began to move around camp, we saw what we missed arriving into a foggy camp.  Mt. Kilimanjaro was right there (kind of).


There’s Kilimanjaro. Not too much further.

It was still pretty far away but it was a day when we had some great views. Everyone was excited because today we would all top our personal altitude records. We would be hiking to 15,000 feet. Most of the group trained north of Taos, NM where Wheeler Peak is 13,161 feet.  The highest I have ever gone was on Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states at 14,505 feet.

We left camp and the weather was sunny and comfortable. I remember really feeling closer to the mountain that day. It started to feel real, not so big, attainable. The hike was just that, a casual pace and a reminder “we are higher than Taos” when we hit that elevation. I was keeping my highest elevation in the back of my mind. It’s something so simple but everyday after this day, I would achieve a new “personal best” altitude.


Just follow the signs.

We stopped for a rest on the top of a particular climb. It was warm, we dropped our bags and took a snack break. We saw several other groups passing through. The cool thing about the trail is we kept seeing the same people. We met a couple of guys from Texas on our layover in Amsterdam and then later on the trail. One of the Texas guys’ luggage didn’t make the trip to Tanzania (I think it wanted to stay in Amsterdam). With all of his hiking gear in the belly of some plane, he made due with lost and found the hotel. His gear was delivered to him at the second camp. They delivered it to him on the mountain. There were others we met on the shuttle from the airport, at the hotel and simply on the trail. I love hearing where people are from so I was pretty good with yelling out their cities or countries (not sure if that was polite but I couldn’t remember everyones’ names in the other groups). We would see all of our new friends at lunch and the technical trail afterward.


Clouds rolling in for The Cloud Walkers.


George getting it done.



We hiked to lunch in the shadow of the Lava Tower. The Lava Tower is 15,000ft. The goal of today was a slow acclimation.  We got to a high point then return back to a comfortable altitude to sleep. We had lunch and some time to grab photos with the Lava Tower.


Johnny taking it all in.


Posers. Lava Tower.


Who’s that guy? Does my fanny pack make me look fat?


Carrington at Lava Tower. “What’s up?” “I am, at 15,000 feet.” (conversation didn’t actually occur)


It came time to pack up and head down the winding downhill trail. All of the groups were taking it slow down the hill so it created a bit of a back up. We spoke to a group from Malta. I threw out my only reference of Malta. I directed an concert in Jerusalem with American opera singer Renee Flemming and Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja. They all knew him and were very impressed (I’m sure).

As we waited our turn to descend this trail, the moment hit Johnny, nature called. So he walked out in the field and with his back to about 30 people, did his (standing up) business. Unfortunately, there isn’t any documentation of this but there are plenty of witnesses. We all were cat calling him, laughing. It was a classic Johnny moment.


Trail winding down from the Lava Tower.


If there is one thing I learned about prosthetics is going downhill is a very slow process. The lack of ankle flexion makes the wearer take more of a side step approach. The trail after lunch had twists, turns and a slick downhill grade. This was a slow approach. The guides profess “Pole, Pole” (pō-lay, pō-lay) which means “slow, slow” in Swahili. We took it Pole, Pole.

One item on the side of the trail was a stretcher. Apparently there are stretchers strategically placed alongside the trail in case of emergencies.


Random stretcher.

Once we were on the trail, the majority of the climb was downhill. We were at 15,000 feet but were returning to 13,000 feet. We had a lot of downhill with gradual uphills followed by more downhill.

The weather was overcast but still comfortable, we passed through the Senecio forest and saw vegetation for the first time in a few days.



The vegetation looked futuristic with the fog.


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Scott takes a side trip to one of the waterfalls near the trail.


There were a few trees growing practically into the trail, they were so smooth from the thousands of people who have used them as a vertical handrail.

We came upon the Barranco Valley and got a glimpse of the mountain. It had been a full 6 hours without seeing Kilimanjaro, I thought it left. But no, it was there.

We kept on and the hike took a toll on The Cloud Walkers. But none worse than their fierce leader, Mona. She was having a very tough time and was in obvious pain as we approached camp. Her pace was slow and fell back with a small, slower support group.


A stream runs through it.


The Cloud Walkers have plenty of support for each other.

As they recovered from the hike in Barranco Camp, the clouds were rushing in and changing the scenery. We could see portions of Mt. Kilimanjaro towering over the Barranco Wall.  We all knew that tackling Barranco Wall on day 5 would present many challenges. It is known as the most technical part of the hike. With a lot of the group sore from the downhill grade, they would have to lean on their training, see past the pain and work towards the ultimate goal. Stand on top of that mountain.


The Mountain.



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  • Thanks Boomer….great Sunday morning read with coffee. Beautiful scenery!


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