There are few mountains in the world that have such an amazing ecosystem and transition of landscape as Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Rising up to 19,341 feet above sea level, the transition from cultivated crops, to lush forest, to heather, moorland, and alpine desert is astounding. I have hiked many mountains but have never experienced any with such a fascinating landscape as Kilimanjaro.
Although I’ve already written at length about my trip and am about to put it all to rest, I thought it would be fun to go through the pictures as if you are climbing the mountain for yourself so you can see exactly what I mean. Pay attention to how dramatically the landscape and vegetation change. It truly is spectacular.
Day 1: Climb to Machame Camp
The hike to Machame Camp meanders up about 7.5 miles (12 km) from a starting altitude of 4,890 feet (1490 m) to 9,780 feet (2980 m) and almost the entire hike is through thick rainforest common at the lower altitudes of Kilimanjaro. It is the only part of the hike that is shaded yet the temperature can be quite hot.
Day 2: Climb to Shira Camp
The second day climb transitions from 9,780 feet (2,980 m) to Shira Camp at 12,600 feet (3,840 m) passing through rainforest glades, the vast open moorlands and up to the Shira Plateau where the treeline ends and the vegetation becomes sparse. In total, the climb is roughly 4 miles (7 km) taking anywhere between four to six hours depending upon speed.
Day 3: Climb to Barranco Camp
This is one of the longest hikes of the climb except for the summit day. Beginning at Shira Camp (12,600 feet/3,840 m), you head east up past the end of the vegetation for five hours up to Lava Tower at 15,190 feet (4,629 m) for lunch and a break. Next you descend back down to Barranco Camp at 12,960 feet (3,950 m) where you spend the night at a lower elevation. The main purpose of the hike was acclimatization (it is highly recommended to go up and sleep lower to get your body used to higher altitudes).
Day 4 Climb to Karanga Camp
The day’s climb: a relatively strenuous yet short hike up and over the Barranco Wall to Karanga Camp at 13,780 feet (4,000 m). The vegetation is even more sparse with not much plant life and lots of dust and rock.
Day 5: To Kosovo Camp
Leaving the moorland and entering the alpine desert where there is a scarcity of water and the conditions are not favorable to plant life. It also can be very cold with high radiation. No animals are around either.
The final push to the summit:
Arctic conditions. Freezing cold at night and burning sun during the day with low levels of oxygen. There is no surface water, only lichens and the glaciers that are rapidly shrinking in size.