Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route

Kilimanjaro: An evening at Barranco Camp

We left Lava Tower after a filling lunch and had a two-hour walk down from 15,190 feet (4629 m) to Barranco Camp at 12,960 feet (3950 m) where we would spent the night. From every angle, the summit of Kilimanjaro loomed reminding me of how much work I’d done and how much more remained.

Almost instantly, the landscape began to dramatically change from black volcanic rock to high alpine desert land. What amazed me the most about this part of the hike were the amazing trees and scrubs, some of which are endemic to Kilimanjaro and are magnificent.

The hike down was rocky and steep yet truly surreal. We stopped many times along the way to take pictures of the amazing views and highly unusual and exotic plants and scrubs. After several days on the mountain, it still astounded me how different it was the further we went up.

Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route

Stopping along the way to take many photos of the amazing landscape

Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route

Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route


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Shira Camp, Machame Route, Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro: Day 3 Climb to Lava Tower and Barranco Camp


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I woke up well-rested and at ease at Shira Camp. I had slept better since I’d finally figured out the secret key to staying warm at night: Hot water-filled Nalgene bottles at the bottom of my sleeping bag. Our American guide, Chaney, told me to fill them up right before bed with the boiling hot water that we use for our evening tea. I arranged one bottle at the foot of each leg and voila, it worked like a charm!  Chaney also instructed me to dress in breathable layers. I slept in my long underwear, hiking pants, wool socks, long sleeve DryFit t-shirt, top layer DryFit pullover, Spyder over-layer, fleece jacket and wool hat. I scrapped the additional Gortex jacket that I wore for dinner and left it next to me for that awful time at night I had to climb out of my warm sleeping bag and find the toilet tent.

Although it sounds like an awful lot of clothing to sleep in, it was just right. It gets pretty darn cold on the mountain and the higher you climb, the colder it gets. Being warm at night was critical. Otherwise you were in for a long, brutal, uncomfortable night.

Shira Camp, Machame Route, Kilimanjaro

Sunset at Shira Camp. 12,600 feet/3,840 m

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Shira Camp, Machame Route Kilimanajaro

The Clouds Below Shira Camp

“When I look up and see the sun shining on the patch of white clouds up in the blue, I begin to think how it would feel to be up somewhere above it winging swiftly thought the clear air, watching the earth below, and the men on it, no bigger than ants”. – Eddie Rickenbacker

There is something absolutely magical about being above the clouds and there was no place on the mountain that the view of the ever-changing clouds was more spectacular than at Shira Camp.

Shira Camp lies nestled high above the treeline at 12,600 feet (3,840 m) affording awe-inspiring views of the cloud-covered forest below. It is by far one of the most beautiful camps on the entire mountain and thankfully I arrived to have the entire afternoon to watch the clouds move, change, form and change colors with the setting sun. Besides the climb to the summit itself, watching the clouds hover over the landscape far below was the most amazing part of the entire hike.

I already featured some of my most beloved photos from my evening at Shira Camp in this post “Close Up in the Clouds of Kilimanjaro“. Yet this place was so unbelievably beautiful I felt I had to share the rest. I literally sat outside my tent and took photos for hours.

Shira Camp, Machame Route Kilimanajaro

Arriving at Shira Camp

Shira Camp, Machame Route Kilimanajaro

I had purchased a SIM card upon arrival in Tanzania in hopes of staying in touch with my family during the climb but I was only able to get an internet connection once and it took an hour of trying. I was told to go where the porters go as they always know where the hotspots are. Typically it can be found on the highest rock at the camp. I climbed up onto my perch and waited.

Machame Route Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Kilimanjaro: Day 1 Climb to Machame Camp

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.” -Barry Finlay

The first day of the climb following the Machame Route up Kilimanjaro is a relatively easy 4-6 hour walk (depending on speed) ascending through lush tropical rainforest filled with Podocarpus trees, vine-like lianas, tree ferns and nettles. The trail is well-maintained yet can be muddy given the high levels of rain this part of the mountain receives. The thick foliage provides a verdant canopy letting in little light except tree-filtered rays of the sun. It is absolutely serene.

Machame Route Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Our group of Solar Sisters setting off from the Machame Gate.

The weather was absolutely perfect. It was no too hot or too cold and it wasn’t raining which is always a relief. Until you are above the clouds, it can pour down rain making the journey up to Machame Camp a slippery, muddy, uncomfortable mess. Thankfully, we never experienced any bad weather the entire week of our climb which was rather remarkable and very fortunate. You never know what kind of extreme weather you may find on Kilimanjaro and just the week before the summit was unbearably windy and cold. The general rule of thumb is to always be prepared for everything and dress in layers.

Machame Route Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Caroline giving me a smile

We left along with several other large groups of climbers and their teams. Our group of nine climbers had four guides, and about 25 others as our support staff, all local Tanzanians who were being paid as either porters, cooks or waiters. Since the entire Machame Route is camping only, everything we needed for the entire week had to be carried which required a large support team. Tents for us as well as the support staff, a cooking tent, a “kitchen” tent, two “toilet” tents and all our food and cooking supplies had to be carried up and down Kilimanjaro.

Machame Route Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Porters heading up to the first camp

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A visit to the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre

Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

Wherever I travel in the world, the one thing that always touches me most is the children of a place. It amazes me that joy, creativity and the desire to be loved is a universal thing that transcends borders, cultures, languages and even circumstances in life. Despite some of the utter hardships some children face – whether it be war, poverty, hunger or disease – I find that kids are still kids no matter what. They all love to play, to learn, to have attention and love, and of course to smile.

Visiting children at either a local school, community-lead program or orphanage has become something I try to do on every trip to the developing world. I have found that even a short time spent playing and interacting with children, even if we can’t speak the same language, does wonders for the soul. There are tons of places in need of volunteers and visitors however finding the right place to visit can be the tricky part. Thankfully the perfect place to visit was just a short walk away from the gates of our hotel in Moshi, Tanzania

Moshi, Tanzania

Right behind the Springlands hotel lies an entire community of homes. I could smell the smoke from the fires filtering into my hotel room and wondered where it came from.

The Springlands Hotel is the base of Zara Tours, one of the leading trekking and safari outfitters in Moshi and is the company we employed for our climb to Mount Kilimanjaro. Run by Zainab Ansell, Zara Tours has been brining guests on amazing adventures for over two decades and has also given back to the community in which they serve through the Zara Tanzania Charity. Zara Charity works to develop and support vulnerable groups within their community such as porters, Maasai women, and local orphans improving the lives for many.

Like most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Tanzania has been ravaged by the HIV/AIDS epidemic that swept across the continent killing an estimated 30 million people from AIDS-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic twenty years ago (UNAID 2010 report). In Tanzania alone, HIV/AIDS has devastated an entire generation leaving a nation of orphans. UNICEF estimates that there are over 3.1 million children in Tanzania living without parents of which an estimated 1.3 million are orphaned due to HIV/AIDS.  For many of these children, an orphanage is the only place they have to find food, shelter, education and medical attention. 

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Mount Kilimanaro Moshi Tanzania

A Hike through the Rice Paddies of Moshi

Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

I rose Saturday morning feeling surprisingly refreshed despite the weary night sleep. Our hotel room was on the first floor next to some loud female cats in heat and finally around three am I had to shut the window to get rid of the noise and awful stink. I fell in and out of a fitful, jet lagged sleep for the next several hours lying like a princess under my white canopy bed net.

The sounds of Africa woke me up as the neighboring community outside our hotel compound walls arose. Cars honking, kids playing, birds singing and motorbikes buzzing. All the sounds of life told me that it was time to get out of bed.

Springlands hotel Moshi

Workers unloading the daily supplies of fresh produce for the Springlands hotel.

We had nothing planned that day except our gear check and meeting on the details of our hike. I knew I couldn’t spend another entire day behind the walls of our hotel. I needed to get out and explore. I spoke with the friendly hotel staff and planned two outings for the day. A visit to a nearby orphanage supported by the charity of the hotel and a tour of the rice paddy fields outside the hotel.

For the rice paddies, I hired a local guide named Kebello and set off on a land tour through the rice paddies behind the hotel and into the rich, thicket forest harboring three different kinds of monkeys. Before I laced up my shoes, I knew it was going to be an adventure.

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On the Way to the #SolarSisterSummit

It always amazes me how incredibly fast time goes. It felt like just yesterday when I signed up to join Solar Sister in a quest to climb Mount Kilimanjaro this July in honor of their five-year anniversary of providing light, hope, and opportunity to over 1,000+ Solar Sister Entrepreneurs across Sub-Saharan Africa. Now there are only six weeks left until I am on the way to Tanzania and I have much training and fundraising left to do.

I must admit that I am already tired out with all the training and it is only the tip of the iceberg. The hike will be 50 miles and almost 20,000 feet so I have much work to do. I have been trying to exercise every day and increase my miles on foot. I’ve walked three lakes, hiked regional and state parks, run up hills and have also been biking. I’m tired but whenever I get drained I realize that I am on my way to achieving my goal both physically and financially.

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis MN

On my way around one of many urban lakes in Minneapolis.

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#SolarSisterSummit: Why I’m climbing the highest mountain in Africa this July

Have you ever had a dream for so long that it never stopped bugging you until you decided to just do it? For me, it has always been Kilimanjaro. I have wanted to climb this epic mountain for over 15 years since my father did it in October 1999 before my wedding. There really has not been any dream or travel goal that I have had for that long.

Like most dreams, there have been many obstacles and road blocks along the way. The first big one was timing. There was no way I could go climb Kilimanjaro when I was in the midst of wedding planning, and honestly at that time I had never ever even considered climbing a mountain before. I had hiked all my life but had never climbed a mountain. My dad was always the mountain climber in the family, the one who took these amazing trips and challenged himself to new heights. Not me. Yet still his 1999 trip started a fire inside my wanderlust soul.

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