Shira Camp, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Kilimanjaro: Day 2 Climb to Shira Camp


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Here is a copy of the map of our trail. Not the best quality but the best map I can find to show you the route we followed.

I woke up to the sounds of the camp. Tent zipping open and closed. The sing-song sounds of Swahili and the birds crowing. I had made it through my first night on the mountain and needless to say, did not sleep well. The ground was as hard as a rock, our tent was on an angle just like the mountain itself and I was frozen cold all night long despite the low elevation. It would become a regular battle for me each and every night trying to figure out how to stay warm, how to not have to get up in the middle of the night to find the toilet tent and how to remember in the pitch black darkness which green Zara tent was  mine. For me, sleeping was going to be the hardest part of the climb.

The second day climb would take us 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.

Machine Camp Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Morning welcomes us at Machame Camp. Elevation 9,780 feet (2980 m)

We ate a delicious breakfast of eggs, fruit and freshly made chapati bread (there are a lot of Indian influences in Tanzanian cuisine) and then were on our way. We set off around 8:30 am along with all the hundreds of other climbers, going up a steep, narrow path in single file line. The first hour was rather laborious and frustrating because when one person or group stopped, it set off a domino effect going down the mountain stopping us all. Thankfully the trail widened and opened up a bit later into the hike or it would have been a long, annoying day.

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Solar Sister Summit Kilimanjaro Tanzania

En route to the Roof of Africa

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary

I woke up Sunday morning with a jolt of anticipation. Today was the day we were leaving for Kilimanjaro. Months of preparing and years of dreaming about it, I was finally on my way. It felt surreal.

Since the beginning of mankind, men and women alike have challenged themselves by climbing mountains. Scaling all of the seven summits – the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents –  was first achieved by the late American climber Richard Bass in the spring of 1985.  Kilimanjaro, the fourth highest peak among the seven summits, soaring at 19,340 feet (5,895 m) and one of the world’s highest freestanding mountains, has long been one of the most popular climbs given its relative ease of climbing (no technical climbing ability is necessary) and beauty.  Located 200 miles (330 km) south of the equator in Northern Tanzania, the snow-capped volcanic dome of Kilimanjaro dominates the skyline like no other mountain on earth.

Image of the 7summits v2

Image of the 7summits v2″ by Anurag Paul. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Free Commons.

Kilimanjaro is actually not a single peak but a vast complex of cones and cores spreading over 38 miles (61 km) long by 25 miles (40 km) wide. There are three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim and is the hopeful destination of thousands of climbers every year.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

We set off for Machame Village shortly after breakfast with the van packed with our gear and a couple of our guides. Our group of nine climbers – six of us from the United States and three from Nigeria were all part of the #SolarSisterSummit in honor of Solar Sister’s five-year anniversary of providing clean energy and women’s empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our climb would be the culmination of months of fundraising and training.

Solar Sister Summit Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Our group sporting our new Solar Sister Summit t-shirts at Machame Gate

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Mount Kilimanjaro

The first day: Arrival in 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 began my long journey to Africa on a special day – July 8th, 2015 – my 15-year wedding anniversary. No wise wife purposely chooses to plan a two-week trip sans kids and husband on their wedding anniversary. But I had no choice. It would take me almost 24 hours to get to Tanzania and I needed to arrive in time to get over jet lag and prepare for the big climb of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Tearfully I said goodbye to my children and husband, feeling that bittersweet emotion mixed between excitement and guilt that I always feel when leaving my family to fly half way around the world. No matter how many times I’ve done it, it never is easy and I’m always a nervous, anxiety-ridden wreck before I leave on a big trip. Perhaps it is the micro-manager in me that always feels a sense of deep anxiety with leaving my organized, scheduled family life behind. Yet my bags were packed albeit five minutes before the taxi showed up outside my door, the meals were prepared and awaiting frozen inside the depths of the freezer and the endless pages of typed out notes with schedules, idiosyncrasies and miscellaneous tidbits on the daily care of the kids were left out in two copies for each one of my babysitters. I took deep breath, let out a sigh of relief and boarded the plane. A glass of wine was in order followed by another one as I settled into my seat.

There is something grand about traveling overseas, across continents and oceans. A deep, grateful wisp of anticipation, excitement and adventure always sets deep within my veins. Fortunately I have traveled all of my life and instead of diminishing, my love of wanderlust never seems to fade. Instead, it grows stronger like a huge oak tree firmly rooted into the ground and expanding upon each bit of sunlight and drop of rain.

Sunset over Africa

Sunset over Africa

Every time I get in the air, I turn on the flight tracker and watch in amazement the places we pass, soaring through the sky to the next adventure. This time it would be Tanzania, not a new continent for me but a new place. The first stop was in Amsterdam where I would had a couple of hours layover before boarding my next nine-hour flight directly to Kilimanjaro International Airport, located about an hour’s drive from Moshi where I’d be staying for the next couple of days.

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Base Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Close Up in the Clouds of Kilimanjaro

It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are… than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise. – Henry David Thoreau

The one thing I will always remember about living on Mount Kilimanjaro for seven days and nights is the clouds. Every night at sunset I took my mug of hot cocoa out to a suitable rock and watched the changing clouds up close. I felt they were calling me in some strange way. Connecting me to nature and to myself.

Base Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Although I’ve done a lot of hiking over the years, I have never spent an entire week living on one single mountain. It was a rather surreal experience. Every camp site we stayed at was at an angle reminding me of what we had climbed up thus far and what remained. Every night sleeping in the tent, I’d put my boots at the end of my sleeping bag to keep my body from sliding down.

Base Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Base Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

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On top of Uhuru Peak Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

On top of Mount Kilimanjaro

I did it! I made it all the way up to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro during seven grueling days and nights climbing, sleeping and living on this majestic mountain. The experience was surreal. I have so many stories to share about this amazing journey and the friends I met along the way. But for now I need to get home and rest.

On top of Uhuru Peak Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

I will leave you with this short video of our second night on Kilimanjaro, a view of sunset from outside my tent. It felt like we were floating high above the earth and clouds. If there is a heaven, I believe I saw it.

Stay tuned….

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

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