My sons, a friend and I climbed Kilimanjaro from August 3, 2016 to August 10. After researching the various guides on Kilimanjaro, we selected Peak Planet. We were very happy with our choice. They picked us up at the airport and we stayed in nice accommodations. We signed up for a four person private climb on the Lemosho Route. I am 65 years old and my sons are 35 and 20 and our friend is 20. I am in good shape for a 65-year-old and the boys are in good condition. In addition, we live in Colorado and climbed several 14,000-foot peaks to get ready. This is a brief description of our experience.
We felt that the Lemosho Route was the best for us. It lasted 8 days and there was plenty of time to acclimatize to the altitude. After the second day, we spent the next 4 days between 13,000 and 15,300 feet. Do not let the difference in the altitude of the camps mislead you – there is climbing up and down ridges each day together with side climbs to the Shira Cathedral and the Lava Tower so the vertical climbing is more than it looks like on the web. Each day involves from 2000 to 4000 thousand feet of ascent taking anywhere from 3 to 7 hours. With the exception of the summit day, we did not find the climbing very arduous and there is no technical climbing at all. The summit day was tough because of the cold and the elevation but we just kept going until we reached Uhuru Point. There were many groups on the mountain from countries where they did not do any climbing at elevation like we did and they were nonetheless successful in summiting.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The scenery is spectacular going through the various ecosystems. As I said the climbing is not difficult until the summit trek. We were all very glad we made the climb. With that said, I want to prepare you for some of the difficulties we encountered. Sleeping in a tent for 8 nights is hard, especially with no showers. Cleaning is limited to wipes. The tents must be pitched on flat surfaces or you slide down during the night making it hard to sleep. The food is nourishing but not anything to write home about. They cooks do the best they can and it under the conditions. The temperature during the day was very comfortable but at night it was freezing. It surprised us how cold it was. Since we started climbing the day after we arrived, we were jet lagged and that made sleeping difficult the first couple of days. I would recommend a safari before the climb to get used to the time change. If you are coming from Europe disregard this advice since there is only a 1 or 2 hour time change. After the third day, there is no mechanical evacuation from the mountain if you get sick or injured. Four porters carry the sick or injured person down in a stretcher. There is no helicopter evacuation. I found this disconcerting at my age but all went well.
It surprised us how many porters, cooks and guides helped us. There were 23 in all including 2 guides, a cook staff and 17 porters. The porters, both female and male, were in terrific shape. We would leave camp at 8:00 am after which the porters would break down the camp. They would then blow by us and have the next camp set up before we got there. Amazing! Make sure you tip more than the maximum amount recommended.
I want to say a special word of gratitude to our 2 guides, David Sakanoi and John Seka (aka Tony Blair). We spent most of our time with these guys. I just can’t say enough about the skill they showed. David had climbed Kili 200 times and Tony 120. They lead us at a pace that seemed slow at first. We would climb for an hour and then take a 10-minute break. The pace was comfortable and we never got winded. We used this same pace the entire way up and it worked. They both were fluent in English and had great senses of humor. We were kidding one another the entire climb. They were very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna on the mountain and described the geology in detail. They instilled us with confidence that they knew what they were doing, that we were safe and would make the summit. I would heartily recommend these men to you if you are going to do the climb.
Here are a couple of final points. You need to be tough mentally and physically. We found the mental aspect more difficult than the physical. It would be easy after 2 or 3 days to think what the hell am I doing up here in this discomfort. When the guides get you up at 11:00 pm on summit night and it is snowing and the tent is frozen, it would be easy to say “enough” and stay in your sleeping bag. You need to keep going. The guides will not put you in a dangerous situation so if they say go, you go. The summit climb is very cold. Bring enough clothing with you for three layers on your legs and six on your torso. Finally, it is dark 12 hours a day so you spend half of each day in your tent. This gets tedious after a couple of days so take some reading material or games to pass the time. Like I said we really enjoyed the ascent and were glad we did it. It is a true adventure.