Kilimanjaro - Machame Route - Day 1 - Tuesday 3rd March
Breakfast was served from 6am so I was up and about around half five. The power had still not come on from the night before and so the head torch was out to do the final packing of my daypack. The majority of the morning was spent running around like a headless chicken trying to organise the rental gear and settle my bill form the plate of chips and a bottle of water for the night before.
We all stood waiting to meet our guides; I was the only one who was doing the Machame route from my company. My guide was called Felex; he was 56 years old and a bit of a veteran. When I asked him how many times he had reached the summit his answer was, “Oh I gave up counting years ago, somewhere between one hundred and fifty and two hundred!”
Felex and myself jumped in the vehicle along with a couple of other men who I later found out were my porters. We picked up the rest of the team along the way including Alex, my chef! We approached the Machame
gate at around eleven o’clock and after signing the climbers’ book and after the guides had divided everything up so that they were all carrying an equal share we headed up the path to Machame camp.
Felex said that it would take us somewhere in the region of 5-6 hours and we were ascending about 1200m. The trees and plants were very dense for the whole of the first day as the climate was still pretty warm at that height. I hiked in shorts and a long sleeve shirt and was still quite hot and sticky. We stopped quickly for lunch at around one in the afternoon and made it to Machame camp at 3000m by 4.20pm. It had taken us just a little over four hours, which according to Felex was pretty quick and we’d have to take it a bit slower the next day.
By the time I we had walked to where we were camping my tent was already set up with my bag inside and a flask of hot water for tea or coffee! It was a very nice treat after a few hours walking and then came the popcorn! Once I had scoffed
al of my afternoon tea I went for a short walk around the campsite, chatted with two American guys I had met whilst hiking and had a quick wash with a bowl of hot water before dinner.
Before attempting to summit “Kili” I had wondered whether I would lose weight in the process due to all the walking but after seeing my first plate of food that was brought for dinner I highly doubted any weight was going to be lost! I had a platter size dish piled high with rice, vegetables and lots of beef cooked in a black bean sauce, followed by a plate of fruit and more tea or coffee!
There is not much else to do up on the mountain on your own as there is no electricity, not to mention running water, so it was bed time as soon as the sun dipped over the other side of the peak.
It rained most of the night on Tuesday but I slept very well nonetheless. I was awake by quarter to seven and we were up and out of camp just after eight o’clock. The hike on Wednesday (day 2) would
take us to Shira Caves, which were at about 3800m so only a climb of 800m vertically. The time it would take to walk was supposed to be about 4-5 hours but we arrived at the camp just before noon. Again our pace was very quick even though it felt slow to me I was a bit worried that I was going ahead of myself and that it might hinder my chances of reaching Uhuru peak.
We had dinner early, at around 5.30pm after a short hike (40 mins) to Shira Hut which was maybe 50m above the caves. The reason for doing this is because apparently walking slightly higher and then coming down to sleep increases your chances of acclimatising better. At this point I couldn’t feel any effects of the altitude but I stayed very hydrated, as I was sure that the headaches etc weren’t far away. I was probably drinking between 3 and 4 litres of water a day. The team would boil water at night and have it in my plastic bottles ready for the morning. I also added chlorine treatment tablets just to make sure I wasn’t going to get ill from drinking it,
as that would have dire effects on the state of my hydration.
The surroundings had become increasingly baron in comparison to Machame camp. There were fewer trees and even fewer plants and bushes. The only wildlife that was around were huge crows that would wait around for an unsuspecting hiker to leave their food lying around ready to be picked up and flown off!
My tent had started to feel quite homely by this point, which was good as I still had another 4 nights to spend in it!
I slept very badly on the second night. The increase in altitude had resulted in a much colder night than that of the first night. It was only when I got out of my tent in the morning at half six that I realised the tent was frozen on the outside and had probably been like that all night. It was a very clear morning though and we could see the snow capped peak of the mountain, which was a real treat.
The plan for the day was to leave Shira Caves at around 7.30am and hike to Barranco. It was going to take
about 5 hours and we would end up only 100m higher at 3900m. During the course of the day we would ascend to a height of 4600m, which was at a point called Lava Tower. We reached Lava tower by 11am and bumped into two porters from another group coming down the mountain. Felex stopped and chatted with them a while and we carried on up the to top of Lava tower. As we got there he turned and asked me whether I knew whom “Ashrey Co” was? I pondered on it a while and then realised that he was actually saying Ashley Cole! He then explained that his wife (Cheryl) amongst other famous people were one camp ahead of us!
We decided then, that if the Comic Relief group were camping at Barranco then we’d pitch camp there for the night, but it they had gone all the way to Karancha we’d decide when we got to Barranco whether or not we would keep on going. We marched down to Barranco and as there was no sign of the 100+ group we carried on, much to the dismay of my porters who sadly had started putting up my
tent! (I did feel pretty bad at the time…)
Barranco Wall is the steepest section on the whole mountain as the name suggests and so hands are required to hold onto the rocks. As we approached the top of the wall I could hear a lot of commotion coming from just above us (I was sure it was them). Sure enough as we came up over the ridge about fifty or so people were sat on the top with huge BBC cameras and radio antennae. None of the Celebrities were there but I had a short chat with the head coordinator about how it was all going.
As we continued on to Karancha Camp I could smell perfume in the distance. One smell I did not expect to find on the mountain. Very shortly afterwards I spotted three “celebrity like” looking women walking slowly down the trail. Suddenly I started to feel a little nervous but managed a little, “Hi, how’s it going?” as I passed them.
We made it to the camp just after three in the afternoon. We’d been hiking for a little under eight hours and I was ready for a rest. The pattern for
the evening followed pretty much the first two nights except for the customary spying on the comic relief crowd!
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