Out of Africa: 7 – Kilimanjaro Summit

Out of Africa: 1
Out of Africa: 2
Out of Africa: 3 – Safari in Lake Manyara
Out of Africa: 4 – Safari in the Serengeti
Out of Africa: 5 – Safari in Ngorongoro Crater
Out of Africa: 6 – Climbing Kilimanjaro
Out of Africa: 8 – Zanzibar

(Climbing route map.)


As we hiked, with the summit in sight, from Karanga up to Barafu, we passed some graffiti covered rocks. Normally graffiti makes me angry, but for some reason these messages really spoke to me at that time. I decided to keep walking.

When we arrived at Barafu Camp, we had all afternoon and evening to eat, sleep, and get ready to leave for the summit at midnight. To my surprise, there wasn’t a whole lot of eating going on. Before this hike, I would have sworn that I could eat no matter what, but it turns out that altitude gets the best of my appetite so I just did my best to get some sleep.

Around 11:30, we woke up and began to fill our water bottles, bundle up in layers, and choke down come cookies. Even cookies didn’t seem the least bit appealing.  At midnight, after a round of “Happy New Years”, we were off.

We hiked for about six hours in the dark. In retrospect, it was probably best to hike in the dark because we couldn’t see much except for a snakelike trail of headlamps headed up the mountain. It was surreal.

In spite of my layers, got fairly cold on the way up, but each time I needed to add layers I had to have a serious debate with myself about whether it was worth the effort. I felt like such a robot between the lack of sleep, the altitude, and the little food that I had been able to force myself to eat that it was pretty hard to think clearly.

Excuse the bags (mascara residue?) under my eyes. My top layers, most of which you can see, included a wicking t-shirt, my pink Under Armor Cold Gear long sleeve, a blue fleece, black down jacket, black balaclava, and black hat. On the bottom, I wore long underwear, fleece pants, a pair of hiking pants, gaiters, wool socks, and hiking boots. I also wore down mittens because I’m a big wuss who gets cold easily.

Just as the sun came up, the iconic Kilimanjaro sign came into view. All of our group had made it. We were excited, cold, relieved, and super bummed that we had to hike all the way back down the mountain.

Next up: Zanzibar!

  1. lifeisbeachykeen said:

    wow! All those layers sound miserable, but what an awesome experience! Hiking in the dark sounds horrifying, you are one brave lady!

    • Brit said:

      No way! Hiking in the dark is so much better because you can’t see how steep the hill is or how much farther you have to go. Just one foot in front of the other. 🙂

  2. Lisa said:

    Sounds like an amazing experience! Definitely a tough climb, but I’m sure it was worth it. I can’t imagine all the luggage you needed for the many and varied parts of your trip 🙂 Who took the group photos for you?

    • Brit said:

      We brought a fair amount of stuff. I managed to check my largest suitcase (with a duffel and my small backpack in it) and carry on a large internal frame backpack, so it wasn’t that ridiculous until Chris started buying large souvenirs.

      Chris carried a collapsible tripod up the mountain, so we set that up and told the camera to just keep shooting pictures. It worked out pretty well.

      There were a lot of people at the top, so in theory someone else could have taken it, but you don’t always get the picture framed how you want to unless you set up the tripod and just do it yourself.

  3. So very cool! (“Super bummed that we had to hike all the way back down the mountain” — goodness, I can imagine — hiking DOWN is my least favorite part of a hike, and this is a downhill hike to the extreme!)

  4. jen said:

    how awesome! 🙂 We hiked up Kili in 2008 and it was tough, but we made it – we went in August. Thankfully, we didn’t have to hike up to the summit at night (we did an overnight at Crater Camp)…I think walking that much would’ve done me in. Especially having to go back down after hiking up all night!

    • Brit said:

      It was a difficult, but awesome hike! That is so cool that you got to camp at the crater. There were several groups that did that the night that we went up, but most stayed at the Barafu Camp.

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