Kilimanjaro Expedition Travel Journal Entry 5

Lava Tower to Karanga Camp
14,442 to 12,998 feet
Moorland to Alpine Desert

Today we hiked through the most magical part of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Barranco Valley. We made our way through a moss forest and then to the Valley where the Giant Lobelia and Senecio trees which are found nowhere else in the world. The Lobelia, In order to protect the sensitive leaf buds from the night time temperatures, close their leaves around the central core. The Senecio, some more than 200 years old, can reach 5 meters high and use its old dead leaves as insulation around its trunk.

The Tour Guide

Michael O’Toole – Science Coordinator, Colorado

It is the dry season in Tanzania. We just had the first day of fall, which means we had equal hours of daylight and darkness (12 hours each) since we are 3 degrees south of the equator. Everyday has about the same weather with warm days (upper 80s) and cold evenings (low 50s). As we climb in elevation, we have had a little rain and warm days when the sun is out…it is actually hot. However, when there are some clouds, it is comfortable and then the evenings are VERY cold…full snow coat, hat and gloves. I am even wearing snow pants tonight!

I have been fortunate to have undertaken this adventure several times before. For me, it never gets old. Experiencing the journey through the eyes of each new team member is more precious than a summit photo. This year is no different.

Our team is probably the most diverse it has been in years. We have 14 members form the Country of Oman as well as members from South Africa, Tanzania, Benin, Ireland and the United States. The group that has impressed me the most has been the students and teachers from Oman. There are two things they have very little of in their country, rain and cold weather. That has not stopped them from climbing Kilimanjaro where it rains almost daily and gets well below freezing at the higher camps.

Just today there were 8 members of the team who viewed ice for the first time in nature with their own eyes. We hiked up over the crest of the Shira Caldera and viewed Kibo, the central vent of the volcano and summit of Kilimanjaro, for the first time and their eyes lit up when they noticed the glaciers on top. It is remarkable that we can be so close to the equator and have ice on the top of a mountain. This is so drastically different than where they are from. Oman is a very beautiful country, but it is mostly desert and very, very hot throughout the year.

How is the mountain different than where you live?

Would you be as brave as the team members from Oman and travel to a place so different than where you live?

Scientific Research

Jayme Sneider – Middle School Teacher, Colorado

Today marked our first day of data collection. We stopped along a tiny creek at the edge of the rainforest BEFORE we crossed into the heath/mooreland zone. We were able to conduct four main areas of data observation, including land cover, atmosphere, soil moisture, and hydrology. We all worked together as one large team with scientists, educators, and students to collect measurements.

We found the soil moisture next to the creek to be about 23%. This data will be connected to a larger project, NASA SMAP involving satellites. The water temperature was 5.5 degrees Celcius, conductivity was 40, pH was 7.9-8.1. The atmosphere included cloud coverage 25-50% with cumulus clouds. We also collected a soil sample to then compare to other samples we will collect as we climb through different biomes.

How do you think the soil will change in appearance and texture as we climb in elevation?

My first impression of seeing the summit of this massive volcano cloud free for the first time was – wow, how beautiful (it was also sunset) and oh no, how little snow is left on it!

Have you ever seen the summit of a mountain?

Are they all the same size and shape?

Virtual Field Trip
October 8 | 1:00 PM ET

Students can also get involved by participating in a virtual field trip once the Expedition has returned from Tanzania. Don’t forget to submit your classes questions by tweeting @DiscoveryEd with the hashtag #DiscoverKili – your class may get their questions answered live on air!


Learning Objectives

Discover lesson starters and content collections about the biomes of Mount Kilimanjaro online at


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  1. Samantha Armenta said:

    Dear scientist,
    Hello,I am a 6th grader in Mr.Woods class and he has told me a lot of things about you.And I had a question but I wanted to tell you personally.So here it goes…
    What do you guys eat?
    what kinds of animals do you see?

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