Crater Camp to Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp
18,398 to 19,340 to 10,498 feet
Alpine Desert to Summit
WE HAVE MADE IT TO THE SUMMIT!
It is currently 10:30 local time. We made it to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa! It was a very long climb, over many days, to the summit. We are now looking out at glaciers and clouds. The view is spectacular. Most of us now agree that this is the hardest thing we have ever done. Lots of us have had headaches and upset stomachs, but we feel MUCH better now that we have reached the top of Africa.
Our tents are located at approximately 18,400 feet and at this elevation there are two factors that make it difficult to get much sleep, temperature and lack of oxygen. The temperature at night dropped well below freezing, and due to the dry air when you exhale in your tent, the moisture from your breath would reach the top of the tent, turn to snow and fall back down. This was very cool at first but got old quick. The other factor that bothered most of our team members was thin air. At Crater Camp, located at 18,400 ft on top of Kilimanjaro, with every breath we took our bodies received only half the oxygen that we would normally breath in at sea level. This means that we would have to take 2 breaths for every one breath at sea level.
Even with little sleep, it was simply remarkable being able to camp across from one of the large glacial fields that can be found on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. After breakfast our team walked the short 100 yards to spend time amongst the glaciers, these are the “snows” that inspired the famous American author Ernest Hemingway to write the Snows of Kilimanjaro. While the glaciers are stunning, it is sad to hear about how they have changed. Our lead guide, Julius, has been climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for over 20 years, he told us when he started climbing Kilimanjaro that the glaciers would fill almost the entire crater. They would have to hike all the way around the glacier before arriving at crater camp. Today, the glacier takes up only a fraction of the crater and we were able to hike directly to our camp. Julius has seen such a decline in the glaciers that he predicts that within five to ten years, Kilimanjaro will no longer have glaciers.
Our team was tired but spirits were high knowing the summit was only 1,000 feet above us. After a strenuous climb, supported by songs from our guides, we made it to Kilimanjaro’s summit, Uhuru Peak. Uhuru is Swahili for victory and at 19,340 feet the summit did feel like a victory for our team. There were hugs, songs and even some dancing! After photos with the summit sign, our team set off for camp in the rain forest some 10,000 feet below.
It was a long hike down, but we were elated from summiting and ready for some warm weather. It took us about six hours to descend as we came down. On our descent we enjoyed getting to see many of the biomes. We started with the barren Alpine biome on the top of the mountain where we encountered a snowstorm. As we descended into the Alpine Desert biome we saw the snow turn to hail and then into rain. We continued our hike down the mountain to the Heath Zone where we finally got to see bushes and small trees. Best of all the rain let up and we we’re able to have some lunch. As the day ended, we hiked through the Moorland biome and saw the trees get larger as the sun started to come out! We ended our day at Mwecka Camp, our home for the night in the rainforest. When we got to camp we were greeted with cheers and excitement for our summit. It is hard to believe we started the day on top of the largest mountain in Africa in a snowstorm and we ended our day in the sunny rainforest!
Thanks to everyone who made this trip to the summit of Africa possible!
The feeling of accomplishment is very gratifying. After spending 7 days to get here, climbing up, everyday, you look in every direction and all you can see is downhill! We begin the long, but much faster descent. Going down is harder on the knees, and the legs, but as you descend the air thickens, providing more oxygen to keep moving. We will end up tonight in the rainforest, at Mweka Camp.
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!
Discover lesson starters and content collections about the biomes of Mount Kilimanjaro online at www.DiscoveryEducation.com/Kilimanjaro.