Finally I have been through all of my photos and I can start using them for something.  This section will be used to give a very brief overview of the actual climb of Mt Kilimanjaro with very little discussion. Over the next while I plan to post more detailed descriptions and discussion in smaller sub-sections and also include some other parts of our trip. For now, here is a whirl-wind tour.

On this adventure were myself, Stephanie, and our neighbors, Jules and Helene. Jules is a fellow gadget geek like myself so we made a perfect compliment to one another with altitude and distance lists, GPS, altimeters, and as expected, lots of camera gear. Since Helene is a doctor, she brought what would turn out to be our a favorite gadget of all; a blood oxygen meter. This wonderful device tells you what your blood oxygen saturation level is for your blood and can be most disturbing when increasing your altitude daily.

As anyone in Ottawa remembers, our start date of March 5 was not the best day for travelling. We had to actually drag our luggage out of our downtown neighborhood to find a street clear enough of snow to allow for a taxi. Once on the bus to Montreal, everything was about as easy as can be (aside from having to sit still for that many hours).

Watching the sun from the plane at roughly the same altitude that we’ll be at in a week


From our Hotel in Moshi, Tanzania we were treated to this clear view of Mt Kilimanjaro on the day before the climb. The vegetation kind of gives you an idea of how nice the weather is there. This shot was taken at 2700 ft while the peak is at 19340 ft.


Enroute to the trailhead we had an interesting drive through some rural areas. The concept of vehicle safety is very different in these parts.


We were hiking the Lemosho trail to the top which is the longest of the routes. The purpose of taking the longest route is partially to enjoy more scenery but also to have longer to acclimatize to the high altitude. This shot taken at the trailhead shows our 6 wheel drive Aurtrian Army surplus vehicle that could drive through pretty much anything as we found out.


The Lemosho trailhead starts at 7466 ft and starts off steep right away. At this point we’re in lush rain forest filled with densely packed vegetation, the occasional animal, and the constant hum of nearby bees (yes the same ones that started the whole “killer bee” craze in the 70’s).


Moss, and thick vegetation are everywhere here. Despite our presence, it smelled great.


First night in camp having dinner in what would become our main camp hangout for snacks, dinner, and endless embarrassing stories and accounts of our current states of health. Jules on the left is serving up some soup to our lead Tanzanian guide Elias. If you ever want to know everything there is to know about Tanzanian and east African politics, Elias is the man.


The second day brought us through higher, dryer forests.


Jules emerging from what looks like an impressionistic painting.


The vegetation quickly changes as we get higher up. Because of the crazy altitude and size of Kilmanjaro, there are many different micro-climates. This one is relatively dry with low vegetation. The climbing is steep and we’re still in temperatures of around 24C. It was on this day that we excitedly passed 10,000 ft which for some reason was very exciting for us at the time. We would not be that *low* again for over a week…


Our second day under our belt, Stephanie loses her cool in this blatent demonstration of excitement 🙂  About 30 minutes later it was pouring rain but we didn’t care since we were eating popcorn and drinking tea. We were really roughing it so it was not gourmet popcorn or Earl Grey.


Later that same evening we’re treated to our closest view of the peak so far. We’re only 8000 ft lower than the summit now but we won’t be climbing very fast for the next few days to get ourselves used to the altitude.


Morning view of the inside of the Shira Lava dome.


Like every morning, we wake up in the dark and there is frost covering everything. Since we’re only 3 degrees below the equator, the sun rises at a crazy speed and at 90 degrees to the horizon. Within 15 minutes of the first sign of sun, we’re in long sleeve shirts and burning any exposed skin.


A long day ahead. A nice flat stretch before I experience my first altitude related migraine.


Meet Mike, our constant, silent companion carrying a hyperbaric chamber on his head. I tried picking that bag up at one point and could barely move it let alone balance it on my head. This device is a sealed tent that can be pressurized to simulate low altitude in the event that anyone gets cerebral or pulminary edema (luckily no one did). It turns out that Mike is also proficient in the art of looking very cool in a mountain environment so I have way too many great shots of him. As a result he called me “Camera Man” with his Tanzanian accent.


The McLeod St climbers huddled in a large volcanic cave.


Abandoned park hut at Moir Camp (13,652 ft).


I never did figure out if these were from other climbers or animals 🙂


Me looking about as weird as possible. Having burned like crazy the day before I had to cover up as much as I could. That the best excuse I could come up with. In the far back you can see the Lava Tower at over 15,000 ft. 


“Pole Pole” (polay polay) is what you hear in Swahili when you are expected to slow down. You really have to go slow to avoid altitude sickness and it just gave me plenty of time to run around like an idiot taking photos.


The trail gets rougher as we pass the Lava Tower.


It was during this section that we fouind ourselves in the only bad weather of the hike. 15 minutes of rain on us in 9 days.


Palm trees on steroids is the only way to describe these alien plants


Back down to about 13,000 ft we get some great views and we could even see Moshi more than 10,000 ft below us.


Vertigo anyone? We’re on a very high cliff.


Our first view of the clouds below us while we’re in sunshine.


Break during the hike. Jules would look way more cool with a cigarette…


At Karanga Valley camp Stephanie and I get a rare shot of us together and our 3rd wheel, Mt Kilimanjaro. Two more days and we will be up there.


The long trail between Karanga Valley Camp and Barafu Camp (15,500 ft)


Summit Day: Up at 4am, this shot was taken at 6:04am and shows Mt Mewenzi to the east being silhouetted by the sun.


Barafu Camp behind us as we head up to the summit. Summit day requires 4000ft of climbing to reach 19,340 ft.


Easily one of the most beautiful portions of the hike even though everyone was cranky from getting up so early.


Still close to 16,000 ft and everyone is feeling goodish.


Somewhere around 16 or 17,000 ft, the plateau is probably another 5-6000 feet below and the clouds are rolling in


Porters following


At around 18,000 ft. We have lost one of our guides, had one low oxygen scare where Helene was given oxygen and our headaches are starting to show themselves. It sure looked nice though…


At 19,000 ft we reach Stella Point which is within sight of the summit. I’m not really losing my mind but I am happy.


During the last push to the top we’re joined by another group who we had seen off and on throughout the week. The fifth guy really is wearing a Montreal Canadians toque. Rivalries were kept at bay.


Our highest hug ever!


One last check of the altitude…


That’s it, I’m out of here. My migraine was so bad at this point that I had a hard time seeing straight.


The next morning after Stephanie took a spill (more on that later) we head down. Kili looms in the background after a snow storm the night before. Other friends of ours were in a foot of snow that same day.


One last glimpse of the mountain as we get back into rain forest.


So much oxygen we didn’t know what to do with it.


Great shots! I climbed with a group and summitted on March 1, 2008 following the same route. Wish I had your eye for photography. Thanks for the memories.

Beautiful pictures Andrew! With the dust of Africa on your soles do you think you might take-up travel photography? You’ve got a great eye for the haunting image.

Wow, what an adventure! Great photos, Andrew. I’m glad you took a wide angle after all. 🙂 Glad you all got back safely, too.