The Pain Cave - My Journey to 5895m...

When I tell people that I am heading to Tanzania, they often have many words that come to mind. 






 I want to add some other words to this list….






I add these words because they are just some that I have used in the explanation of my latest trip to Mt Kilimanjaro. 

Mt Kilimanjaro is the largest free standing mountain in the world and at a height of 5985m it presents a daunting figure as it towers over the small city of Moshi. It is this daunting figure that is responsible for its beauty. With 2 separate peaks on the mountain, the highest and the one that the majority of climbers ascend to is Uhuru Peak. On a sunny day in early Feb, myself, 2 clients and a small team of locals started our expedition into the rainforest and onto this amazing mountain. 

Once all the preparations where done, and we had all done our nervous wee’s, we drove out to Machame Gate at the base of the mountain.   This is when the organised chaos began. As there is more the  25,000 people summiting each year, the mountain is always a hive of activity. With tents, bags, food packs and rations flying everywhere, we where powerless to help. All we could do was sit and watch. Eventually the order came - “Twende!” (Lets Go!)

The first day is a 6 hour walk through the rainforest. As the name suggests, this region of the national park gets a huge amount of rainfall as the weather barrels over the top of the mountain.  It did not its reputation down as we spent almost half of the day walking through what can only be described as torrential rain. Everything was wet…  Thats alright, we where prepared for it! Thank god for dry bags and proper preparation! 

Once we arrived in camp, we where treated to some freshly popped popcorn and some chocolate biscuits. This was a lovely way to warm up and get the stomach ready for the feast which was about to be presented to us. I thought you where supposed to rough it in Africa?  Apparently not…. 

This trend continues as you start trekking higher up the mountain.  Days of between 4 and 8 hours of walking make for a solid few days on your feet.  The views as you get higher and higher seem to make all the aching worth it. Entering the clouds on day 3, you suddenly realise that you are going up! 

Then comes “D-Day”. After arriving into High Camp at about 2pm, it is straight to sleep for as much as you can that afternoon before a midnight departure for the summit.  Getting woken up at 11pm and being told to get ready to start hiking is a strange experience. Your brain gets flooded with a combination of excitement, regret and flat our terror.   For us, the wind was howling and it was bitterly cold. The guide informed us it was about -15 Degrees and was likely to be even colder on the summit - He wasn’t wrong! 

Luckily the wind died down a few hours into our summit attempt and left us with a stunningly clear night to hike through as we slowly trudged towards the summit. One of the best descriptions came from one of our clients who stated “I felt drunk in the legs and hungover in the head”…  The altitude creates a strange feeling in your head that is best described as a monumental hangover. It is simply a haze that never seems to lift. Hangover feelings aside, we all managed to reach the summit at about 6:22am after a tough 6 hours of walking. The sunrise and the view from the summit was worth EVERY step.  Thankfully once the sun rose, so did the temperature and we had a lovely day for the walk down. 

Upon reaching our camp for the night, and after a massive 14 hours of hiking, we realised that it was only a 3 hour hike the next day to get off the mountain and back to the city.  We decided not to wait until the next day and pushed on to complete the expedition the same day that we summited. This may have been a mistake because as we reached the gate at 6pm after a massive 18 hours of hiking we where exhausted.  Blistered feet. Swollen knees and lethargy in the legs that most people will never experience.  Saying that, we where smiles all round and the hot shower that night made the extra few hours worth it. 

People always ask, “Would I be able to do it?”… my answer, YES!   Anyone can get through this trek if they are mentally prepared to be deep deep in the “Pain Cave”.  That little place where the gremlins in your mind live. That is where I spent the majority of that 18 hours summit day, as did our clients and guides. 

If you have any questions about this expeditions, or how you can get involved in one of my future trips just email me!

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