Kilimanjaro – Machame route

Machame route Kilimanjaro

Long, impressive, varied, steady acclimitisation, busy and dusty are words i would use to describe the machame route on Kilimanjaro. A 7 day route up the mountain which is known as the ‘whiskey route’ and was our chosen route you the mountain because of the extra time it allows the body to acclimatise over some of the other routes like the ‘coca cola route’ – which can be done in just 4 days. The mountain itself actually comprises of 3 huge volcanoes, 2 of which have collapsed leaving behind the massive ‘Kili’ which rises out of the barron deserts to be the highest point for miles around.

Photos courtesy of Celina

The highest mountain in Africa, the largest free standing mountain and the non technical routes are a huge draw for tourist and the mountain attracts thousands of climbers each year. With each tourist there is probably on average 3 porters which makes each team on the mountain very big and there are always many teams. There were literally hundreds of people staying at each camp and the paths were often quite congested. We chose to set off before other groups to give ourselves a bit of space to enjoy the experience more but with porters always rushing past I think it is very hard to have a solitary experience on the hill!

The first day of the trek leaves from the parks gates at 1800m and ascends up through forest to reach camp 1 at 3000m. The temperatures through the forest were mild and it had been a slow and steady ascent feeling quite easy. We saw 2 types of monkey the blue and white ‘pan pan’ monkeys jumping around in the trees and fortunately no snakes. Camp 1 was large and dusty with around 100 other tents from other companies. We chose ‘Ashante tours’ they worked hard to provide a really good experience on the mountain and I would recommend them to others.  On arrival at camp we were presented with a bowl of hot water by our waiter – Remey –  and tea and coffee to rehydrate.  but always nice to be met with this sort of service. Its something that I’m not at all used to being waited on in the mountains. My normal approach of autonomy and high fast and light is completely different to these ‘mountain tours’ where there is a cook, waiter, guides, 10 porters. It takes me a wile to get used to it and i feel a bit uncomfortable being waited on, but it’s how these guys make a living and they are happy doing it so I can live with it.

I was leading a group of students from the school I work at who were all in good spirits and coping with the altitude well. The second day climbed up through the alpine meadows to 3,800m again where we were met by the same service by Remey and the team. The food they were providing was superb, just what your bodies are wanting in the mountains with soups, stews, local foods, and deserts. We spent the afternoon on an acclimitisation trek exploring some caves nearby discovering some of the history of the mountain animated by our guides ‘Moses and Ben’. Again the ascent was steady, a bit steeper than the day before and with some incredible views down to a valley of cloud below and Mt Meru in the distance.

It was a cold night at camp and we awoke with a frost on the ground and tents, but being awoken by Remey with hot drinks at 6am took the edge off the cold. Day 3 is known as one of the tougher days on the trek with an ascent up to the ‘lava towers’ at 4600m and then dropping down to 3900 to camp 3. The lava towers were really imoressive and it was cool to climb around the back of them on to the summit for amazing views. Some members of my group were starting to show some signs of altitude with a slow pace, headaches and nausea, but they pushed on well and were all pleased to reach camp after a full day in the sun. It was the groups first taste of the effects of climbing at altitude and was really useful to give them a taste of what summit day would be like. I was happy how they had pushed on and i was confident they would all have a good chance at making the summit.

Camp 3 joined the Umbwe route and it was heaving with people, I guess around 200 tents. We had a lot of fun with our team singing some African songs with them and dancing, i dont think they were massively impressed with our ‘rock you’ rendition but they clapped along and pretended to show appreciation. The long drop toilets so far had been fairly horrendous experience so far but the smell of them at camp 3 was nausea inducing. It always took a bit of psyching uo to go and use them. At least the mountain was being kept in good state with very little human remains or litter around.

Day 4 ascended just a few hundred meter until we reached a flat rock with an incredible panorama. We stopped and took photos and then descended down into camp after a very easy day. It was the last day of acclimatising and the following day we would start the ascent of the mountain up to base camp and then continue in the middle of the night to the summit. The team were doing really well and had shaken off the mild altitude sickness some of them had shown previously and were in good spirits ready to push for the summit.

Day 5 ascended to base camp at 4600m where we could rest and relax in the afternoon before setting off at 12.00pm to climb through the night. We all had a feeling of apprehension during the afternoon

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