On Tuesday, February 20th, we drove to the Umbwe trailhead of Kilimanjaro, the lowest trailhead of all the routes to the summit (the only trailhead under 6,000 ft. – it is about 5,300 ft.).  The Umbwe route is the least climbed route of Kilimanjaro.  About halfway up the 11k trail to our first campsite (the Umbwe Cave site), it began to pour.  I guess I should have expected it as we were in a rainforest.  Even so, we got soaked.  The Umbwe Cave campsite is at 2850 meters (approximately 9,405 ft.).  We were the only ones at the campsite.  I peeled off my wet clothes had some dinner and went to bed … day 1 on Kilimanjaro in the books … or so I thought.  Throughout the night, the Tree Hyrax were making this weird sound which made sleep, which in a tent is always difficult, even harder.

Day 2 we started the 6k trail to Baranco Camp, which is at an altitude of 3,900 meters (about 12,870 feet).  During our hike to the next camp, we caught our first glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro.  It was real; I was doing this.  We were out of the rainforest and into a moorland vegetation zone.  We arrived at the Barranco site before lunch, and the campsite was littered with tents.  From the Baranco site to the summit, we were on the same trail like everyone else.  We were there in 2 days using the Umbwe route, and everyone else took 3 or 4 days to get there.  After lunch, I decided to climb the Baranco wall, which is about an hour plus hike/rock scramble to a rock plateau.  Unfortunately, the clouds were blocking Kili.

Day 3, I awoke to a mostly cloudless morning and the first clear sight of the mountain I was climbing.  We left the Baranco Camp on our way to Karanga camp, which was 6K away.  Karanga camp is only at 3,995 meters or approximately 13,184 feet. However, this is misleading, as we had gained an altitude of over 15,000 feet, just to give it back on the way to camp.  Karanga camp is an alpine desert, so it was pretty barren, except for the nearly 100 tents that covered the campsite.  Since we got there before lunch, we decided to hike the 4K to Barafu camp, which is at approximately 15,421 feet and serves as base camp for the summit push.  We stayed up there for about a half an hour to acclimatize and then hiked back down to Karanga.  At Karanga, I learned of the extreme temperature swings on Kili, as I hiked in a light base layer shirt during the day and it dropped below freezing at night (about a 40 to 50-degree temperature swing).

Day 4, we hiked back up to Barafu camp, which was to serve as our base camp for the summit push on Saturday (day 5).  With the summit of Kilimanjaro at 19,341 feet, we would have nearly 4,000 feet of altitude gain over the 3-mile trek to the summit.  The summit push was slated for an alpine start (still dark) so day 4 was really all about resting and eating for the summit drive the next day.

Day 5, we awoke at 12:00 am to light snow.  We scarfed down some hot tea and a couple of muffins and started the push to the summit at around 12:40.  Our goal was to be at the summit by the 6:30 sunrise so we could watch the sun come up from Africa’s highest peak.  Between the large number of hikers, the steep grade, and the thin air, it was a slow go.  We had to pick our opportunities to pass groups, yet still, manage to move slow enough to control heart rates and breathing.  The trek up in the dark was very cold, and at one point I was wearing six layers of clothes for warmth.  Our timing was perfect.  We reached the summit just as the sun emerged on the horizon.  We had conquered Kilimanjaro, the largest free-standing mountain in the world, and the highest peak on the African continent.  After snapping a few pictures, we headed back down to Barafu camp.  We grabbed some breakfast, took a short nap, and packed up for our trek down.  By 10:40, we were on our way down to one of the lower camps.  By about 12:30, we reached the camp that we were supposed to sleep at, in anticipation of our walk off on day 6.  I made an executive decision, and we walked the balance of the way down to the park gate.  By 3:00, we had completed our descent, a descent that spanned over 13,000 feet.  After five days, my Kilimanjaro adventure was over.

So what did I learn on the mountain:

  • The porters are incredible – they have crappy gear, they are carrying heavy packs (often on their heads), they move at tremendous speeds, and they never complain.  I also cannot believe how much food they can stock away.  Also, the average porter makes under $10,000 a year.
  • Although Kilimanjaro is not technical, it is a large mountain at a high altitude slowly, slowly” is the chant and the way you need to approach this mountain (especially summit day).
  • The Mountain occupies several different zones, which means that you will experience many different types of weather patterns and temperatures as you climb the mountain.  You need to be prepared with all different layers to be able to weather the trek up the mountain.

I would like to thank everyone who has supported the Cerini Challenge to date.  If you have not, please consider making a contribution.  The proceeds of the contribution will benefit the programs of the Lymphatic Education & Research Network, an organization dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of the lymphatic system, which will help find answers to the treatment of Cancer, Autoimmune disorders, obesity issues, hypertension, and more.  Please consider making a contribution now, as I will only be bothering you throughout the year as I once again take the Cerini Challenge on the road.

Thanks, and please donate to LE&RN!


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    $20.00 / 107 days ago

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    Esther Styller

    $50.00 / 108 days ago

    Good Luck and thank you for all your help!

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    Barry Giaquinto

    $25.00 / 108 days ago

    Ken, Glad to help a great cause! After hearing the details of the climb, I took 2 Alleve in your honor. Barry

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    Michael and Cathy Grossfeld

    $200.00 / 108 days ago

    Most people never experience this elite mountain climbing experience and high altitude training and skills. Kudos to all of you for your individual, and team accomplishments and for supporting a very needed cause. Mike and Cathy Grossfeld

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    George and Agapi Karapistolis

    $500.00 / 130 days ago

    Good Luck & Be Careful!!!! The Karapistolis Family

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    Glenn Tyranski

    $100.00 / 130 days ago

    Good luck Ken, safe travels. Glenn

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    Igor Feldman

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    Frank Orzo

    $100.00 / 131 days ago

    Ken: Good luck and thank you for what you are doing to help find a cure!

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    Amy Zaslansky

    $50.00 / 131 days ago

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    Rob and Jean Kelly-Kammerer

    $250.00 / 131 days ago

    Wishing you all the best on every step! Please be careful and know you are inspiring everyone to do more and climb higher each and every day! Be well. Be peace. Be love.

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    Linda Berman

    $25.00 / 131 days ago

    Best of luck completing your amazing challenge, Ken! You can do it!!!

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    Carol LoCascio

    $100.00 / 131 days ago

    Hey Ken, My good friend has lymphoma . Terrible. Your trip sounds exciting and somewhat dangerous so take all care. Best, Carol LoCascio

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    Jeannette Corey

    $50.00 / 131 days ago

    Go, Ken. You are an example to us all!

About Ken's Team

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