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« BFTP: A little learning | Main | At the summit of Kilimanjaro »

A bit about the hike, then back to business

A vacation is like love –  anticipated with pleasure,  experienced with discomfort,  and remembered with nostalgia. - Author Unknown

The summit - had I known how far away and high it was when I started....

Well, that was quite a hike. Find below a few pictures and a rather disjointed narrative...

Our hiking group of six ranged from 28 to 43 years old so I was the old man. We started at 7,800 feet and gained 11,500 feet over the next six days. I kept up great on the first seven and a half days – all the climb and about half way down the mountain. In the last day and half we descended from 19,341 to 6,000 where we checked out and got our ride back to town. The second half of the seventh day and the last morning my legs just felt like jelly. I could keep going, but I was slow. The downhill was a killer, but I noticed quite a few people around the lodge walking pretty stiffly. Ibuprofen has been my friend for the last few days.

Lesson: It's more painful going down in life than going up.

The total mileage over the eight days was 58 miles using a variation the Lemosho Route (see day-to-day itinerary below).

There is a reason it's called the RAIN forest. For the first two days, rain turned the dust to mud and I slipped and fell on my butt twice, injuring my dignity, but not much else.

For the first five days the adventure was more uncomfortable than difficult with rain the first two days and severe cold at night and often intense sunlight during the day on days three to six. (Big Agnes ,my sleeping bag, really came through.) Each day we hiked at least four to five hours (uphill, always) and then had lunch, rested until about three PM and then did another two hour acclimatization hike, going up 500 feet or so and back to camp.

Day 6 was the “Western Breach” - six hours almost straight uphill to the final campsite of about 18,000 feet right beside a glacier. The Breach is the most difficult and dangerous, non-technical means of getting to the crater. A number of hikers were killed by a rock slide in 2006 on this route so now all hikers need to be high on the mountain before the sun starts to melt the ice holding the rocks in place.

The porters were amazing guys, very friendly and seemingly dressed in little more than rags. I don’t see how they did it. Food was very good, but everyone loses appetite above 13,000 feet. Tents were a little worn with nasty zippers. One porter's job was to take care of the little tent with a porta-potty in it - that worked great except early in the morning when the water in it was frozen. It was so cold the last couple nights my water bottle froze – inside the tent.

The amazing porters broke camp, passed us, and set camp back up while we hiked everyday - many wearing worn tennis shoes.

I got winded scrambling up rock faces at high altitudes, but normal hiking even uphill was just fine. At the highest camp, you couldn’t tie your shoes or get out of your tent without getting a little breathless. But I didn’t have any headaches or stomach upset as did some of the others on the hike. The youngest guy who was in really great shape took a hit at the highest altitude – nausea and headache. It surprised him, I think. I took the altitude drugs which I am sure helped, with only prickly fingers and toes as a side effect.

Guide Justin on the Shira Plateau walking through Lower Moorland habitat

There were six of us on the hike: Mike, a young man from northern Minnesota and two couples from Kentucky younger, childless professionals who were  fun to visit with. Our little group was supported by a guide, two assistant guides, a cook, two assistant cooks, and 30 porters. The congeniality of the other hikers and the guides made this an enjoyable experience (along with the scenery, of course.)

Lava Tower required about an hour and a half to scramble up and back down - the 300 ft climb practice for the Western Breach.

The last night in camp was memorable. We were down to 10,000 feet so it was warmer and breathing was easier. We distributed our cash tips to guide and porters and they sang for us, just before a huge supper (resupplied from below). I gave my porter my hiking boots and gave other porters the winter coat and gloves I had used. They were delighted.

Many of our days were spent above the clouds in our own little world. Of course, aren't we administrators always there?

It sure felt good to get back to lodge that last day and have a hot shower, washing off eight days of mud and dust. The group went out for pizza with the guides the last night where we got our certificates that state we summited. The head guide, Justin, may visit the US in the spring. I invited him to dinner at our home if he gets to Minnesota. I don’t think any of these folks have an idea of just how rich a lifestyle we have in the U.S. – Tanzania is such a poor, poor area. Driving back from the restaurant on the last night, one could see that as many people were using kerosene lamps and wood fires as were using electricity in the village where our hotel was located.

Having nearly conquered the Western Breach, I could afford a smile. Note that I am a fasion maven even while hiking.

I took lots of good pictures of interesting scenery and spectacular views (link below to my online photo album). But I think this may be my last mountain expedition – my future hiking will be
lower and from lodge to lodge like my son and I did in New Zealand.

But I am really proud to have accomplished this. And I can make the honest claim that I carried over 20 books up the mountain to the summit. But I think I will leave out the fact they were on my Kindle.

Now for something really difficult. Like getting educators to value libraries and use technology well...

The sunrise at the summit. One more off the bucket list. After all, the bucket is getting ever closer...

The travel agent I used for the hike was Destination Tanzania Safaris (DETASA). I can recommend them without hesitation.

All 140 photos from the hike can be found here:

My official certificate that I got to the top!

Day-to-day (still putting this together)..

Day 1

  • Londorossi Gate to Forest Camp
  • Elevation (ft): 7,800ft to 9,500ft
  • Distance: 6 km
  • Hiking Time:3-4 hours
  • Habitat: Rain Forest


  • Forest Camp to Shira Camp 1
  • Elevation (ft): 9,500ft to 11,500ft
  • Distance: 8 km
  • Hiking Time 5-6 hours
  • Habitat: Moorland


  • Shira Camp 1 to Moir Camp
  • Elevation (ft): 11,500ft to 13,665 ft
  • Distance: 10 km
  • Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
  • Habitat: Moorland


  • Moir Camp to Lava Tower
  • Elevation (ft): 13,665 to 15,213
  • Distance: 15 km
  • Hiking Time: 4 hours
  • Habitat: Semi Desert


  • Climb Lava Tower (300ft) and hike to Arrow Glacier
  • Elevation (ft): 15,213 to 15,980
  • Distance: ? km
  • Hiking Time: 2 hours
  • Habitat: Semi Desert


  • Arrow Glacier to Crater Camp via Western Breach
  • Elevation (ft): 15,980 to 18,500
  • Distance:  km
  • Hiking Time: 6 hours
  • Arctic Habitat:


  • Crater Camp to Summit
  • Summit to Mweka Camp
  • Elevation (ft): 18,500 to 19,340 to 10,500
  • Distance: ? km
  • Hiking Time: 11 hours
  • Habitat: Arctic/Semi Desert


  • Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
  • Elevation (ft): 10,000ft to 5,400ft
  • Distance: 8 km
  • Hiking Time: 4 hours
  • Habitat: Rain Forest

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Reader Comments (12)

Wow! Congratulations, Doug! Thanks for sharing our journey! How was wireless access up there? ;-)

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterM. Walker

Amazing journey and pictures! Congratulations on the accomplishment!

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Wow. Impressive, indeed. Good job!

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

Hot dang! You ARE amazing! Congrats!!

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDonna Baumbach

Actually, two of the hikers had iPhones and were able to send text messages. The guides had satellite phones and called home each day. I guess you can never really get away from it anymore.


Hi Donna,

Either amazing or not too bright. Hard to tell the difference sometimes!

Take care,


November 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Ted Kerasote wrote a book about that-- Out There: In the Wild in a Wired Age-- in which he goes on a canoe trip in the Northwest Territories with a friend who brings along a satellite phone "in case of emergencies"... and proceeds to call home, his law office, his family, his friends... regularly. I kind of liked the days when finding a pay phone and being able to make a call was an unexpected treat! Congratulations on your awesome adventure!

November 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShayne Russell

Looks like you might want to turn on comment moderation to shut down those pesky comment spammers, Doug. :-(

Congrats on the hike! Wow. What an accomplishment.

One of my friends about 10 years ago nearly died on Mt Kilimanjaro with his wife, because they hired a terrible guide who didn't have them bring sufficient water and actually abandoned them on the mountain. Quite scary. From his stories I know this isn't a climb to consider lightly, very serious stuff. Thanks so much for sharing the journey with us. Glad you enjoyed it and were safe!

November 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWesley Fryer

Hi Wes,

You are probably right about comment moderation. I've been avoiding it, preferring to delete spam. There are just a handful of spammers that seem to get through the filters, but they are annoying.

Yes, hiking Kili is not something to be undertaken lightly. I heard that there are approximately 5 emergency evacuations a day from the mountain - and you could certainly see people who were not doing well on both the way up and way down. I sense that too many people once having invested thousands of dollars in the hike want to reach the summit despite warning signals from their bodies.

Life is a calculated risk and in some cases it pays to do a little more calculation.

Good to hear from you,


November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Congratulations Doug! I too scaled Kili! I was 48 when I did it and My entire family and 8 other boy scouts! We climbed with IMG(international mountain guides) based here in Washington State. It was the most spectacular thing I have ever done! and I am very proud that my whole family(husband 3 sons and 1 daoughter) all made it too! Yeah for you! School has started and I have not been keeping up with the blog lately ...too busy but once again Congrats!

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie Billingsley

Hi Debbie,

Thanks for the kind words. I loved the challenge but I am not sure I could have gotten anybody else up the mountain but me! Congrats to your family. What wonderful memories you've created for them.


November 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Very interesting! Congratulations on your accomplishment!!!

January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRon Swanberg

Thanks, Ron. I have to accomplish some of these things on my bucket list since the bucket is getting closer all the time!

Hope your new year is off to a good start,


January 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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