Kilimanjaro: Lemosho Route

Many people may not realize there are 7 different routes up to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Lemosho has been rated the most beautiful, and most successful route with about 98% success in an Uhuru Peak summit from this route. It is also the longest which gives more time for acclimatization which is why more people are so successful in summiting. The Lemosho route is typically climbed in either 7 or 8 days.

On July 18, 2019 I completed my first of the Seven Summits! I arrived to Moshi, Tanzania with an 8-day itinerary for the mountain which ended up being 7 because I’m a bad-ass. Before even leaving for Africa, I kept asking myself why I signed up for the longest climb when physically, because of my experience at altitude and the amount I have trained this year, I could have totally done the shortest route, but nevertheless, I was climbing Lemosho, and was and ready to go.

Day 0Materuni Waterfall

My cultural shock was little-to-none compared to Nepal. Maybe it is because I had already immersed myself in a 3rd world country once before, or maybe it’s also because my hotel in Moshi looked like a tropical island resort. Either way, I woke up ready for whatever adventure awaits. For my rest day in Moshi, I decided to check out the infamous Materuni Waterfall. It is a short hike from the Materuni Village. You are surrounded by tropical plants and trees that grow incredibly in the fertile volcanic soil. Coffee plants, Banana, Avocado, Mango, and Pineapple trees all surround the trail as you begin. The trail is fairly flat and only takes about 45min to an hour to get to the falls. With overcast conditions in the rain forest, you feel like you are on a tropical island rather than a giant mountain. The falls are gorgeous and continue to make you feel like you are in a tropical paradise. On the return you have the option of the “coffee experience” where you pick your own fresh beans, grind them by hand and drink your handmade espresso. I do not like coffee so I opted out of this adventure but overall, Materuni is a MUST see if you have spare time in your trip.

DAY 1- Lemosho Gate to Big Tree Camp (9,000′)

We started the morning by driving from Moshi town to the Londerossi Gate (not Lemosho). Londerossi is where the registration office is and we ate lunch there as well. I made some friends from the other camps that I would continue to see sporadically during the climb, and we all headed out and down towards the Lemosho Gate entrance. Finally time to start hiking! all of the camp and gate signs give estimated times of travel to the next camp. It was estimating 4 hours for a short 7km to the Big Tree Camp. It barely took me 2 hours to get there. Many guides stress going “pole-pole” which means “slowly-slowly” and it will be very slow going if you are in a large group. But it was just me so I got to set the pace! A couple other girls were supposed to be with me but they switched to the September climb. I found that in July, it is busy season but not quite peak busy season, so there were a lot of tiny groups of 1-3 people, but only a few massive groups. I would pass a majority of these larger groups on the way up since it was just me. I saw a bunch Colobus Monkeys in the rain forest on the way to camp, and could hear them chatting and hopping between trees; super cool to see out in the wild. I did not sign up to do a safari after the trek so this is the extent in wildlife I would get to see. We arrived at camp with plenty of time to spare. They feed you incredibly well to make sure you have enough calories for the mountain but I was convinced I was going to gain weight there was so much food! Day 1, easy. Done.

DAY 2- Big Tree Camp to Shira I and Shira II Camp (12,700′)

Today I skipped a camp because I am such a bad-ass. We started a little later than nearly all the other groups and I passed almost all of them on the way up to Shira I. Any of the groups that do Lemosho in 7 days instead of 8 usually skip Shira I camp. As I passed these groups, many of the other guides were asking if we were also skipping. Internally I was hoping but was almost afraid to ask if that was even a possibility. It wasn’t until we stopped at Shira I in time for lunch that my guide asked me if I wanted to and I was ecstatic to say yes. It was only 11am and there was no reason I needed to spend an extra night on the mountain at this point. I felt great, and wanted to keep going. So my 8-day climb now became a 7-day climb and we continued across the plateau and up to to Shira camp II. As for the hike itself, starting from Big Tree, it was very up and down for the first mile or so until leaving the rain forest into the Moraine vegetation zone. Once above the forest, the trail steepens as you follow a ridge up to the Shira plateau. The plateau is pretty flat between the camps I and II. Right before Shira II it steepens as you officially begin to climb up what is officially considered part of the Kibo (Kilimanjaro) Volcano.

FUN FACT: The Kilimanjaro mountain is made up of 3 volcanic cones: The Shira Caldera, Kibo (Uhuru Peak), and Mawenzi. By climbing the Lemosho route, you get to climb Shira and Kibo, and view Mawenzi from summit base camp!

Meru peak (left) and the Shira Caldera as viewed from about 14,000′

DAY 3- Shira II up to Lava Tower (15,000′) and down to Barranco Camp (13,000′)

A steady climb from camp II up to the Lava Tower warrants excellent views of the Shira Caldera below. the Lava Tower gets you up close and personal with the southwest side of the mountain. A quick stop for lunch and it’s all down hill from here. The decent to Barranco camp is decently steep in spots, so knees beware. You can see the camp below pretty immediately and just watch it get continuously closer on the decent. if the clouds haven’t rolled in, you should have a fantastic view of “The Breakfast Wall” that will be climbed the next morning. Many get intimidated by the near 800′ of climbing that is required first thing in the morning but don’t worry, it looks much worse than it is.

DAY 4- Barranco Camp up “The Breakfast Wall” (13,775′) and down to Karaga Camp (13,200′)

A roller coaster of emotions today on this climb almost perfectly reflect the roller coaster in altitude. I was feeling a little down when I woke up, missing my husband and was just kind of tired and cranky honestly. We start with the infamous Breakfast Wall. Which includes some mild scrambling. Non-climbers might be intimidated by this wall but don’t be. The trail is wide and well marked. There is only one “skinny” section nicknamed the “kissing rock” because you have to hug it to walk by, I did not feel the need to do so. It was still a wide enough path that I felt just fine. I never felt like I was straddling any crazy exposure, granted I have climbed much scarier climbs. After the scramble is over, you think you are nearing the top of the wall, but take my warning: there are like 5 false summits! think of it like a stack of books lined up shortest to tallest. you climb up the side of the short book and top out, but now you have to go up over the next ridge, and the next one, and the next one. I was legitimately getting pissed off. We finally top out for real and the views are incredible. You get a front-and-center view of Kili, and an ocean of clouds down below. I instantly felt better… for now. The way down to Karanga camp is mostly downhill, but it involves jumping one more ridge line as well as dropping into the Karanga Valley before climbing back up to the camp. The last steep pitch before Karanga is hands down the hottest, steepest pitch you will do the entire climb. I felt like it was steeper then the Breakfast Wall! Its about a 200′ climb straight up to camp. Not a fan. However, overall this hike is pretty quick. they estimate 4-5 hours for most groups; didn’t even take me 3. So after lunch, it is time for a nice relaxing chill. You can hike around nearby for more acclimatization, but my knee needed a break if it was going to be in tip top shape for the summit.

Day 5- Karanga Camp to Barafu Base Camp (15,250′)

It is customary for the guide companies to give you a songful introduction to the crew at some point on your trip. Most try to do it earlier in one of the first days on the mountain, in my case it got delayed until this morning because I had skipped a camp that second day which is when they originally wanted to do so. I actually liked it better waiting for today since it is the day before our summit attempt. It was the perfect encouragement and wish of luck to the summit I needed. After singing some songs we headed upwards. A steady incline at altitude, only took me about 2 1/2 hours to get to Barafu. A long time to rest and prep for the next day although my attempt to sleep early failed miserably, I felt good and ready for the summit attempt!

Day 6- SUMMIT! Uhuru Peak (19,341′) and down to Mweka Camp (10,000′)

We started at midnight. I felt pretty good and although we were going what felt like a snail’s pace, we were still passing massive groups. It is a long night as you crawl your way slowly up to the summit although it felt shorter than I thought it would. As we got closer and closer to Stella Point, the wind began to pick up and the cold from the early hours of the morning were freezing my Nalgenes. At just after 5am, we came up over the crest of Stella Point. it was still incredibly dark and the wind was coming off the crater. It was Brutal. Weather reports later indicated that it was a low of 17 degrees Fahrenheit at the summit, with winds up to 15 knots which makes for windchill well below zero. The pace is set and designed to summit by sunrise. However, because I was moving so quickly, we hit Stella point well before dawn and Uhuru Peak at 6am (sunrise wasn’t until 6:30). It was too cold to honestly enjoy much time on the summit, we spent maybe 5 minutes tops, snapping quick pictures in the dark and heading down the crater rim back to Stella point. The sun finally rose as we got there, and the long decent began down the way we came. The decent from the summit involves some glicading on volcanic ash and sand in spots. It only took maybe 2 hours to get back to base camp. After a quick break and some food, we continued down to Mweka camp. Initially the decent was fine, and then the rock steps began….. after passing the Millenium intermittent camp, the last 3 miles or so was all big rock steps and my poor knee made itself known. After a very, very long day, I plopped into my tent and slept like a log.

Sunrise on the glacier from just above Stella Point

Day 7- Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate (5,300′)

A much more gradual decent today, made my knee was thankful but my calves were definitely burning in the end. After 14,000′ of decent in 2 days, my legs were pretty done. It only took me about an hour and a half to descend 6 miles. It was foggy and rainy at the bottom and made for a cool, spooky atmosphere in the rain forest. After packing up the vehicles at the gate, we headed about 5 minutes down the road to where we would eat lunch and celebrate outside the souvenir shop. I was glad to be done. Tired, sweaty, and ready for a much needed shower!

Overall, I enjoyed Kilimanjaro. I kept catching myself comparing notes to my Nepal trek to EBC last year and felt like Kili was significantly easier than Nepal. Mentally I was also in a much stronger place and we all know that climbing something like this is always more mental than physical. Swahili is easier to learn than Nepali as well, I felt I took away more of the language, but unfortunately not as much culture as I would’ve hoped. Moshi town is fairly modernized so I would have loved to visit a village out in the grasslands, and meet tribesmen and I did not get to see anything of that nature. I definitely recommend knocking this one off your bucket list if you have interest in climbing Kili. I also recommend the Lemosho route. it shares much of the popular Machame route but I think is more picture-esque in the first few days before the trails merge.

GOALS: Seven Summits in Seven Years (and Beyond!)

Report from 12/27/16

UPDATED 6/5/18

In the long term, a plan needed to be formulated for my biggest and most ambitious of goals: The Seven Summits.

When I decided I wanted to be teach high school, I knew the pay wouldn’t be great, but I would have summers off to go play. However, climbing season in Nepal is not June to August… it is right in the middle of school testing season. Whether or not I take a year off or find a long term sub when the time comes, who knows… I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. However, the rest of the list I can knock out during summers or Christmas break which works well in my favor! When I start hitting the big boys, I’m going to NEED to figure out some logistics; yet another bridge to cross in due time.

SO, without further ado, I give you my climbing timeline for completing The Seven Summits in the next Seven years!

Year 0- COMPLETE!  2017: I am calling this year 0 because my summer consisted of job searching for teaching positions and I spent a majority of the year being beyond broke. Realistic planning for adventures could not be finalized until I found a job. Since I now have a teaching position: this year’s goal is complete!

Year 1- COMPLETE! June 2018: Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar (18,519 ft/ 5,644.5 m) Because I was itching so badly to Everest up close and in person, and while I’m there!

Year 2- July 2019: FIRST SEVEN SUMMIT! Kilimanjaro, Africa (19,341’/5,895 m) I am booked with Eco-Africa Climbing on a Women Only Climb! #womenclimbkili!

Year 3- July 2020: Plans to move during summer break 2020 are in the works. That being said, there is no money for international climbing this year, but there is wiggle room for a trip to Washington to once again attempt Mount Rainier! (14,411’/4,392m)

Year 4- July 2021: Mount Elbrus, Europe (18,510’/5,642 m) I plan to go to this beautiful Russian volcano.

December 2021: Aconcagua, South America (22,841’/6,961 m) I actually thought about climbing this one first because I am so anxious and impatient to get climbing. But after looking at it from a realistic perspective, we are going to try to buy our first house in the first year or two of me teaching. My husband should graduate from college by 2020 and make the financial load significantly easier, so putting it off until later was the smarter thing to do.

Year 5– December 2022: Mount Kosciuszko, Australia (7,310’/2,228 m) For those who don’t know, there are two main lists for the Seven Summits, the Bass List and the Messner List which each have a different summit for the Australian Continent. I decided on doing both peak but am starting with the Bass List for a few reasons… One, being from Utah, and growing up skiing Snowbird, then working at Snowbird, and meeting Dick Bass personally, I feel a special connection to the Bass list. Two, Puncak Jaya, also known as Carstensz Pyramid, is extremely expensive and difficult to get to as it’s deep in the Filipino jungle and in a war zone. And three, my husband and I have always wanted to go to New Zealand, so we are planning a vacation for our 10 year anniversary down south with a quick pit stop to Australia to take a stroll up the easiest of the Seven Summits and visit a koala sanctuary!

Year 6- June/July 2023: Denali, North America (20,322’/6,194 m) I am very excited for this one. Alaska is beautiful and if it wasn’t so freaking expensive, I would probably climb this one earlier too.

Year 7- April-June 2024: Mount Everest, Asia (29,029’/8,848 m) 7 years of prep for the tallest mountain on earth. I plan to ascend the North Col route from Tibet. There are pros and cons to each side but the crowds are smaller on the Tibet side as permits are limited, which also makes them more expensive… The ONLY thing harder than climbing Everest, is funding Everest.

December 2024: Vinson Massif , Antarctica (16,077’/4,900 m) I saved what I deem to be the most epic for last. (as well as the most expensive… yes more expensive than Everest) It may not be nearly as high as some of the others, but it has an incredible amount of character. Deep in the frozen wasteland of Antarctica, this summit has the lowest amount of resources available to it. There are no cities in Antarctica. There is a camp, only accessible by a 4 hour plane ride from Chile. You have to drag all your gear around by sled, and it is a very cold and lonely place. I am just glad the sun is up for 24 hours down there during that time of year. I can’t imagine how dark and desolate it would be. (those poor penguins). A successful summit bid by this timeline would mean I complete the Bass Seven Summits just before my 35th birthday!

BONUS: The 8th Seven Summit for Year 8– June 2025: Puncak Jaya, also known as Carstensz Pyramid (16,024 ft/4,884m) This will complete Messner List and I will be part of an Elite crowd that has done both lists. This is the most technical of all the Seven Summits, therefore completion of the Messner list is more rare.

BONUS: Explorer’s Grand Slam: The Geographic North and South Poles! The more I work towards my goals, the more I wonder how far I can actually go! After following Colin O’Brady as he recently crossed Antartica solo and unaided, I have been seriously interested in exploring the poles; and I don’t just plan to fly to the pole, I want to complete what is known as “The Last Degree”: A 60 naudical mile ski trek from the 89th degree to the pole hauling a sled full of gear behind me!

As much as I would like to, I can’t guarantee this list’s completion in 7 years, and it will probably be adjusted as time goes on. There are simply too many factors out of my control; politics in foreign countries, unforeseen budget factors, weather, etc. But what I can guarantee is that I will personally strive for each one to the best of my ability until they are complete no matter what it takes.

People ask me all the time, “Why do you want to climb Everest?” “What is the point in putting yourself through physical anguish to reach the top?” In short reply it’s easier to just say “I don’t know” or “it’s hard to explain”. But the reality is I don’t simply have one reason for why I climb, I have several. I climb because I feel a very real, very spiritual connection in the mountains. My sister passed away when I was a kid, and when I summited my first 14er at the age of 13, I dedicated the climb to my baby sister, and ever since then those high peaks make me feel closer to her. After years of suffering through crippling depression and a dangerous eating disorder, completing something this huge is monumental to me. It’s simply proving to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. I do it for me, and I hope to set an example for others like me. That’s why I write this silly blog. My biggest goal of all, is to simply share my story in hopes that maybe someone else who is suffering, can look inside of themselves and realize that they don’t have to live in despair; they can do anything they set their mind to. It doesn’t have to be climbing, it could be something as simple as learning an instrument they have always wanted to learn, travel to a corner of the world they have always longed to see, or following a career passion they never dreamed was possible. As soon as you are okay with yourself and who you are, and you no longer care what society tells you what you should be or what your parents think you should be, and you start living your life for yourself, then you will be truly happy. You will be able to Conquer Yourself.

Keep up on my climbs! Click here to check out my current successful summit list!