Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The Kilimanjaro Diaries – Part II: Journey to Lava Tower

In August 2023, Earth’s Edge content creator Arianna travelled to Tanzania to climb the iconic Kilimanjaro. In her Kilimanjaro Diaries series, she details the entire experience – so read on to follow her journey from Dublin to the summit of Africa’s tallest free-standing mountain!

You can read Part I here.

In Part II, the group settle into the daily rhythms and rituals of the mountain as they make their way to Lava Tower … 

Morning Rituals on Kilimanjaro

Day 2: Mornings brought with them a real treat, as the porters arrived at our tents every day at 6am, bearing tea or coffee, and a bowl of warm water to wash and freshen up with. After packing up all of our belongings, we sat down in the mess tent for some breakfast. Each morning, we enjoyed a hearty bowl of hot porridge (which was particularly delicious with a spoonful of peanut butter!) to set us up for the day ahead. We also got to enjoy pancakes with Nutella (or another topping of your choice), eggs, omelettes, sausages, toast, pineapple, watermelon and other fruits, along with a lovely cup of tea or coffee. Every day, the waiters meticulously set up the mess tent for every meal, offering sugar for our tea and an assortment of condiments to add flavour to our dishes.

A montage of images from Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

We then set off hiking with the sun shining brightly overhead. Suncream was an absolute must on this trip – especially if you’re as pasty as me! Above the treeline, the terrain became more rugged, and the air drier. We ascended over imposing rocks, marveling at the porters effortlessly shouldering massive loads, exchanging a friendly “Jambo!” with them along the way. Working at Earth’s Edge, I was aware of the importance of the projects that we undertake to help support their welfare on the mountain, but this trip allowed me to experience first-hand how integral their hard work and dedication is to making our expeditions happen. As we ascended above the clouds, Edson, one of our gifted guides, sang songs in Swahili, joined by others, creating a harmonious soundtrack for the awe-inspiring landscape. Tricky scrambles across rocks posed no challenge, with our vigilant guides offering support and a helping hand.

A montage of images from Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Shira Camp and Stunning Views

Shira Camp (3,840m), my favourite camp on the trip, welcomed us with breathtaking views of Kilimanjaro, and plenty of daylight hours for relaxation. Huge ravens circled the camp, their wings so big you could hear them coming before you even caught sight of them! We soaked in the stunning scenery, gazing toward Mt. Meru in the distance, Africa’s fourth-highest peak. A gorgeous sunset preceded some stargazing after dinner, unmarred by light pollution, revealing the dazzling Milky Way in all its glory.

Sunrise, Songs, and Ascent on Kilimanjaro

Day 3: A new day brought a beautiful sunrise, casting Kilimanjaro in a stunning orange glow. Our guides and porters treated us to a song and a warm-up dance after breakfast, creating a real sense of togetherness and positivity. This was great motivation and such a wonderful way to start everybody’s day. Their joyous energy was so infectious that it was impossible not to break into a smile and join them in dancing.

As we ascended the mountain, the vegetation dwindled further with each step, and the rocky, arid ground lay ahead. The open terrain offered sweeping vistas of the landscape we left behind, but posed a challenge when nature called – finding a discreet peeing spot became more and more tricky! Kilimanjaro loomed ahead of us, a marvellous reminder of our summit goal. Armed with my trusty speaker and motivating tunes, we sang our way to lunch at Lava Tower.

A montage of images from Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Reaching Lava Tower 

Altitude began to make its presence known amongst us as we ascended to Lava Tower (4,630m). Our amazing porters had already set up the mess and toilet tents when we arrived, so we immediately sat down for some much-needed lunch. The towering rock formation provided a dramatic backdrop as we re-fuelled before pressing on, the stunning glaciers adorning the summit beginning to come into view.

A unique sight on this day were the Giant Groundsels, enormous trees indigenous to Kilimanjaro’s harsh high-altitude conditions. Their intriguing shapes and cotton-like produce added an almost prehistoric touch to our journey – we were just short a few dinosaurs!

After seven hours of hiking, we arrived at Barranco Camp (3,950m), greeted by another sunny afternoon. Here, we had some time to rest and absorb our surroundings. Our expedition leader, Goodluck, briefed us on the impending Barranco Wall challenge. A mixture of excitement and apprehension filled the air – I for one couldn’t wait!

A montage of images from Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

In Part III, the group face the challenging demands of summit night to finally stand atop the peak of Kilimanjaro!

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