Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The Kilimanjaro Diaries – Part III: Reaching the Summit

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!

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

Read Part I here, and Part II here!

A montage of images from Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Tackling the Barranco Wall and Karanga Camp 

Day 4: By this stage, we had become accustomed to the mountain’s daily rhythm. Our next challenge beckoned: the Barranco Wall, an exhilarating ascent. With our walking poles firmly in our backpacks for the first time, we began climbing the wall. It was a welcome change of pace, as we sought footholds and handholds to surmount each rocky challenge. Our porters made the climb appear effortless, hauling their colossal packs with grace, while somehow still managing to help each of us to safely overcome this obstacle. While not a technical section of the route, it certainly felt like they had honed some incredible scrambling skills, with a balance that at times seemed unbelievable!

At the wall’s summit, a well-deserved break greeted us with tea, coffee, fresh popcorn, salty pistachios and nuts, to recharge our energy levels. The grandeur of Kilimanjaro loomed overhead as we continued to Karanga Camp, which quickly became shrouded in evening fog. Here, we delighted in a surprise comfort-food dinner: pizza and chips, eliciting joyful cheers from everyone in the tent.

A montage of images from Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Reaching Kosovo Camp

Day 5: Our journey continued to Kosovo Camp, the final stop before our summit ascent. This leg was marked by steep sections and strong winds. We navigated through the bustling Barafu Camp before reaching Kosovo, a secluded site that we had all to ourselves. Winds howled outside as we sought refuge in our tents, eagerly anticipating the climax of our adventure.

Kosovo Camp was quiet, the perfect place to prepare ourselves before the busy energy of what was to come. Most companies spend this night of the trip at Barafu Camp, however, Kosovo Camp sits 120m higher, cutting an entire hour off of summit night!

At dinner, our leaders Goodluck and Walter provided us with a comprehensive briefing about what to wear for the summit, the expected weather conditions, and the importance of supporting one another. We were one team, one family. That evening, we headed to bed early, only to rise at 11 pm to embark on our  journey to the peak. 

A montage of images from Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Summit night

Day 6: The porters came to wake us at 11pm and, with some quick preparations, we headed to the mess tent for breakfast before setting out. Despite the exhaustion and the unsettling howl of the winds outside, we re-filled and wrapped our water bottles in our socks to stop them from freezing. We bundled up for warmth, and commenced our ascent at midnight.

I will forever remember the bone-chilling cold, exacerbated by the relentless winds (-22 wind chill!). Each step became an arduous struggle against the wind’s resistance. Throughout the entire journey, our guides had been a source of unwavering encouragement and positivity, but on summit night, they truly came into their own. Led by Edson, they chanted and sang, lifting our spirits as we forged ahead. We paused briefly at Stella Point for a quick respite, during which the guides produced a flask of hot ginger tea that breathed life back into us. My hands felt numb, and exhaustion had taken its toll. The guides cared for me, offering snacks, ensuring I had enough water, and even warming my frigid hands at one point. Despite the physically and mentally demanding conditions, I felt secure with them by my side.

A montage of images from Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

We persevered relentlessly against the biting winds until the first light of dawn revealed the summit. Overwhelmed by the exhaustion and the challenging hours we had just endured, I couldn’t help but cry with joy. It was a truly surreal moment – I’ve seen countless pictures and videos of our clients and even some of my coworkers standing at the peak of Kilimanjaro, I’ve read their testimonials and heard their stories. But I was entirely unprepared for the myriad of the emotions I experienced – the pride, the overwhelming joy, the slight disbelief, and the the fatigue – all hitting me at once, as I finally stood atop Africa’s tallest mountain.

We captured a group photo at the summit, and then began our descent back to Kosovo Camp.

Descent to Millenium Camp

After a well-deserved rest for a few hours, we enjoyed some lunch before embarking on the descent toward Millennium Camp, our final stop on this incredible expedition. Despite the day’s considerable length and exertion, I felt invigorated by my achievement.

The trek back down the mountain led us through a blend of terrains, transitioning from the barren, dusty landscape to the return of lush green forests and vibrant vegetation. As evening descended upon Millennium Camp, the sky was painted a breathtaking canvas of purples and oranges during sunset. It’s safe to say that we all enjoyed a restful night’s sleep after such an extraordinary day.

In Part IV, Ari looks back on her time in Tanzania after experiencing the highs of the summit!

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