Depending on the route you take up the mountain, your summit bid may be a 10-15 hour night bid, or you may have the opportunity to summit during the day. Shorter routes, like Umbwe, include nighttime summits with immediate descents, since limited acclimatization time on these treks makes it uncomfortable for climbers to stay at the summit elevations for long.
Both daytime and nighttime summiteers will start at Barafu camp, but their experiences will unfold a bit differently…
Nighttime Summit Bid (all times approximate)
12 AM: After dinner, rest for a few hours; at midnight, you’ll be woken up by your guide. Put on your headlamp and head outside for a hot beverage and a snack; you have a long night ahead of you!
3 AM: Your slow, steady pace has brought you far enough up the mountain to get a special view of the line of glowing headlamps snaking up the trail, a human highway to the top.
4 AM: Take as deep a breath as you can; you’re facing the most difficult section of your summit bid: the steep, scree-covered switchbacks that wind their way up to Stella Point.
5:30 AM: You’re starting to get bone-tired from the steep slopes and the altitude, but the sight of the sun rising behind the crags and spires of nearby Mawenzi gives you new energy to keep pushing to the top!
6 AM: Finally, you’ve reached Stella Point: the steepest part of your climb is over! Take a break for a drink and a light snack, enjoy the morning sunshine on your face, and summon your last reserves of energy for the final push to Uhuru Peak!
7-7:30 AM: You’ve Reached the Summit! It will be crowded with other hikers, and the air here is very thin, so take a few quick photos and begin your descent back to Stella Point.
8 AM: It’s so much easier going down! After you reach Stella Point, you’ll get your adrenaline pumping by taking the “direct” route down the mountain… “scree-skiing!”
10 AM: As the elevation drops, your body starts to feel better. Enjoy an early lunch to fuel up for the remaining hours of hiking into camp.
3-4 PM: Arrive into your camp in time for afternoon tea. It was a long, difficult day, but you did it!
Daytime Summit Bid (all times approximate)
5 AM: Wake up with some hot coffee or tea and enjoy breakfast in camp. You’ll set out just as dawn is breaking!
11 AM: Take a rest along the scree switchbacks that lead to Stella Point for a hot beverage and a picnic lunch. The fuel will help you push through to the top!
12:30 PM: Phew! You’ve finally reached Stella Point, so the steepest part of the trail is behind you; from here to Uhuru Peak, the trekking will be much easier.
2 PM: You’ve reached the Summit! Not many people are here, and your body has had plenty of time to acclimatize, so you can take your time at the top, snapping photos and celebrating with your fellow trekkers!
3 PM: Descend into Crater Camp via the quickest route possible: scree-skiing!
3:30 PM: You’ve reached Crater Camp. Refuel with tea and popcorn.
4 PM: Explore the sparkling glaciers, the ash pit, and the surrounding crater. Few trekkers have the chance to see these stunning sights up close!
6 PM: Enjoy a hot dinner with your fellow trekkers and some hot tea to keep you warm and hydrated in the dry, cold air of crater camp. Tomorrow morning, you’ll have the chance to summit again if you want, joining the trail of night-summiteers near the end of their journey, or you can enjoy a more leisurely descent day.
No matter the time of day, reaching the summit is cause for celebration!
Photo: Thomson Safaris guest, Joel Batzofin