Thomson guest Judith trekked Mount Kilimanjaro with her friend Stephanie in September, and they’re here to take you with them! No need to get your trekking poles out – in fact, you don’t have to leave the couch. Follow every day of Judith and Stephanie’s trek on the Grand Traverse as they share their thoughts, challenges and triumphs along the way.
Arrival to Tanzania
After arriving into Kilimanjaro International Airport, Judith and Stephanie immediately noticed a pleasant smell above the turbines and the terminal.
“It smells like Africa…like earth,” Stephanie said.
With those words, their adventure began. Later that night, Judith and Stephanie settled down at Ndarkwai Ranch, a beautiful ranch of over 11,000 acres. Here, trekkers prepare for their climb, shake off jetlag and enjoy acclimatization walks and game drives. Judith’s canvas tent had scenic views over the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“We are glamping right now,” Judith said.
“Total glamping,” Stephanie said.
Judith’s first full day at Ndarakwai was filled with fresh fruits and nature walks. After a briefing with her guides, she went on a wildlife viewing drive, where she saw giraffes gallop across the plains as if they moved in slow motion.
Trek Day 1:
Ndarakwai Ranch – Trailhead – Shira 1 Camp (11,499′)
Judith prepared to arrive at the trailhead, where she would begin her climb! She learned the best way to climb Kili is pole, pole, Swahili for “slowly, slowly.”
“Our guide, MC, says that it’s the absolute key to getting up there, feeling okay, safely, without any mountain sickness,” Judith said.
Judith was impressed with the kindness and enthusiasm of her porters – all 70 of them!
“They’re bringing up all of our food, our water,” she said. “They’re very friendly. They’re very warm, warm, warm people.”
Trek Day 2:
Moir Camp (13,700′)
Judith and her group settled down for the night at their crater campsite. She enjoyed ginger tea, along with plenty of snacks: fresh-baked banana bread, cookies, popcorn and soup.
“It’s amazing what they can prepare here on little propane stoves,” she said.
Trek Day 3:
Pofu Camp (13,200′)
Judith’s climb passed through the surreal landscape and loose rocky trails of the Alpine Desert. She experienced a mix of altitude loss and gain along the way.
Trek Day 4:
Rongai Caves 2 Camp (11,450′)
Day four of the trek was easy and short, which helped Judith acclimatize and give her body a rest day for the next leg of the journey.
Trek Day 5:
Kikelewa Caves Camp (11,850′)
Judith and Stephanie were tired, the air was chilly, but they were happy to embrace the sunburns, the dirt and the altitude.
“We’re pretty much equal to the clouds,” Judith said.
They were excited to share all of the wonderful things they had discovered about their guides and porters: they were the sweetest, most beautiful, nicest, joyful, hilarious, happy, funny and hard-working people they’ve ever met. They were also excited to share some fun new Swahili they learned along the way!
Trek Day 6:
Mawenzi Tarn Camp (14,210′)
On one of the most challenging days of their trek, Judith and Stephanie made the steady uphill climb to Mawenzi Tarn.
“Pole, pole, big time,” Stephanie said.
They faced a lot of loose rock on the trail, took some beautiful pictures and had fantastic views of a rainbow in the clouds.
Trek Day 7:
Outward Bound Camp (15,450′)
At 15,000 feet, Judith noticed she was starting to feel the effects of high altitude. She was still able to make the hike with her group. Her guides confirmed her oxygen levels were sufficient after their daily pulse oximeter check. Everything was fine, and her will stood unshaken – she was fully prepared for her 2:45 a.m. wakeup call for summit day!
“These guys have been so supportive today, it almost makes me cry,” she said. “It did make me cry, didn’t it? They’ve really helped, and so has Stephanie.”
Trek Day 8: Summit Day!
Uhuru Peak (19,341′)
After a week of trekking, Judith and Stephanie made their summit bid for Uhuru at 19,341 feet. Did they make it to Mount Kilimanjaro’s highest peak, the Roof of Africa? (Spoiler: of course they did!)
Trek Day 9:
Mweka Millennium Camp (12,500′)
After reaching Uhuru Peak, Judith and Stephanie began their descent, and were excited to rest after a long day of hiking.
“It was so exhilarating to be there, and we were so well prepared,” Judith said. “We’re so proud of ourselves. And exhausted!”
Trek Day 10:
Mweka Gate (5,380′)
Judith and Stephanie show off their trek certificates! Bon voyage, and congratulations on your summit!