ix Airline Pilots from Jet Airways and Qatar Airways climbed Uhuru Peak in the month of March 2012 to raise funds for Isha Vidhya. Uhuru Peak, Mt Kilimanjaro is one of the world famous Seven Summits and the highest point on the continent of Africa.
The climbing team consisted of Sudhir Gaur, Dinesh Rego, Omar Sikka, Sumit Pal, Uruj Kazi and Randeep Panag. They chose to go via Machame, which is the tougher route. The following is their sharing about the journey.
Of the Kilimanjaro routes, the Machame route is the most popular. It is the route of choice amongst most climbers because it provides impressive views and a variety of habitats. The route is also known as the Whiskey route, given its reputation for being a tough climb, in contrast to the easier Marangu route, which is known as the Coca Cola route. Unlike the gradual incline and hut accommodations found on the Marangu Route, the climbers on Machame hike steeper trails, for longer distances, while sleeping in tents. Most seasoned climbers choose the Machame route.
The drive from Arusha where we were staying to the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park Gate takes about 90 minutes. The journey passes through the village of Machame which is located on the lower slopes of the mountain.
We left the park gate after registering for the climb and walked through the rain forest on a winding trail up a ridge. This climb was through a tropical rainforest and at the end of the day we camped at a point called the Machame camp. During the night, there was rain and thunder. However, we were lucky enough to keep dry and get some sleep.
After breakfast we left the glades of the rain forest and continued on an ascending path, crossing the little valley walking along a steep rocky ridge, covered with heather, until the ridge ended. The route then turned westward onto a river gorge. We climbed up to an elevation of about 13,500ft before we descended to the camp for the night. The camp had awesome views of the Shira crater and by the end of the day, the vegetation had completely changed.
From the Shira Plateau we continued eastwards up a ridge, passing the junction towards the peak of Kibo. As we continued the climb, our direction changed to the South East towards the Lava Tower, called the “Shark’s Tooth.” This is a tower of a single rock made of lava during the eruption of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We stayed at the tower for about an hour to acclimatize as it was at an elevation of over 14,000ft. As we started our descent, there was sleet and rain and we had to put on our rain gear. We continued down to the Barranco Hut at an altitude of 13,000ft. Here we rested, enjoyed dinner and stayed overnight in our tents.
After breakfast, we left Barranco and continued on a steep ridge, passing the Barranco Wall, to the Karanga Valley campsite. At Karanga, we stopped for lunch. After Lunch, we hit the junction which connects with the Mweka Trail and continued up to the Barafu Hut.
At this point, we completed the South Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo are to be seen from this position. On reaching Barafu in the evening, we decided to attempt a night summit, starting our climb at 0245am so that we could enjoy the sunrise on the way up and also the spectacular views that came with it. We had an early meal and hit the sack at 8pm to get a little rest before the climb.
Very early in the morning at 2:45am, we started on our way to the summit between the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers. The route headed in a northwesterly direction to ascend through heavy snow towards Stella Point on the crater rim. This was the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. The climb temperatures were between -10 and -25 with the windchill, so that water in our bottles also froze. The night climb was started on a full moon night and we did not require our head lamps till the moon crossed over the ridge.
Halfway up, we were rewarded with the most spectacular sunrise with magnificent views. The last hour of the climb up to Stella point was the toughest as the path was covered in snow and it was really steep. We slipped one step for every two taken. At Stella Point (18,600 ft), we stopped for a short rest before we continued on our 1 hour ascent to the summit – Uhuru Peak, the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa. The view was truly spectacular at this point – the blue-green glaciers standing like walls of ice, the crater of Kilimanjaro and the views all the way down to the plains of Africa.
The night before our summit climb, there had been heavy snowfall on the mountain, making our climb tough but at the same time very spectacular. We stayed at the summit for nearly 30 minutes before we started our descent directly to the Millenium camp site, stopping at Barafu for a snack. The idea of a continuous descent was to get a good night’s rest and we were rewarded with a very good sleep.
After breakfast, we continued the descent down to the Marangu Park Gate. It was a beautiful sunny day and though the descent was challenging and steep, it was supported by a great day.
All along the route, at each important point, there were registers and we were required to enter our details so that the record of the climb was maintained by the government. Once out of the gate, we stopped at Moshi for lunch where our guide Simon gave us certificates awarded by the government of Tanzania for successfully completing the climb to the summit. We’d like to thank everyone who supported us in making this journey.