Day 5: Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp, Sunday August 13th, 2023

I woke up early again and enjoyed the view of camp. The sunrise above the clouds at Karanga Camp was just stunning. I was starting to appreciate the serenity of it all. Though I still wasn’t enjoying the camping, that never changed. We were now on the right hand side of Kibo (or south east if you’re a mountaineer) and so close to the base of it where we will start our ascent this evening. Inching closer to our adventure being over. But also to the pinnacle of the reason why we were here - to summit - was looming over us, we could almost see the peak from Karanga Camp and we were told if we got up in the middle of the night, we’d be able to see the headlamps of the climbers slowing making their way up to summit. I considered getting up to watch, but my warm sleeping bag kept me from doing so. 

Karanga Camp, Mount Kilimanjaro


When I got up to use the Business Center (the toilet) that morning, I mentioned to January that the battery on my phone was dying, so he took it from me and charged it up. The solar panel I’d bought wasn’t getting much sun, so it never charged up. I managed to get two full charges from it though. And Kristen somehow was able to give us a few charges too. So between us all, I don’t think any of our phones died completely. 

Below you can see the route that we would be taking to the peak through the night.

Just after breakfast as we were getting ready to leave, another helicopter arrived to airlift a climber off the mountain, from our camp. A few times during our stay you’d hear the helicopter off in the distance, you wouldn’t always see them, but you could hear them (we were told a few weeks after we got off the mountain that two climbers had passed away the week that we were on the mountain).

Abel showed me a photo he had of himself about 20 years ago that was taken at Karanga Camp, so I said let’s go down and find where it was taken and recreate it.

I don’t know if we got the exact same spot, but it was fun to see the before and after photos!

Abel at Karanga Camp

Abel at Karanga Camp

When we got back, the crew gave us a great send off, lots more singing and dancing, and we were on our way again. 

As we were getting further up the mountain, there were less rocks and bushes and it started to feel like we were on the moon (or at least what I imagine the moon to be like), the grey dirt and small volcanic rocks which then turned into a slate like terrain, there was very little plant life. There was nowhere to pee in privacy. We were all on the same pee schedule and at this point had no choice but to pee side by side. Kristen and I would pretend we were at a club and going to the toilet together, like you would as teenagers. Somehow it happened that the women always used the left side of the trail and the men used the right. 

You can see below how there are no rocks or vegetation to hide behind! 

This rock formation is shaped like crocodile

This lava rock formation is shaped like crocodile

Abel showed me a rock formation that looked like a skull and told me that he comes to visit it every time he comes up the mountain. He asked me if it were possible that it was a skull. I had no answers for him. But I do think about that skull like rock and wonder if it was the remains of someone caught in the volcano when it last erupted 360,000 years ago.


At one point in time, Shira was the tallest on Mount Kilimanjaro and when the volcano erupted, it formed Kibo. There are three cones on Mount Kilimanjaro. Kibo (the tallest and the one that we were summiting), with Uhuru Peak being the tallest point), Shira and Mawenzi. Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, but also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. It’s free standing because of it being a volcano.

On 6 October 1889, Hans Meyer reached the highest summit on the crater ridge of Kibo. He named it Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze (Kaiser Wilhelm Peak). That name was used until the country gained its independence from Great Britain in 1961, Tanganyika was united With Zanzibar and the two names were put together to name the newly formed country Tanzania. That is when the summit was renamed Uhuru Peak, meaning Freedom or Independent Peak in Swahili.

Abel’s Grandfather, Yohanne/Yohani Kinyala Lauwo, was the first head guide to take Hans Meyer to the peak of Kibo. After a few failed attempts  by Hans Meyer, it was the expedition that Kinyala led that got them successfully to the summit. Kinyala lived until he was over 124 years old and led that first expedition with Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller in 1889, when he was just 18 years old. He was chosen to be the lead guide because of his physique, his knowledge of the area and being in the right place at the right time. Kinyala was part of the Chagga Tribe (a tribe that still exists in the region, there are tribes all over Tanzania, and the Chagga Tribe is the Mount Kilimanjaro area tribe of which Abel is still a member). You can read more of his story below, which describes how he was chosen. Our climb was Abel’s 1,024th climb and he has reached Uhuru Peak successfully all 1,024 times (and counting).

 Article about Abel's Grandfather, Yohanne/Yohani Kinyala Lauwo

Today was a short hike, only 2 miles from Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp. But those 2 miles took us 3.5 hours. With an elevation gain of 2,222ft. That uphill was a bit of a struggle and we were told the elevation gain would be more tonight - summit night (around 4,000ft). I could start to feel my shins and calves having had a workout. Those are parts of my body I didn’t really focus on when I was training and if I could go back in time, I’d probably do some more workouts for those. It didn’t hinder me and they weren’t hurting, I could just feel them being stretched. The photo below looks like we’re just on a short nature walk, but it was steep, we were going slow and it was getting increasingly harder to breathe the higher up we went.

Heading up to Barafu Camp from Karanga Camp

We took photos at the gate post like we always do and then headed to the mess tent for lunch. Barafu Camp was busy and our camp was set up quite a distance from the gate post. As we arrived we could see some of the climbers heading down Kibo from the night before. This would be us in 24 hours time.

Arriving at Barafu Camp

Camping at Barafu Camp, on an incline

Sleeping on the incline (not that much sleeping actually happens at Barafu Camp)

One of the toilets at Barafu Camp

The camp toilet perched on the edge (thankfully we had our private (or privé - see what I did there?!) toilet tents, so we didn’t have to use these.

Abel briefed us a little on what to expect tonight and what we needed to wear. He told us to get everything out so that we were prepared, 4 layers on top and 4 layers on bottom. I asked him to come and take a look at what I’d laid out, to make sure I’d be sufficiently warm.

As we sat in the tent at lunchtime, I took a reading of my heart rate on my phone (I don’t know why I didn’t think to do it before. My heart rate is 110bpm at resting state. It wasn’t until recently that I realized why that might be. I thought it was because of the altitude. Connie and I had a chat after the climb, and she said she was surprised at how much energy I had, honestly, I was too. Usually on any given day I’m exhausted and need an afternoon nap, but somehow that mountain gave me energy. Connie thought it might be all the cardio workouts I was doing (if you’ve had any conversations with me, you’ll know one of my favorite workouts is trampoline class at Jane Do). Maybe it was the hiking, giving me a rush of endorphins? I don’t drink caffeine, I’ve never liked the taste of tea or coffee and I don’t like the bubbles in soda, so don’t drink those either. So my body isn’t used to caffeine. 

Well, turns out, my new found energy was most likely the Liquid IV I was drinking. I was dividing a pouch of it in my water bladder and Nalgene bottle each day. It’s a multiplier so it helps your body to absorb the water and keep you hydrated. The one I was drinking was an energy one. I read the nutrition label, there was no caffeine in it. Or so I thought. It was only a few weeks ago that I re-read the label. Turns out there is natural caffeine in it and I was drinking about 2 cups of coffee worth of caffeine every day. No wonder I had energy and wasn’t able to nap in the afternoon when everyone else was and had boundless energy when we got to Lava Tower. Well, no complaints, except, maybe I should be drinking that energy drink on a daily basis!

Quite honestly the rest of the afternoon and evening was a bit of a blur. I remember us all sitting in the mess tent at dinner, around 5:30pm, nervous and excited about what was ahead of us, each of us discussing our game plan. Justin had figured out his water bottle situation (he only had two water bottles and no water bladder which had sufficed him until this point), we talked about our hand warmers, did everyone have enough? Where do you put the toe warmers (on the top of your feet, or the bottom - it was the top). Lucretia was making sure that whomever needed extras of her diamox got them if they wanted them, we were advised to have one in the morning, one in the afternoon (as usual) and one in the evening before we left. She was also handing out Decadron (I took one, not really knowing why - it was to help with altitude sickness - but if Lucretia recommended it, I was happy to take her advice. Lucretia was a nurse before retiring and she was knowledgeable about medication and I trust her implicitly). 

I made sure I had my Ventolin rescue inhaler with me. I have mild asthma and I was unsure how my breathing would be with the altitude. It had been ok up until this point, but I was making sure to take my regular inhaler morning and night. We talked about how we should put boiling water in our Nalgene bottles. I don’t know why, I guess I thought I wanted to be prepared, but I filled mine up with boiling water just after lunchtime as I didn’t want to be in a rush after dinner and was worried there wouldn’t be enough boiling water for us all. That meant by the time we left later that evening they were lukewarm. We put our bottles in our spare socks to keep them warm and I put some of my hand warmers in between the socks and water bottle to keep the water from freezing. Our water bladders would be the first to freeze, or rather the tube would be. I had brought two headlamps with me, batteries run out a lot quicker in freezing cold temperatures, and I had read somewhere that the last thing you want to do in the dark and cold is fumble about switching out batteries. But Lucretia’s headlamp wasn’t very strong, so I gave her my spare. I didn’t have any spare batteries either, but I figured that it would all be ok. And it was. 

And so we finished dinner, tried to get some nap time (if there was sleeping, it certainly wasn’t much) and get ready to leave. We were told to be ready by 10pm and we would leave around 11-11:30pm to start our ascent to Uhuru Peak.

We have put together a GoFundMe (read some of the porters stories) and Amazon Wishlist for the porters so that we can get them the hiking and camping equipment they need to keep them safe and uninjured on the mountain. We would love your support.

Day 1: Morum Barrier Gate to Shira 1 Camp, Wednesday August 9th, 2023
Day 2: Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp, Thursday August 10th, 2023
Day 3: Shira 2 Camp to Barranco Camp via Lava Tower, Friday August 11th, 2023
Day 4: Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp, Saturday August 12th, 2023
Day 5: Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp, Sunday August 13th, 2023
Day 5-6: Summit Night Sunday August 13th into Monday August 14th

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