Brande Looks Back: Kilimanjaro Day 3

Date: Oct 2 2015 Friday
Route: Unique Rongai Route
Destination: Kikilewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp
Duration: 3hours walking (+ 1hour acclimatization hike)
Distance: 4km
Elevation Gained: 627m (2,057ft)
FitBit Steps: 26,655
FitBit Calories Burnt: 3,850

(If you missed it – here is my look back on Kilimanjaro Day 2)

Kikilewa Camp - Sunrise

Kikilewa Camp Sunrise – Wow!

Wow, how did I ever get so lucky as to wake up on an adventure with my husband in Tanzania, Africa on none other than Mount Kilimanjaro itself AND get to see this sunset that was so amazing it is beyond words. This was our favourite sunrise of the trip, and we got one every morning!

Kikilewa Camp, Morning Day 3

Kikilewa Camp – amazing day 3 sunrise!

The sunrise was so great and the day looking so nice, instead of serving us breakfast inside the dining tent the Team Kilimanjaro crew pulled the tables and chairs out into the middle of our camp and we ate under the warm sun. I have had breaky in some pretty cool places, but sitting outside soaking up the Africa sun looking out ABOVE the clouds was just so awesome! Seriously if you attempt Mount Kilimanjaro for nothing other than the sunsets and breaky above the clouds, I would totally support you!

Kikilew Camp, Breakfast above the Clouds

Kikilewa Camp – breakfast above the clouds!

Day 3 Breakfast Spread

Day 3 Breakfast Spread!

After we wrapped up breakfast, brushed our teeth, used our lovely toilet tents, poor Lana completed her 30 mins of heel blister prep, and we all had day packs ready with water/snacks/rain gear; we started out from camp with a bounce in our sunny step at 8:15 am.

Kikelewa Camp, Rongai Route

Kikilewa Camp – 8:15am ready to start hiking!

Today was a short day on the Rongai Route but it was an uphill slog. The Kili sentiment “pole, pole” (meaning slowly, slowly in Swahili) was particularly welcome today.  At one point I muttered to our slogging crew that “this sh@t just got real”. It felt like we were actually climbing a mountain today. There was no break in the up and up and up and up …

Almost all vegetation was left behind today and I could finally understand what other climbers had described as ‘it feels as if you are walking on the moon.’ All grey with big chunks of rock, no green and barely even any a scrubby bush or moss to be seen. Grey, rock, dust = moon.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Rongai Route

Mount Kilimanjaro, Rongai Route on the moon!

Our Assistant Guide Felix lead our troop today and that meant with every step all I cold hear was the sound of his much too large corduroy pants scraping thigh against thigh and his hiking boots, also about 3 sizes too big, scuffing along the trail. Swish, Swish. Scuff, Scuff. While that likely sounds as if it would be totally annoying, and trust me it normally would be to me too, on the mountain it was actually just the sound of our pace in my head. I followed the swish and scuff like it was a drum or the beat of some mountain music. Album called Corduroy Burn by the famous Felix MacBigBoot. (ha ha)

Today is also the day I discovered that Felix rarely steps down or up from or over things. No matter the trail, rocks, or terrain he will step on the tiniest little point of rock if it keeps his body and legs at the same height. So unless absolutely impossible to avoid he never steps up, down and over rocks in search of the most secure step possible like I do. I realize this likely saved him so much energy. Most of mine was being wasted in going up and over things or stepping down off things just to step back up on to the next high rock.

To entertain myself I followed right behind him and decided I would step exactly as he and where he stepped to see if it was as slick as it looked. I was not slick at all. In fact I was just wobbly, off balance, and wearing myself out trying to keep up. So I returned to my trusty old slightly hesitant, cautious (not timid) step up and over rocks as has served me so well every other hike I have taken.

Rongai Route, Trail Markers

Rongai Route – trekker made trail markers!

On the trail today there were lots of these rock piles – where other hikers had precariously balanced rock on rock like small towers all along the trail. Basically the equivalent of an Inukshuk. These piles of rock, that Leo called something like ‘canyon’ but with a cool Swahili accent, are meant to mark the trail when the path itself can no longer be seen under the snow.

We came into our next campsite at 11:20 am. While this is just three hours later we were glad to see it. The up and up and up trail today mixed with the increasing altitude is enough to wear a girl out. I needed me some popcorn and hot tea to recover Kili style.

Mawenzi Tarn Hut, Rongai Route

Mawenzi Tarn Hut – we have arrived!

Mawenzi Tarn Hut Camp

Mawenzi Tarn Hut Camp – our humble homes overnight Day 3!

We were welcome with a yummy warm lunch of ginger soup to start, followed by spaghetti with meat sauce and shredded cheese to sprinkle on top, and pineapple slices for dessert. While this was not quite as exciting as our surprising grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries on day 2 for lunch (mmm) it was quite delicious all the same.

For two of our troop the most exciting part about lunch was that this was a meal withOUT green peppers – apparently putting these in every meal as the Team Kilimanjaro crew seemed to do was the worse kind of torture for my husband and our friend Scott. You would think the 84 km up and over a mountain would be tough but that was peanuts compared to the peppers!

At mid afternoon, we were led up on an acclimatization hike. Basically that just means one of the guides takes us farther up the mountain, about 200m or so, where we hang out for about 20mins, then come down. While up there Paul and Lance usually have to pee again, and us girls take some pictures, or like me I scoop some scree into a little pile and use it like a backrest on my nature provided lazy boy (the ground). I was worn out from doing a garbage bag fashion show to entertain my fellow trekkers and needed to sit down to recover.

A fashion show you ask? Well you see, I didn’t want to risk wet clothes at that altitude, and it looked as if it might rain on our acclimatization hike which made me very grumpy, so at the loving advice of my hubby I wore a garbage bag under my not-at-all-“waterproof” jacket and at the top decided to ‘work it’ for some pics before I took it off when it actually didn’t rain at all. I will spare you the fashion show pics!

Acclimatization Hike from Mawenzi Tarn Hut Camp

Acclimatization hike above Mawenzi Tarn Hut Camp!

The idea of these acclimatization hikes was to have us climb higher than we sleep. The rule of hiking at high altitudes is to ‘climb high, and sleep low’ – take your body past where you will be resting so that your body feels better at the altitude you sleep in comparison to where you hiked to. Most hikers feel much better if they follow this simple rule and it has increased many, many people’s chances of making the summit. This same rule is deployed on Mt. Everest, K2, Annapurna, Mount Saint Elias, and all others just as it is on Kilimanjaro.

For those of us who came into camp with a bit of a headache, maybe some nausea or even just a generally feeling of ‘bla’ – these acclimatization hikes sucked to have to go through but were totally worth it. The climb up was tough, the time at the top was a pain, but as you came down that pesky headache magically cleared up. This day’s acclimatization hike cleared up my Mawenzi Tarn Hut Camp little headache quite wonderfully.If only climbing up a hill would solve a headache here at home!

For supper we had pumpkin soup, followed by chicken stew served with rice, and sweet bread of some kind for dessert. Along with, of course, all the hot water and powdered hot drink stuff you could ask for.

Another late night for us on Day 3 … ha ha ha who am I kidding?! We were in our sleeping bags by 7:00 pm again.

There are lots of books that tell you sleeping at altitude is really hard (the diuretic medication, poor breathing at lower oxygen pressure, headaches, nausea, etc.) so its best to spend as much time trying as you can in hopes of at least getting a few hours in. Oddly, Lance and I had no problems at all with sleeping. In fact, I think he had some of his best sleeps on the mountain and I would have too if my excitement to be there in the first place didn’t keep me awake!


(If you are into it – here is my look back on Kilimanjaro Day 4)

Lana Looks Back: Kilimajaro Day 2, “What’s in your Bag?”


(If you missed it – here is a link to my look back on Kilimanjaro Day 1)

The daylight began to slowly creep into our tent and as the beep, beep, beep of my casio digital broke into the crisp morning air on Day 2, I thought to my self, “Is it already 6AM?!” I had slept like a big dog, waking several times to the sound of tent zippers and footsteps to the ever popular toilet tent but I, myself, had been up and out of my own tent just once to visit the same. In my haste to reach the lavatory over tent ropes and rocks in time to wiggle and wrestle the zipper open (and closed after I crossed the threshold) I neglected to note the bright night sky, a follow-up from the first glimpse of the thousands of stars that we’d had the night before. Absolutely amazing! I stood outside for about 10 minutes looking up toward the heavens and basking in the wonder of Creation. Then suddenly, through the silence broke the sound of another zipper, which I must say was far less intrusive than the noise pollution of the acclimatization flatulence coming from other tents in the camp! Blinding one another with our headlamps, we exchanged a quick nod and went our separate ways. Me to my sleeping bag plus 15 degree liner, and he to the toilet tent where I could hear him wrestling agressively with the zipper…

To my surprise, I didn’t even feel cold. For me, this is a shocker and the next 2 hours before waking again were spent in toasty bliss! Breakfast wasn’t until 7am and warm water was brought to our tents for washing close to 6:30. Poor Matty! I set my alarm 30 minutes earlier so I could bandage my blistered and broken heels. Nothing like being woken by someone else’s alarm and then being kept awake by the crinkle of dressing wrappers and the sharp but beautiful sound of duct tape. My first concoction was a  conglomeration of a padded, ultra adhesive dressing generally used for pressure ulcers covered with duct tape so my boot would slide easily if my heels started to lift. At this point, the morning of day 2, the back of my feet were reddened and bruised with only dime sized blisters. I had pierced them before bed but kept the skin intact as much as possible (as a nurse my advice is to never pop a blister so do as I say, not as I do) and applied iodine to dry them out and kill any bacteria creeping around the open area (iodine can kill healthy tissue so do not do this either!). I covered them lightly with a gauze pad and paper tape overnight to let them breathe. By the morning light of my headlamp, I thought they looked pretty good!

After an amazing feast of porridge, eggs, toast and fruit we were ready to hit the trail. We packed our dry sacks and duffle bags with the majority of our gear including sleeping bags for our porters to take to the next camp and our day packs with the only the absolute necessities we would need throughout the day. The porters were amazing carrying our huge packs, tents, and even our toilets at breakneck speed surpassing each one of us as if the gear weighed nothing at all! They busted their humps all day waking earlier than we did and while we were ready for bed by 7 or 8PM, our porters were visiting and laughing well after dark.

The necessities for most of us included a 3 litre water bladder, a 1 litre portable water bottle, wet wipes, high protein snacks and hard candies, a hat and sunscreen to shield us from the strength of the sun, a fleece for small breaks so we didn’t get cold, and rain gear for top and bottom as we were instructed to be prepared for a 99.9% chance of rain each and every day. I thought I was doing quite well with my new Osprey pack but head guide Leo thought it looked too full and heavy to be carried for the day. As we all gathered together for the morning brief, Leo looked at me and asked, “What’s in your bag?” I told him the usual and then he proceeded to shake his head as I emptied the bag onto the ground. I had all of the above plus a couple of extras… An extra thermal mid weight fleece, an extra long sleeved merino wool zip base layer, a short sleeved t-shirt, extra bottom layer, a large bag of M&Ms, extra dressings for my feet in case the existing ones came off, small bottles of Tylenol and ibuprofen for feet pain, an extra camera card and portable charger for my camera, iPhone in case of emergency, iPod and head phones for music, a few other miscellaneous items, a pair of trainers in case my boots killed my feet more than I expected, and of course my trusty walking poles strapped tightly in. Obviously the word, “necessities” means different things to different people…Day2, Rongai Route

Satisfied that my pack was bulk rather than weight, off we went into the sunny hills of Kilimanjaro. Up, up, up for most of the morning and then after our delicious hot lunch, seated at our dining table and a rest, we settled in to a nice pace for the gentle incline that still awaited us. With the exception of some rocky climbs and dips, the way was much easier than I anticipate – and much warmer!

During the trek not long after lunch clouds began forming around us and you could feel a chill in the air. We asked the all-knowing guide if we should stop and put on our rain gear. “Not yet” came the reply. So we continued on until instructed to stop to “Drink water” and “Put on your rain clothes.” I think we had had just begun to walk again when the rain started, then continued, then turned to sleet, small hail, then rain, and rain. I was again amazed by these guides, not only their awareness of the status of each one of us in the group, but by their knowledge of the mountain and the conditions surrounding us. It stopped before we reached camp but not before a good number of us discovered that their rain gear was not actually waterproof – or even water resistant! Note to future Kili trekkers… Test your gear BEFORE the mountain and understand that while rental gear is an excellent idea in theory, you cannot guarantee its quality. Some of our gear did not dry again until a week later back in the warm temperatures of Arusha. Zip-loc air tight plastic bags kept the other gear in our bags dry until then but the horrific waft released after seven days of dark and dank is one smell that can only be described as unforgettable.

Safely back at camp we were greeted with popcorn and tea (coffee, hot chocolate etc) warm water to wash and our dry clothes in our tents. After supper, some trivia, and a few laughs I was ready for bed. I had not been at all cold on the mountain, even while my face felt like it was being sliced by sleet and stung by hail, but the thought of curling up with my fleece underwear and heating pad in my fluffy sleeping bag with plus fifteen degree liner was like magic to me. I don’t think it was much past 8PM when I finished popping my blisters, swabbing with iodine, and dressing my feet. Ibuprofen taking effect. I readied my gear for the morning and hoping to get a head start on foot care, I set my alarm for 30 minutes before we were supposed to wake. That and the fact that I believe I was snoring before 8:30PM must have had my tent-mate wondering what he had gotten himself into. Poor Matty!

Up once in the night to the popular toilet tent, (I blame the Diamoxx diuretic effect) but otherwise I slept like a rock! The mountain air must be amazing! I don’t know how I slept so well. It might have been the 7 hour climb, or the deliciously content and full feeling I had after supper, or highly likely is the fact that I was warm all night… I know, it’s shocking! Being warm at night, in a tent, on Kilimanjaro, was the biggest surprise of the trip for me. At home I generally use flannel sheets, down duvet x 2, heating pad, and fleece pyjamas plus hoody. If warmth at night is positively correlated with walking 4-13 hours a day, sign me up! I’m ready for day 3…


(Here is a link to my look back on Kilimanjaro Day 3 and 4)