The first Trek & Mountain reader expedition ended in success this week, with all 6 members of the team summiting Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru peak on 29th January. The expedition, sponsored by leading outdoor brand Helly Hansen, took the most direct and toughest route up the mountain, the Umbwe route, before ascending to the crater rim by the infamous Western Breach, the spectacular but ‘least safe’ area on the mountain. However, the upside of choosing this route was the magnificent scenery of the Western Breach and also the lack of other trekkers encountered during the trek.
Because height is gained so quickly on the Umbwe route, it was important for the team to be acclimatised beforehand, and so the expedition began with a 3-day trek up nearby Mt Meru, which stands at 4565m. Set in the Arusha National Park, Meru is a spectacular trek in its own right, with giraffe, zebra and buffalo to be seen on its lower slopes, and the volcanic ash cone and crater rim offering spectacular scenery. It also provides the perfect prelude to climbing Kilimanjaro itself, as the gigantic shape of Kili dominates the skyline from almost every place on Meru.
Once the team had descended from Meru (everyone summited), we headed back to Moshi for a rest day, and then the very next day set off for Kili itself. Tummy troubles aside, the ascent was relatively straightforward and by Day 3 we had reached the Lava Tower Camp at 4600m. We scrambled up the Tower for some great views before moving onto our high camp, Arrow Glacier Camp, the next day from where we would launch our summit attempt. A quick recce up the Western Breach gave us stunning views of the area, and provided head guide Joseph with vital intel for the route we’d take that night. Some rockfall while we were walking back down demonstrated why it would be important to move through any potential rockfall areas as quickly as possible.
We set off from Arrow Glacier Camp at 3am under a full moon and took four hours to climb the scree slopes, snow slopes and scrambling sections of the Western Breach, before ‘breaching the Breach’ and breaking out onto the crater rim. From here we took another 90 minutes to get to Uhuru Peak, all the while enjoying the sight of glaciers around us and the fine, clear weather. Again, we saw no other people while on the plateau and reached an empty summit at 8.30am in the morning.
After enjoying our time at the top, we headed down the Mweka descent route and made it all the way down to Mweka Camp at 3100m where we spent our last night on the mountain. The next morning we had a leisurely walk-out and drove back to the comfort of the hotel.
Six of out six summits, an unforgettable experience, and the most professional and friendly crew that you could ever hope for – the expedition was a complete success. You can read the full story of the trip in the March 2013 edition of Trek & Mountain, on sale 28th February. In the meantime we’d like to thank Helly Hansen, RJ7 Expeditions and the mountain crew and office team at Summits Africa for making the trip such a unmitigated success.