My expedition to the highest point in Africa was a fairly cavalier one. I decided a month before to give it a crack after I realised within a week that travelling in Thailand wasn’t right for me. The energy spent saving money working extra hours at marquees, catering and call centres warranted more than drinking on a beach as an end goal.
Off to Nairobi it was, flights booked a few weeks in advance, and a vague plan to try and summit on my 19th birthday. My finances were very stretched but it was the ideal time to attempt this mountain before Elbrus in August. I explored Nairobi before finding a bus to head into Tanzania and to Moshi, the lovely town near the base of Kilimanjaro.
I knew it would be an achievable climb given the number of friends I knew, or friends of friends, that had gone up it. Despite my protestations, you’re not actually able to climb Kili solo. I was keen on bringing my own food, equipment etc but as it’s such a key aspect of employment and finance in the region, you are required to bring a guide which was an irritation but beyond my powers of persuasion.
Regardless, into Kilimanjaro National Park I went with my guide and we slowly made our way through the changeable landscapes. The first time you see Kili from afar will stick with you but being at the base of it, more than a vertical km above, is rather enchanting.
Basha and I set off for the summit at midnight with an aim to summit just after sunrise. He had somehow managed to forget his headtorch so the next six hours were spent with me walking behind him guiding his footing as he managed to take a remarkable route. Despite his claimed 50 odd summits, he was totally lost, which, having descended the same route was totally baffling but all good mountain experience for me.
We finally stumbled across the Uhuru Peak signpost at the summit. It was still dark as we had moved fast but waiting at the top in what was a chilly morning was unwise so after a few snaps we headed down. After about 30 mins of descending a gorgeous sunrise took place above a cloud line at a height of around 3,000m. We safely made it back down to Base Camp in a day or so to round off what had been a memorable 19th birthday.