Day 8 (Sept. 9, 2005): Summit (Uhuru Peak) and descent to Millennium Camp


Trip Participants
Selecting the Route
Guide/Trekking Company
Training for the Climb
Gear List

Travel to Tanzania
Pre-Climb Orientation
Day 1: to Forest Camp
Day 2: to Shira 1 Camp
Day 3: to Moir Camp
Day 4: rest day at Moir
Day 5: to Lava Tower
Day 6: to Arrow Glacier
Day 7: Western Breach
Day 8: Summit day
Day 9: Descent

Safari After the Climb

Hiking  Distances
GPS Coordinates
Contact Information

Daily Climbing Summary


Crater camp

18,810' elevation
Finish: Millennium camp 12,590' elevation
Distance: 6.3 miles  
Time on trail: 8 hours  
GPS Data Latitude Longitude
Crater camp S 3o 04.372' E 37o 21.104'
Uhuru Peak S 3o 04.586' E 37o 21.238'
Millennium camp S 3o 07.901' E 37o 22.316'

We had breakfast around 5:15 am, before our final climb to Uhuru Peak (Swahili for "Freedom;" it was re-named in 1961 when Tanzania gained its independence). I had some toast and a little sweet corn porridge, but had very little appetite.

The push up the final 500' elevation gain from Crater Camp was much harder than I ever imagined. I found that yesterday on the hike to the Ash Pit and today on the climb to the summit, any uphill grade at all was very difficult. This would really get my heart to pounding; two or three steps in quick succession (for example, to get past a slick or rocky section) would leave me breathless. Anytime I was moving, I also felt somewhat nauseous. The other problem this morning was the footing. Most of this trail was very soft, loose, dusty scree. As you climbed, your foot had a tendency to slip back downhill. Often you had to climb a 20-30' section of this loose scree, and it was hard to put together the combination of energy, breathing, footing, and balance to get past it (and generally it was impossible to stop in the middle, due to the slope).

Of the 33 people who left the trailhead at Lemosho Glade (5 clients and 28 support people), only 7 of us went all the way to Uhuru Peak (Pauline, Rick, Ellen, and I, accompanied by Elias, Luka, and Michael). It took our group about an hour and 15 minutes to make it up the initial, steep slope to reach the top of the rise, followed by relatively flat terrain. It took us another 15 minutes to walk the final 300 yards to the summit. Even that wasn't easy at 19,200' elevation, but we could see the summit sign and a crowd of people to use as a goal.

It was sunny, warm, and beautiful at the top; no wind (or snow). From the peak, we got our first look at Mawenzi Peak to the east; our views of Mawenzi had been blocked by Kibo for our entire trek as we approached from the west.

Around 8 am our group reached Uhuru Peak (19,340'), the highest point on the African continent. Everyone shook hands and exchanged congratulations. We waited for one or two other groups to finish, then we took our group and individual photos in front of the large sign at the summit.

We began our hike down the mountain about 8:30 am. We walked along the crater rim, down a gradual slope for about 20 minutes to reach Stella Point. Climbers who take the more heavily used routes to the crater rim usually begin at around midnight from the Kibo Hut to reach Gillman's Point, or from Barafu Camp to reach Stella Point; they then have an additional 1-2 hours hike to Uhuru Peak. Our route from the summit called for us to descend from Stella Point, down a 4,000' steep scree field to Barafu Camp. After lunch at Barafu, we would continue down another 3,000' to Millennium Camp.

Ellen and I, accompanied by Luka, sped down from Stella Point. I used elastic support bandages on both knees and used my trekking poles to try to ease the effects of our 7,000' descent. The slope was covered with very deep, sandy dust (or scree). Each footstep down hill would sink six inches into the deep powder. The walking downhill was very easy. I thought it would be tougher to keep my balance and to stay in control, but it was not bad. However, I can't imagine having to walk up that slope and poor footing. I was very glad that we had taken the Western Breach route to the crater the day before.

It took Ellen and me about 2 hours to cover the 2.6 miles to reach Barafu. It was cold, windy, and cloud-covered at this camp site. It was also very crowded with a dozen or more groups set-up for the night. Our lunch tent was set-up when we arrived, and we just rested and snoozed for about an hour until Rick, Pauline, Elias, and Michael arrived. I don't really remember what we had for lunch; I don't think that I ate very much, because I still had no appetite to speak of.

After lunch, Elias accompanied Ellen and I down to Millennium Camp, an additional 2.5 miles. It took about an hour and a half to reach our camp site for the night. I was tired, and ready for a nap when we finally got there. Three or four other groups were set-up for the night at Millennium. It was damp and cloud covered the entire time we were there. I had expected it to be very loud that night, with people celebrating their successful climbs. As it turned out, everyone must have been as tired as we were, because it was very quiet.

When Elias checked our oxygen levels, we had all bounced back to the 90% levels, after reaching this lower altitude. I slept pretty well that night, with the richer air at 12,590' at this camp.



Copyright 2005. Michael E. Coltrin, Albuquerque, NM. All rights reserved.