Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

5 Jan 2001 - by Steve Bonowski

The Colorado Mountain Club's High Altitude Mountaineering Section enjoyed another successful climb of Kilimanjaro earlier this month. Starting up the mountain on New Year's Day, we did the Machame Route to the Shira Plateau; then traversed along the Southern Circuit to Barranco Hut; up the Barranco Wall; and then onto the new trail that runs up to Barafu Hut at 15,000'. 10 of 14 persons in our Group persons gained the summit on Jan. 5 with another person going back up later in the month and summiting.

As always, the Marangu Hotel did an outstanding job of outfitting our group. Unfortunately, they couldn't do anything about the weather. The Fall "short rains" hung on this year well into January, which is supposed to be a "dry" season. We had rain each day on the mountain, and heavy wet snow between Shira & Barranco Huts. There was fresh snowfall high up on the mountain, but not in any great quantity.

Machame Route is now one way uphill, and climbing parties in this area are directed to descend the Mweka Route past Mweka Hut down to the gate of the same name. Below Mweka Hut, the mud was incredibly bad. I advised our group beforehand of the "perils" of the "technical mud" on the Machame Route, but the "Mweka mud" surpassed even Machame's offerings.

Footgear, gaiters, and other gear such as tents took a real pounding from the rain and mud. But, we got back to the Hotel in time to get some drying out done on the 6th before leaving on our 4 day safari to Ngorongoro, Serengeti, & Lake Manyara.

I won't comment at length regarding the safari except to say we saw everything, including 6 black rhino in the Crater. The rains were letting up, but we retained overcast skies most of the time which helped with the heat.

A new addition to this year's outing was a trek on Mt. Kenya, which HAMS hadn't offered before. We did a climb of Mt. Meru two years ago, but this is still in Tanzania. Half the group left for the USA on the 12th; with 1 going to Zanzibar and meeting us later in Nairobi; one staying behind to reclimb Kili (he was sick on the 5th); and 5 of us taking the Davanu Shuttle for the all day drive to Nairobi.

On the 13th, 3 of us took transport up to the Mt. Kenya area, and began a five day, four night trek into the heart of the massif on the Sirimon Route. Our first day was overcast, but no rain. The remaining four days were crystal clear, to partly cloudy in the afternoon. For those who have never been to Mt. Kenya, it is incredibly spectacular; sorta makes the much higher Kili look like "chump change."

Day three of the trek took us over Pt. Lenana, the 3rd highest peak on the massif at 16,355'. The twin high summits, Batian & Nelion, both break 17,000' and are technical climbs. Lenana's north side offers good trail most of the way, with a little Class 2 scrambling here and there, and only minimal exposure, until the summit block is gained. A low Class 3 crack chimney about 8 ft. high gives access to the small summit plateau. If one falls here, there is a gentle slope of about 15 mtrs. to stop before one then goes over a small cliff and bounces down onto the Lewis Glacier. Views from the top of Lenana are great, and the ridge descending down to the Austrian Hut area is easier than the north side approach.

From the Austrian Hut, we were now on the Naro Moru Route which took us to McKinder's Station (a bunkhouse); Met Station (cabins with Syke's monkeys for entertainment); and then out the Naro Moru gate on Day 5 and adjournment to the Naro Moru River Lodge for showers and some fine dining.We returned to Nairobi on the 18th and a return to Denver on the 19th/20th. The infamous "vertical bog" below McKinder was nothing to us vets of the Kili mud. Actually, with all the grass tussocks in place, one can avoid the most muddy places, and stay relatively dry.

If all goes according to plan, we will offer this outing again in January, 2003. The next outing will open for signups around March 1, 2002 if all approvals fall into place, and this writer's knees continue to hold up (since I've been the trip leader). Those persons desiring more info about our vendors (Marangu Hotel; Lion's Safari Intl.(Arusha); Lets Go Travel & Safaris (Nairobi)) can contact me privately.

P.S. to Gary Neptune: the t-shirt commemerating your and Fred Barth's climb of Shipton's Cracks on Nelion in Feb., 1995 continues to hang in the dart room at the Pt. Lenana Bar at Naro Moru River Lodge. It is next to Fred's "K-2 (Kili & Kenya)" t-shirt from 1988.


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