Geographic Expeditions - vacations and travel

The Real Kilimanjaro

Kenya, Africa

from $7,825* per person 15 Days January, February, June-September
Boutique accommodations Exertion level: 4
Operator: Geographic Expeditions 18 people max
  • Jomo kenyatta airport, nairobi, kenya
  • Active & Adventure trips
The mountains,” said the great explorer Francis Younghusband,“ reserve their greatest secrets for those who attain their summits.” There is something exalting and supremely rare about climbing a great peak, a gift that can never be taken away. This is especially true of a legendary mountain like Kilimanjaro, one of the seven continental highpoints. “A distant snow peak scours the mind,” Peter Matthiessen wrote in The Tree Where Man Was Born, “but a snow peak in the tropics draws the heart to a ?ne shimmering painful point of joy.”

We call this the Real Kilimanjaro for a couple of reasons. First, we aim for the peak’s true summit, 19,340-foot Uhuru Point, rather than the much lower Gilman Point, which is about as far as most of the rushed, exhausted, poorly acclimatized climbers on the normal Machame and Marangu Routes get. Second, by slowly climbing the strenuous, nontechnical, but far less hiked Western Breach Route, we avoid the masses of climbers on the mountain’s other side, giving us a deeper appreciation of Kilimanjaro’s august personality.

We take seven days, hiking at a wise pace, up through montane and heath forests, up to the otherworldly alpine zone—from the equator to the arctic, as the saying goes. Our last camp, at a near-Himalayan 18,000-plus feet, is set next to the imposing Furtwängler Glacier. (Yes, though they are melting, the glaciers up here are still magnificent. In the words of Audrey Selkeld in Kilimanjaro, “The crater was an utterly different world, filled with rusty-colored gravel from which rose walls of turquoise-tinted ice, sculpted into the most exquisite shapes. These may represent only a shadow of the former ice cap, yet still the scene takes your breath away. It really was a magic fairyland.”) And the next morning after a hot breakfast in our homey mess tent, we’re off, ?t, fresh, and exalted, to the summit, just a couple of easy hours above. (You should know that very few Kilimanjaro climbs feature this fantastic Crater Camp. So the vast majority of climbers rise at a wrenchingly early hour from lower camps to make the long, dark, and too altitudinous climb to the summit.)

This writer counts that spectacular last camp and the next day’s summiting as one of the great episodes of my long mountain life. Adding substantially to the joy was the company of our climbing crew, as ?ne and warmhearted a group of fellows as I’ve ever hiked with. They rank right up there with the Sherpas, a seriously high ompliment.

And one more thing: rather than jumping off a plane and onto the mountain, we’ve prefaced our climb with a four-night stay at southern Kenya’s wonderful Campi ya Kanzi, where we’ll gaze up at the big prize just to the south and do some lovely unwinding, game viewing, and cloud-forest walking at one of the world’s finest and most familial lodges.

Locations visited/nearby

Kenya, Africa

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Day 1: arrive in Nairobi •

Day 2: fly to Chyulu Hills, Campi ya Kanzi •

Days 3–5: Campi ya Kanzi 6 fly and drive to Arusha, Tanzania •

Day 7: drive to Kilimanjaro, hike to Forest Camp •

Day 8: Shira-1 Camp •

Day 9: Shira-2 Camp •

Day 10: Lava Tower Camp •

Day 11: Arrow Glacier Camp •

Day 12: up to Crater Camp •

Day 13: summit and down to Mweka Camp •

Day 14: descend to the bottom, drive to Arusha •

Day 15: fly to and depart Nairobi.

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