[Guest Post: Aaron Sorin] Conquering Kilimanjaro!


Please welcome Aaron Sorin, an old colleague and friend of mine who recently climbed the infamous Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania! I’m proud to say he’s the first guest post on my blog (and hopefully not the last!), and presents an excellent account to his recent adventure and trials through one of the 7 peaks of the world.

Uhuru Peak!!!
Uhuru Peak!!!

Climbing Kilimanjaro

As many of you know, I recently did a trip to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro with my father. The purpose of this post is to share with you my experience and I’d love to be a resource if you are considering the climb. Although Kilimanjaro’s peak is over 19k feet, in my opinion, I believe it is doable by almost everyone, in comparison with the other 7 peaks.

In the 7 days that I was in Tanzania, 6 of which were spent climbing Kili, I met people from all around the world, with completely different backgrounds, different skill sets, and different agendas for the climb. My personal mountaineering experience is almost nil, outside of day hikes I periodically do and backpacking trips I did when I was younger.

Why I Wanted to Climb Kili

When I was 8, my father took me on my very first overnight backpacking trip, and up until college my dad and I would do monthly overnight backpacking trips. Funny enough, the sleeping bags we bought when I was 9, were the exact same sleeping bags (over 20 years ago) we used on Kili. These overnight trips were not technical and were never longer than 10 miles over 3 days. Outside of these trips, I’ve never been part of the mountaineering scene. However, it is a scene that I’d like to be a part of because of how interconnected everyone was. Because of the camaraderie alone, I would 100% recommend the Kilimanjaro experience to anyone that is considering it.

What completely astounded me was that on the mountain, nobody was labeled as weak/strong, male/female, fat/skinny, black/white/Asian, etc. Everyone was there to climb the mountain, everyone was connected, and everyone shared a single purpose “Defeat Kili” . In my group of 8, we had climbers between the ages of 27-67, different genders, different religions, and completely different backgrounds; however, none of that mattered. The only thing that mattered was the team’s success. If Kili wasn’t so far away, it would be the best office team building event! In my group, we had 100% success in reaching Stella Point! Outside of my group, as we were climbing we’d have descending groups cheering us on. These are people who have NEVER met us but wanted us to succeed because we were all on the mountain together. How cool is that?

If anyone is interested in climbing Kilimanjaro, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions. I’d be happy to be a resource for you and/or your friends/family. As mentioned above, if you are considering climbing Kilimanjaro, DO IT! I never had it on my bucket list until my 62-year-old father said he wanted to climb it.

The Ultimate Guide to Climbing Kilimanjaro!!!!

Tour Group: Monkey Adventures
Days: 6, but longer are available
Route: Machame
Month: September (highest success, least amount of rain)
Group: 8
Success: 100%

Now, I am sure you are all interested in seeing actual pictures of the hike, so the rest of the post will be through photos.

Day 1: Starting the Ascent

We began the ascent around 2 pm. The climb would take ~4.5 hours from 6k ft to 9,950 ft elevation in under 7 miles.

Reaching the camp at dusk, we got our first glimpse of Kili! It seemed so far away.

Starting the Ascent
Starting the Ascent
First Glimpse of Kili
First Glimpse of Kili

Day 2: Up to 12.6K!

3 Miles to an elevation of 12,600 ft, took us 6 hours due to the steepness. This was the view of Kili in the morning.

The temperature changed on Kili every minute, we experienced weather between -15 degrees Celsius and 30 degrees Celsius and this was during the warm/dry month!

Katy Perry’s Song - Hot n’ Cold was the theme for the hike.

Camping out
Camping out

The camaraderie began to form as you can tell by our Brazilian friend photobombing in the back!

The camaraderie began to form

The view was absolutely amazing. We were almost at all times above the clouds.

Alternative View

The view after we made it to the second camp. Although the sun appears to be bright, we still had to wear about 3 layers to keep warm!

View at the Second Camp
View at the Second Camp

Day 3: Lava Tower at 15K

We initially climb to 15,250 ft for lunch but descend to 13,000 ft to sleep. The total hike was 6 miles. It was important to ascend and descend for sleep, to help with acclimation.

Ascending to Lava Tower
Ascending to Lava Tower

Our awesome group is on the left, while you can see the porters on the right. They were life savers carrying 45lbs between camps.

Porters carried 45lbs on their backs

We made it to Lava Tower which was above 15k ft!

Lava Tower at 15K ft
Lava Tower at 15K ft!

Making it down to 13k ft for the night, it was a familiar sight to see clouds around Kili. It was as if it was shy.

Clouds around Kili

Our first view of the famous Barranco Wall. Remember that name when you hike!

First view of Barranco Wall
First view of Barranco Wall

Day 4: Hardest Day of the Climb

This was probably the hardest part of the hike. 6-mile hike, we started at 13k ft climbed to 14.2k then back down to 13.8k and ended at 15.3k ft.

Barranco wall was almost straight up and the porters had to climb it with 45lb bags. One porter dropped his bag all the way to the bottom and was booed/laughed at by the other porters. Talk about hazing!

There is one rock where it is famous to hug/kiss it because there is no other way to get around it.

Kiss the rock
Kiss the Rock!!!

Our guide Venance showing the path to climb. This guy is a beast! He is able to do Kili from gate to gate (64 km) in less than 24 hours!

This guy is a beast!

Like I said…this hike was the toughest!

It's a tough hike

As we left lunch and began the hike to 15.3k ft, the landscape was what we imagined the moon to look like. For all, you conspiracy theorists…is this where the US faked the moon landing?!

is this where the US faked the moon landing?!
Is this where the US faked the moon landing?!
Alt Views
In less than 12 hours, our final ascent begins…

In less than 12 hours, our final ascent begins
In less than 12 hours, our final ascent begins

Day 5: Thunderstorm!

The big day! Our summit ascent begins at 12:30 am, where we climbed 3 miles up from 15.3 to 19.3k ft followed by a 3-mile descent from 15.3 to 12.3k ft.

We only got ~3 hours of sleep and while we slept there was a mini snow storm. The cool part was that the town of Moshi had a thunderstorm.

Being at 15k ft we got to see the thunderstorm from the top which I’ve never experienced before. The view of our tent after waking up from the short nap.

View of our tent
View of our tent

How many climbers do you see? Hint…it’s an odd/prime number.

How many climbers do you see?
You can see the trail of climbers who have already begun the ascent

trail of climbers who have already begun the ascent

The climb took us 8 hours, 2 hours longer than originally expected. However, it is not a race to the top! We got to see the sunrise from ~17.5k feet.

Sunrise from ~17.5k feet
Sunrise from ~17.5k feet

After 8 hours, We could finally see the end, Stella Point!

Stella Point

I will not share the personal story here but if there is interest, feel free to ask. My recommendation for any climber, choose a reason to climb the mountain. You will need it to make the final top. In my opinion, every human is capable of reaching the top from a physical strength perspective. It is the mental strength that is important.

There will be so many times where your body tells you “NO MORE!”, it screams at you “NO!” However, it is your mind that will keep telling you “You CAN do this, you MUST do this”. It is the mind that is able to get you to 18,885 ft!!!

At Stella's Point
We made it to Stella's Point!

My friend overlooking the other mountain. Kilimanjaro is part of 3 mountains that erupted, Kili is the tallest.

The mountain you see in the distance is the more technical of the 3.

3 Mountains in View

The climb to Uhuru Peak is ~1 km, 500 ft elevation gain but takes over 1 hour to get there. At this point, your body just wants to shut down! However, look at this beauty!

Uhuru Peak
Uhuru Peak

WE MADE IT!!!! There is a funny video I took, if you are interested I am happy to share it in a separate email. Feel free to ask.

Uhuru Peak!!!
Uhuru Peak!!!

Day 6: Descent

10-mile hike down through a rainforest which took about 4 hours.

Before we left, our porters/guides/cooks all sang 3 songs to us as a thank you. These guys were absolutely amazing! They were always eager to help us, to talk to us, and to help put a smile on our faces. They were amazing!

Porters sung us songs

One more look above the clouds before we began the descent

One more look above the clouds before we began the descent

WE MADE IT DOWN!Take a look at all of our faces! It tells you everything you need to about the trip!

Take a look at all of our faces!
I hope you enjoyed this story and please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions!

Aaron Sorin is Regional Account Director at RetailNext and travel enthusiast. Feel free to email him at aaron.sorin@retailnext.net