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Climbing Kilimanjaro
via the Umbwe / Western Breach Ascent
and Barafu / Mweka Descent Routes
Part I : Introduction

Note: If you are looking for the main trip report of our climb, this isn't it! Click here if you are looking for the trip report of our climb. The trip report also contains interactive maps that have many more picture points than the ones in this section.

Kilimanjaro is a huge stratovolcano in East Africa. At 19,340 feet, it rises more than 16,000 feet above the surrounding plains, and is the highest point on the entire continent. Kilimanjaro is but one of a series of volcanoes associated with the Great Rift Valley. The Great Rift Valley is a thousands-of-kilometres long feature associated with a young tectonic spreading zone (also known as a rift) that underlies east Africa. Some current theories suggest that the Great Rift Valley will ultimately cease spreadiing and not form into a new ocean. In any case, Kilimanjaro is a volcano that has been formed as a by-product of this spreading zone.

Technical Difficulty
By the easiest routes, Kilimanjaro is not a particularly technical mountain. In fact, via the easiest routes of all, you will not ever have to use your hands for climbing - it can be done entirely 'on a trail'. There are also much more difficult routes that involve long, hard, technical alpine climbing. At no time on any of the easiest routes will you need to do any glacier travel. Kilimanjaro's glaciers, while still magnificent to look at, do not encircle the summit, and can easily be bypassed.

The weather on Kilimanjaro is relatively mild for a such a high-altitude peak. Even up to 15 or 16,000 feet, the temperature does not drop much below freezing at night. On the summit it can be cold, but nothing worse than your average winter day in northern latitudes. The summit can easily be around the freezing point on a nice calm day. Having said this, mountain weather is subject to severe change, and in a storm the top of Kilimanjaro is a nasty place to be. Proper cold winter gear with synthetic clothing is a must. There are many sources of information on proper clothing for such conditions. Consult them!

Altitude Considerations
Kilimanjaro is an excellent way for you to test your compatibility with very high altitude. It is an easy climb in all other respects. However, because of the altitude, it MUST be treated with respect. Take extra days to acclimatize. KNOW the signs of the various types of altitude sickness for yourself - don't rely solely on the guide. Simple AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is uncomfortable but does not require you to terminate your climb. However, the more serious conditions of HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) and, even worse, HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) must be attended to immediately by descent to lower altitudes. Please refer to the proper texts for full details on the signs and symptoms of each of these conditions.
Kilimanjaro Locator Map
Kilimanjaro is located on the border between Tanzania and Kenya. The majority of the mountain is in Tanzania, although some of its lower northern slopes are in Kenya.

Preparation and Logistics
The first thing you must do is get to the base of the mountain. The second thing you must do is hire a guide (this generally means porters, too). This is required by the rules of Kilimanjaro National Park. I won't go into the details here, because my account of the arrangements that needed to be made is already documented in excessive detail on the 'trip preparations' portion of this page. Click here to look at that page.

About the Campsites
The Campsites on the routes described on this page vary in character, but share a variety of features. Namely: a) there are no designated campspots, per se. There is a general camping area at each location, and you find a spot that you find suitable. b) there are several outhouses at every campsite; you are allowed to put your TP down the hole, too. c) none of the campsites along these routes have 'huts' for climbers. All of these campsites are tent-only.

Ok. I've finished with my pre-climb-description duties. Click 'next page' to move on to a description of the actual climb!
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