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courtesy PChen
Starting our descent
Starting descent
The Rebmann Glacier
After a fair bit of procrastination on the summit, we finally started our descent, heading down eastwards (we were heading down a different way to the way we came up). We walked along the crater rim to Gillman's point. This is where Markus would have started his descent after walking across the crater. At this point, we were still at about 19,000 feet. Markus had made it very close, both elevation-wise and distance-wise, to the summit.
courtesy PChen
courtesy PChen
Our Descent Route
Barafu descent
The descent down from here was down a long sloping valley to the southeast. This route, known as the Barafu route, was the most interminable descent on loose gravel. The valley itself was barren and gravelly. Caroline and I "ski-slid" down this loose stuff. It is, in my opinion, the best and fasted way down this sort of stuff. Yi, Peter and Pu were going much slower, and in no time we were very far ahead of them. Caroline and I took to sitting down in the dirt and having little catnaps. The sun was hot, and I was feeling plenty sleepy after all that exertion and altitude. Chombo pointed out a large cluster of tiny-looking tents far, far below. This was the Barafu campsite, he said, and we were headed for it.
courtesy PChen
Barren terrain
It seemed to take forever to descend this slope. The morning, then the early afternoon, went by in a slow progression of quick descents, a look back up to the small figures of Yi, Peter, Pu and Chombo, and then a 20 to 30 minute nap in the dirt as we waited for them to catch up. As we neared the Barafu camp, the always-tireless Luckas came loping up to meet us. He and Markus were waiting ahead at the Barafu camp.
Barafu Camp
The Barafu camp was a large and chaotic jumble of tents on a barren ridge at 15,000 feet. Markus was waiting there, and wasted no time in telling us about how difficult it had been for him up at the summit.
Emergency stretcher thingy
At this point our descent continued down the Mweka Route. This would be our descent route right to the base of the mountain. It is straight and on easy terrain.

Down, down, down we went. In fact, this was my largest ever one-day descent - almost 10,000 feet from the summit to our planned camp for the night. Chatting was a good way to pass the time, and Pu and I talked with Chombo, learning much about his family and his life. He was from a coastal town in Tanzania called Tanga, and his parents had a farm there. Chombo worked part-time during the year as a guide, and, during the rainy seasons on the mountain, he helped his parents out on their farm. He was not married, but had 2 children, which he obviously cared for greatly; he was very concerned about obtaining a proper education for them, and in fact, he had managed to place them in a private school. Chombo was also interested in saving up enough money to buy some land for a farm of his own. He hoped to ultimately stop guiding and own his own farm near the Indian coast. In this area, apparently, an acre of good farmland cost $200 US dollars. He needed at least ten acres, according to him.
Back in the green
As we descended, we started to see a little, and then increasing amounts of vegetation. We were returning to the living world, and it got rapidly warmer and the air thicker and moister. Quite a difference from just hours before on the summit. We stopped at what is known as the 'Millenium' campground for a break. A concessioner in a hut was selling pop at $2 US each. Expensive, but hey, I'd just climbed Kilimanjaro!
Kili as seen from Mweka Camp
I'd rather not have continued, but our tents were waiting at the Mweka hut (really, the Mweka camp), another 5km down the trail. Being a generally descent-only route, this campsite was filled with groups heading down from the mountain. The porters and guides seemed especially cheery here - lots of laughing, singing, horsing around. For most of them, it meant the end of work (and possibly time with families and friends), so they were happy.
Mweka Camp campsites
We were back in the forest here, and that meant small, uneven campsites. We got another non-flat spot, but now, for some reason, Markus was relatively ok with it. We settled down for the night after our final meal (this was our seventh day and the next morning we'd be hiking out). We had brought along money for tips and various items as gifts for the porters and guides. I was not sure what was appropriate to bring, not having seen or met or knowing anything about the culture here. Based on what I'd read, though, I had brought colored pens, mini-thermometers, bright led-lights, little solar-powered calculators, that sort of thing.
Video: The Barafu Descent
A video clip of our long, long, long descent down over 9,000 feet from the Summit to the Mweka Camp. (1 minute, 36 seconds)
Victorious Kili climbers
We worked through the tip amounts, and gathered the money together. I'd decided that it would be easier and more comfortable to give the tips and the gifts to Chombo, and have him redistribute them. We trusted him, and besides, we didn't really know half of the porters, so attempting to decide who got what would have been very difficult and awkward.

I must say, now that we were done the mountain, I was ready for the next phase of the trip. I was grungy and looking forward to a shower. As usual, no one could say precisely how far it was to the next stop (which was, in this case, the Mweka gate). Well, with my GPS logging of my entire route, at least future climbers can have precise distances and altitudes!
Analysis, Day 7 (Summit Day Part II) : Summit to Mweka Camp
Descent from summit Start End Delta
Time 9:30 AM 4:58 PM 7h 28m
Altitude 19,340 feet 10,100 feet -9,240 feet
Distance 22.6 km 34.3 km +11.7 km

Analysis, Day 7 : Entire Summit Day
Total for summit day Start End Delta
Time 12:03 AM 4:58 PM 16h 06m
Altitude 16,100 feet 10,100 feet +3,240 feet,
-9,240 feet
Distance 19.3 km 34.3 km +15 km

Average Speed (including all stops) 0.9 km/hr
Day 7 - Summit Day
Elevation Profile over Distance
Day 7 - Summit Day
Elevation Profile over Time
Day 7 - Arrow Glacier to Summit Map
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Day 7: Descent from summit to Mweka Camp - click map to view
Day 7 - Summit to Mweka Camp Map
[The next morning]

The next morning (day 8 of our climb), the hike down was very pretty and tropical. We were now back in the forest - a nice change of pace from the barren scenery of the barafu route descent. Again, the going was very slow, and I chafed a bit at some of the delays. Chebe had been assigned to us again (I'd learned that he was Chombo's nephew), and did his best trying to keep us all together.
Video: Post-Climb Thoughts
Peter and Pu finish their series on thoughts and constitution on the last day on the mountain. (2 minutes, 34 seconds)
courtesy PChen
courtesy PChen
courtesy PChen
Return to green
Lush lower Mweka
Well-maintained trail
courtesy PChen
Fascinating radial pattern
Returning a stretcher
Nearing the Mweka Gate
On the way down I noticed a porter carrying a shiny stretcher back up the mountain. As I write this now, I reminded again of the tragedy within the Langevin Canadian climbing group. Was this stretcher being returned back up the mountain after assisting with the rescue?

At around noon I arrived at the Mweka Gate. It was hustling and bustling with hikers finishing off their climbs. One very well organized swiss group had massive late model Mercedes all-terrain trucks waiting for them, complete with a fancy buffet of various foods on nice tables. Before going on ahead, Chombo had told me that I needed to sign out everyone, so I proceeded to the gate's administrative desk and waited in line to sign us out. This also initiated the certificate process (each of us was to receive a certificate of climbing accomplishment). I lounged around, waiting as the rest of the group, one by one, arrived.
Video: Descent to Mweka Gate
A video clip of our last hike, down from Mweka camp to Mweka Gate. Beautiful Forest scenery. (1 minute, 56 seconds)
The Mweka Gate
Chombo signs my certificate
Pu experiences modern life again
The mweka gate is at the end of a very steep bit of road, only accessible to four wheel drive vehicles. The particuar toyota bus that was waiting to drive us back to the Springlands hotel was only two wheel drive, so we had to walk quite a ways down the approach road to a spot past all of the steep sections. Before getting on the bus, Chombo had his workers sing a famous 'Kilimanjaro' song to us (see video clip). Chombo also described the meaning of the words in the song to us, and it it seemed that it had a lot of political overtones about how Kilimanjaro came to be in Tanzania and not Kenya .
courtesy PChen
Kilimanjaro song
Dusty walk back
Thanks, Chombo.
Video: The Kilimanjaro Song
A video recording of the song sung for us by our porters and guides at the end of the climb. (3 minutes, 2 seconds)
The bus stopped off at "porter central" in downtown Moshi, where we parted company with Chombo, Chebe, Michael, Luckas, and the rest of our porters. We wished them all the best, and had come to know them as good, fun-loving, and hard-working friends.
Focus On...
The Umbwe Climbing Route
If you are interested in a more detailed, more 'guidebook'-like description of the Umbwe / Western Breach ascent and Barafu / Mweka descent, then Click Here...
While milling around getting our gear off the bus at the Springlands Hotel, Caroline overheard a man talking in french to someone in Gatineau (a city on the other side of the river from Ottawa, our home city). The conversation had to do with priests and such, and Caroline thought it a bit strange. We realize now that this was very likely a member of the Langevin expedition calling back home with regard to the death of Ms. Langevin on the mountain. (I've had many comments about our climb in relation to that tragic incident, and I've written my thoughts down about it in a separate writeup that you can read here)

Video: Ride back to Civilization
A video clip of our ride from the Mweka Gate back to the Springlands hotel. (0 minutes, 47 seconds)
The next order of business at the Springland hotel was to fish out my stored gear from the luggage room. It had my toiletries, and I was very much looking forward to a shower.
Analysis, Day 8 : Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
  Start End Delta
Time 8:32 AM 11:38 AM 3h 6m
Altitude 10,100 feet 5,500 feet -4,600 feet
Distance 34.3 km 43.0 km (*) +8.7 km


Average Speed (including all stops) 2.8 km/hr
Day 8 - Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
Elevation Profile over Distance
Day 8 - Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
Elevation Profile over Time
Day 8
Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate Map
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Day 8 - Descent to Mweka Gate - click map to view
Entire Kilimanjaro Climb
Elevation Profile over Distance
Annotated Track log, Entire Climb
Entire Climb, Analysis
Umbwe Route / Western Breach, Descent via Barafu / Mweka Route
  Start Altitude End Altitude Gain/Loss Distance Average Speed
Start (Umbwe Gate)          
End of Day 1 -
Umbwe Caves, Lower
5300 9700 +4400 9.6 km 1.6 km/hr
End of Day 2 -
9700 13000 +3300 4.5 km 0.7 km/hr
End of Day 3 -
Barranco (Acclimatization Day)
13000 13000 +1000, -1000 2.3 km 1.1 km/hr
End of Day 4 -
Lava Tower
13000 15200 +2200 3.9 km 0.9 km/hr
End of Day 5 -
Lava Tower (Acclimatization Day)
15200 15800 +600, -600 1.7 km 1.4 km/hr
End of Day 6 -
Arrow Glacier
15200 16100 +900 1.3 km 0.7 km/hr
Day 7 - Arrival At Summit 16100 19340 +3240 3.3 km 0.4 km/hr
End of Day 7 -
Mweka Camp
19340 10100 -9240 11.7 km 1.4 km/hr
End of Day 8 -
Mweka Gate
10100 5500 -4600 8.7 km 2.8 km/hr
TOTALS     +15640, -15440 47.0 km 1.26 km/hr (non-weighted)
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