Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on the Machame Route

Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the highest freestanding mountain in the world at 19,341′, and I’ve wanted to climb it for three years.

During the 2016 Maymester, I studied abroad in Tanzania and left a huge piece of my heart there. During our days in Arusha, I got used to looking for Kilimanjaro peeking through the clouds on clear days. I loved the way my friends in Tanzania talked about the mountain, calling it Kili, like it was a friend who might decide to make an appearance and join us today.

When I came home from Tanzania that year, my travel was very long and the time zones had me all confused. I was exhausted, and I fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon pretty soon after my mom picked me up in Indiana. While I was dozing in and out, my face resting on the car window, I saw a snow-capped peak, and in my sleep-deprived state, I felt a little rush of happiness that Kili was out today, and then reality hit me like a ton of bricks: that was not Kilimanjaro. It wasn’t even a mountain. It was just a cloud, and I was 8,000 miles away in Indiana. Two things happened right then: first, I started to cry, and then I decided that I would go back to Tanzania and climb Mount Kilimanjaro someday.

I didn’t think I would get the chance to do it so soon, in 2019, but when I found out that I was going to have the chance to go back to Tanzania and that a few of my friends were interested in climbing too, I knew this was our chance. I spent a full year training, hiking and running, even flying out to Colorado to climb a fourteener and see how my body would handle the altitude.

I’ll give you a spoiler alert and say that we made it: all the way up to the top. Seven days of hiking, about fifty-five miles total. Kilimanjaro is the highest point in Africa and one of the world’s Seven Summits. It’s an ancient volcano with snow caps and glaciers feeding rivers and sustaining life all down the mountainsides. It’s an icon. It was incredible, and it was brutal, and I’ve never felt so strong in my life.

We climbed up the Machame Route thanks to our team from Wildlife Experience TZ, although our route was a little unconventional because we doubled up on mileage on day 4 to summit a day early. We were blessed with absolutely flawless weather; it didn’t rain or snow on us a single day, although the weeks before and after our hike the summit was pounded with 200″ of snow (yes, you read that correctly). Everything went right, and I’m so happy that we did it.

Here are some of my favorite pics (they’re almost all iPhone photos), split up by days, along with parts of my journal entries.



Machame Gate (5,718′) to Machame Camp (9,927′)

Approx. 10 miles



Machame Camp (9,927′) to Shira Cave Camp (12,500′)

Approx. 6 miles



Shira Cave Camp (12,500′) to Lava Tower Camp (15,230′) for lunch, then to Barranco Camp (13,110′)

Approx. 9 miles



Barranco Camp (13,110′) to Karanga Camp (13,106′) to Barafu Camp (15,341′)

Approx. 8 miles


DAY FIVE (Summit Day)

Barafu Camp (15,341′) to Uhuru Peak (19,341′), back to Barafu Camp and then to High Camp (12,959′)

Approx. 11 miles



High Camp (12,959′) to Mweka Camp (10,065′)

Approx. 3 miles



Mweka Camp (10,065′) to Mweka Gate (5,380′)

Approx. 6 miles


And that was our seven days on Kilimanjaro! I have so many more pictures to share from the other parts of my trip to Tanzania, and I’ll add links to them here once those are up too.