Kilimanjaro Climb and Safari, Tanzania- 1990

In 1990, I decided to hike up Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at 19,341 feet. I was mostly interested in climbing the mountain but all of the trips I found included at wildlife safari so I reluctantly signed up for that as well. I wouldn't have given anything for the safari portion.

I went with the outfitter Wilderness Travel for several reason. They went up the Shira Plateau-Western Breach Route up the mountain which was less crowded than the usual tourist route. And at the time they were the only group who camped inside the Ngorongoro Crater for safaris. No one is allowed to camp there now. Before we began our climb, our guides checked our gear to be sure that we had everything we would need. Basically they wanted to be sure that we had warm enough clothing.

Our meals were simple but hearty, served on tarps. When we climbed, we were the only party at each of our campsites.

We started about 10,000 feet and took seven days to summit, hiking many days just half a day in order to acclimatize.

We would walk until lunch someitmes and then camp at our lunch spot. In the afternoon, we would hike up further and then retrace our steps back down to camp to sleep low.

Due to the tremendous increase in elevation, we were passing through five different ecosystems.

 This was one of our only views of the mountain from a lower camp due to clouds. There are frequently clouds obscuring the summit. We never got a view of the mountain from the ground.

We were surprised to see that a lion had made it this high on the mountain. It had obviously been scavanged, probably by humans.

After a couple of days, we were forced to make a decision about whether we were capable of summiting. The guides had left a crew at the start (on the Shire Plateau) and we could turn back if we didn't think we could make it. After the "point of no return" (actually a certain number of days) the crew would leave and the only way down was to summit and return via the normal route on the other side of the mountain.

There were two couples from NC and the men told their wives that they had to leave because the men didn't think the wives could make it. The wives cried and pleaded with the men to "let" them continue on. The men insisted and the wives turned back with some of the staff. Needless to say, I was shocked.

As we continued up, the way got rockier and snowier.

We got to the Western Breach which involved just a bit of scrambling but wasn't very difficult.

The real treat was the summit crater which was virtually completely covered with ice- towering walls and crevasses.

We camped on a tiny island of bare ground on the summit crater. We were at about 18,000 feet, higher than I had ever slept before. I woke during the night panting for breath. I couldn't figure out why, then realized that I had turned over. But sleeping that high served us well the next morning when we could sleep in, enjoy a nice breakfas (to the extent that we could eat) and then stroll up 800 feet to the summit. The folks who came in on hte tourist route had awaken at midnight, climbed hours in the loose scree, in the dark to reach the summit from the other side.

The rather unimpressive summit stuff.

The view from the summit looking down onto the crater. The dark circle was where we camped. Photos I've seen from recent years show an almost bare summit crater due to climate change.

We had a couple of very young, cute guys from Lebanon on our trip who were hammered by the altitude on the summit morning. They proposed walking across the crater and down the other side rather than up the crater walls to the summit. Our guide managed to persuade them that it would be easier to climb the crater wall to the summit and go over the summit than to walk across the crater and go down the other side to pick up the trail down-even though our porters took the route across the crater. I think that reasoning alone was evidence of severe altitude sickness! But the climb only took 45 minutes and they were so happy they did it and they suffered no ill effects!

The view down the other side of the mountain with the loose scree.

Our trip down was relatively quick with no concern about acclimatization. We made one overnight stop and traveled through dense jungle-like vegetation in places.

At the base, our poreters gathered to sing farewell to us. Notice that they are mostly wearing tennis shoes.

After working hard on the climb, we took a very luxurious safari to the major parks in Tanzania.

The view from our room. We weren't even allowed to walk away from the rooms due to the animals. So we couldn't get any exercise. Just ride in our Land Rovers, eat and observe wildlife from the deck.

Zebras and wart hogs.

We had game drives at least twice a day.

Wildebeest. They generally travel with zebras who are better at loooking out for predators.

They did let us out of the Land Rovers occasionally. Such as to view this termite mound. (Where did I get that hair and sunglasses? Too much time in the bush)

This was a reason not to let us out of the vehicle. How many lions can you count in the grass? At least three.

And here's papa.

She's not really mad. We woke her up when we almost ran over her and she's yawning.


I thought the hyenas were really cute, even though they have kind of a bad reputation. They have a communal daycare situation where one or two of the moms take care of several of the children while the rest of the clan goes hunting.

Or maybe just all babies are cute.


And we didn't just see carnivores.


We got a little bit too close to this guy and he made a false charge towards us. Gave us some respect for him!


The more time we spent in Africa, the more we began to notice the smaller animals such as the colorful birds.


Like these flamingoes in Ngorongoro Crater. By camping in the Crater, we got to be there for very early and late game drives. It was a bit unnerving to leave the tent in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom when you could hear hyenas outside.

Close-up views of hippos.

The giraffes seem so graceful and gentle.



The rhinos are very rare.

Our driver told us a story about how he got too close to one once and he was charged and the rhino ran off with the "bonnet" of his truck on his horn. We told him that he was probably close enough for photos. One of our group had already rolled up his window as though that would help.

Cape Buffalo