Kilimanjaro Hike: Day 5 – Rocks Everywhere

Ah, the final day before summit.  Day 5 was taking us to the promised land of summit base camp for the Machame Route.  Not a day too soon.  Sure, one more day of acclimatization would have only helped.  But after four spectacular days, now I was beginning to crave reaching the summit.

Hiking the Machame Route from the Karanga Camp

The day began as all the days with the morning routines that set us up for the day’s hike.  The tedious, the necessary, and the helpful all were taken care of and we took off from the Karanga Camp at 13,800 ft (4,200 m) for a seemingly short 3.7 miles (6 km) hike up to the Barafu Camp at 15,100 ft (4,600 m) (at that altitude, short walks are challenging!).  Did I mention that after all these days of sleeping bags, tents, daypack, large backpack, jackets, zippable hiking pants, rain gear, etc. one gets REALLY tired of zippers?  Velcro all the way, bay-bee!!!  (Thanks, Sarah for your help fixing zippers!)

Rocky terrain on the Machame Route headed to Barafu Camp on Day 5 of the Kilimanjaro climb

Me helpfully pointing the way, like a modern Columbus. Rock on trekkers, so to speak  (Photo courtesy of K. Shuman)

Day 5 Headed to Barafu Camp on the Machame Route over rocky terrain in Mt. Kilimanjaro

Happy that I showed them the way (lol!), I trail with the stylish plastic bag over my daypack. Not sure why. Not a cloud on the sky.  (Photo courtesy of K. Shuman)

The route was devoid of vegetation.  Rocks everywhere.  Small rocks though.  Like debris almost.  And some neat views, as usual on this mountain!

Great view of Mt. Meru, close to Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

Great view of Mt. Meru as the group treks on.  (Photo courtesy of K. Shuman)

Mt. Mawenzi, one of the 3 peaks on Kilimanjaro

Mt. Mawenzi, one of the 3 peaks on Kilimanjaro; it peaks at over 16,000 ft.

Our time at the Barafu Camp

The Barafu Camp was a camp of sorts for us:  we were setting up as usual except we were NOT going to spend the night at this camp.  You see, at night, midnight specifically, we would we leaving this camp to summit.  But that, my friends, is Day 6 so out of scope for this post!

Approach to Barafu Camp in Mt. Kilimanjaro

Our final approach to Barafu Camp (Photo courtesy of K. Shuman)

Signing in at Barafu Camp

At the camp hut to sign in. The stylish looking guy with a plastic bag, an orange jacket, a buff sipping water through a hose… That’s not me…

This camp was VERY rocky.  I had to mind almost every step to not trip or step on a rock that would give way from under me.  To walk around our tent to reach the vestibule on the back (vestibule is a generous term; it was a place to put our bags zipped away and protected from any rain), we had to be extremely careful.

Barafu Camp in Mt. Kilimanjaro

Me trying to make my way around all the darned rocks! (Photo courtesy of K. Shuman)

I woke up in the middle of  one of my naps once it was dark to go to the toilet-tent and, though there was a full moon (it was beautiful especially on summit night), while minding the rocks, I missed noticing the cable holding another tent down and I almost had my face meet a rock that would have likely broken my nose or jaw (and end my attempt to summit).  Luckily as I started falling, I caught my balance and didn’t hit the ground.  BIG whew.  And added respect for the camp…

In any case, this camp was a little bit surreal because of the landscape.  We were also on a steeper slope than we had been at any other camp.  However, always looking for the bright side, some of us concluded that at least we were towards the “exit” of the camp on the way to the summit so we would save, oh, about 4 minutes once we started heading up to the summit…

Barafu Camp in Mt. Kilimanjaro's Machame Route

Barafu Camp – see what I mean about the slope??!!

Though we were not staying overnight, this camp was very important.  We were to have a nice late lunch and then do two very important things:

1.  Pack/Prepare for departing for summit at midnight.

2.  Resting/Sleeping whatever we could to have more energy for the climb that night and to also allow our bodies to get as used as possible to the higher altitude.

Trekkers happy in Mt. Kilimanjaro

Three very happy -if tired- trekkers at Barafu. Myself with the awesome Laura and Kristin!

Being active after getting to camp was not the best thing to do as the body would not get to recover.  So we were advised that whether we napped or not, that we lay down for as long as possible.  Not being one to ignore advice from experts, after lunch I did all I could do to prep for that night’s departure (we were stopping at this camp after coming down from the summit) and proceeded to get comfy and lay down.

I was very pleased that I napped (can’t recall how long a nap but it was long) not once but twice with the final one leading me to wake up around 10:30 PM which was great!  I was able to say bye to the first group of 4 from our group to depart (they were leaving an hour early to be sure they had ample time to make it to the summit by sunrise).  Then I took care of a few things before sitting back down at the same mess tent where I had just said goodbye to our first group an hour before to wait for our own departure.

I couldn’t wait to get going… – but, wait, that’s midnight so that story is part of Day 6!

Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

The summit beckons…

Back to Day 4

…  on to Day 6 – summit night !


Other posts about the Kilimanjaro trek:

–  Preparing for the hike is more than training and gear

–  The Machame Route:  our way up

–  7 things you will not see me without as I climb Kili

–  Day 1 of the hike

–  Day 2 of the hike

–  Day 3 of the hike

–  Interview with fellow Kili climber and Ultimate Global Explorer


  1. Wow – you’re a better man than I am! Well, I guess that’s true in general but this looks like something that would be done to punish people – not a voluntary thing! It must feel pretty amazing to have completed your trek (assuming you did).
    Kay Dougherty recently posted..Two beautiful, tranquil places in Phuket, ThailandMy Profile

  2. thanks for the pictures… love the last one.

  3. Impresionante! No me imagino como pudiste encontrar un buen lugar para descansar con la cantidad de piedras que habia!

    • @Chirry, teniamos “pads” inflables abajo de los sleeping bags y los que preparaban el campamento movian las piedras mas grandes para poner nuestros tents

  4. Kevin hogan says:

    This brings back memories of our time at Barafu camp waiting to go to the summit. We left around 11.30 unfortunately two members of the group didn’t make the summit and had to turn back half way there. The remaining four of us did make it and it was an amazing experience.

    • @Kevin, that’s a big bummer to be on the final ascent and have to turn around. We had someone who almost was turned around but she mustered strength from I don’t know where and made it!

  5. sounds like such a fantastic adventure.
    What altitude were you at during this day?
    Helen recently posted..Sharm El Sheikh, EgyptMy Profile

    • @Helen, base camp (Barafu) was over 15,000 ft so quite high. We had made it that high before on Day 3 (the Lava Tower is at that altitude) but we slept at a lower altitude that night. On Barafu we only took naps that afternoon/evening before setting out for the summit at midnight so we didn’t sleep a full night above 13,500 ft or so! Thanks for checking out the story of the hike!

  6. Cindy Steuart says:

    Your post is so descriptive and exciting! And the rocky slopes of the camp must have been very challenging to negotiate. I can’t imagine tripping on one of the rocks prior to the summit bid! Thanks for this very evocative post. Kili beckons!

    • @Cindy, thanks for your kind words! I am enjoying writing about it because I get to re-live it in a way. Day 6 is almost ready!

  7. Awesome photos! Can’t wait for the summit! Also, I’m glad you didn’t fall, that would have been the worst ending to this trek.
    The World Wanderer recently posted..La Banquise: The Best Poutine in Montreal?My Profile

  8. And the adventure continues! How many days was it in total? How do you remember every detail?
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..Tom Chesshyre, a Tourist in the Arab Spring @tchesshyreMy Profile

    • @MrsO It was 7 days total with day 6 being both going up and starting to come down. I will be posting 2 more posts: one focused only on the ascent and another on the descent. My photos are kind of my journal of the things I want to remember. I mainly only took notes of facts & figures during the hike but every now and then I jotted a few words for a particular memory I didn’t want to lose. But the photos really help me remember the day. Thanks for the questions!

  9. I am climbing Kili in June and this is, by far, one of the best blogs I’ve read about it. Thanks for it. I cannot wait to read about summit night!

    • @Rhonda, wow, thanks! I appreciate the feedback. I love telling the story but also hope it helps others on their own preparations. I will be writing soon about all the practical details of what worked, gear I took, etc. so stay tuned – I hope to have it ready so it is timely for you! (If you haven’t, you can subscribe to the blog with your email address and you will receive an email whenever I post a new item.) Good luck with Kili!

  10. That’s a very busy trail. Looking forward to seeing the pics and stories about the summit push.
    jill recently posted..Looking Forward: The Next 6 MonthsMy Profile


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