A Plateau Runs Through It


The plateau.

Now we know what you’re thinking. Why in the world is your blog titled Destination Isolation while you’re writing about climbing one of the most frequently attempted mountains in the world? Aren’t there over 35,000 people climbing Mount Kilimanjaro every year?

You’re right! The answer: This was simply a place we wanted to go. However, even in doing so, we tried to choose the path less traveled. We picked the Lemosho route which, while longer than most of the others, is also one of the least frequented.

Possibly having to do with the strenuous push for the summit of Mount Meru, Sharon contracted the plague. Jk, lmao, jk, lol 😀

Struggling with a sore throat, stuffy nose, and body aches even after a day of rest, she woke up at about 3:30 in the morning. Making a commotion, she awoke Luke. We discovered, much to our despair, that the bathroom had flooded. We spent the next half hour sopping up the moisture and hanging our wet gear on the balcony.

After some more broken sleep, at last the time came to depart for our next adventure.

First stop: Londrossi Gate, to fill out paperwork and hire porters. We watched in amusement as the porters packed their nylon sacks, weighed, then repacked and re-weighed the gear repeatedly. Complicating the process, everyone screamed out their opinions about what should go where and who should carry what.


Waiting while the porters weigh everything.

Next, the two of us, our team of 12, plus the driver and his assistant climbed into the 10 seat Land Cruiser for a 45 minute drive to the trailhead. The “road” was essentially a rut in the dirt, about the width and height of a Land Cruiser. At times the vehicle would lean 45 degrees to one side or the other as everyone grabbed on to whatever they could. Needless to say, Luke was having a blast.

What if there was another vehicle going in the opposite direction? We found out in what could have been a scene from a made for TV comedy. The cramped clown car was approached by a speeding motorcycle with two riders and A SINGLE CARROT strapped carefully to the back using multiple bungee cords. What were they doing with a single carrot? The cyclists seemed to expect us to back up and make way, but eventually conceded to the much larger vehicle.

Finally we arrived at the trailhead and spent two hours hiking uphill through the jungle. Certain we heard laughter and the banging of pots and pans, we asked Saumu if we were almost there. She told us that we were only half way. SHE LIED! Rounding the next bend in the trail, we saw our bright yellow tent. We had arrived at Mti Mkubwa, or Big Tree Camp.


Fooling around at an empty camp.

Next to our tent the crew erected several fabric structures: shelter for the crew, a dining tent, and a toilet. Wait! What? A dining tent and a toilet? The dining tent was equipped with a table and chairs. The toilet tent had a portable seat toilet. After conversing with our guide about why in the world anyone would lug these up the mountain, we agreed to eat in the dining tent, but simply refused to use the toilet. After all, unpleasant as they were, each campsite was equipped with outhouses and there was no need for one of our crew members to clean our poop each morning.

The campsite was, as the guide books warned us, not the cleanest of places. By that we mean absolutely filthy. Why anyone visiting this wonderful place would want to use it as a garbage can is beyond us. Besides this evidence, it wasn’t until later on in the afternoon that we received hard proof that others visited this route; two small groups of hikers arrived.


Our campmates.

The best feature of Mti Mkubwa was the troupe of Colobus monkeys living right next to the camp. The primates were so close, in fact, that after sitting still for some time Luke became convinced he would soon be playing with the babies. The group moved closer and closer, until some of the other hikers started taking pictures with the maximum amount of noise, scaring the troupe away.


View from our second camp.

We were fortunate enough to have John as our cook again and so the fare was great. Sharon came to the conclusion that John must be the happiest person alive as he carried a perpetual smile. Though we lost Rashidi as our waiter, we gained singing Shija (he honestly sang more than he spoke).

The next day was our longest. After a short distance getting out of the forest and up to the Shira Ridge, we began our hike on the Shira Plateau. Even though we were constantly moving up, the plateau appeared flat; a high desert plain filled with shrubs. Though the scenery did not change much as we approached Shira 2 Camp, its beauty was not to be taken for granted. At least so thought Luke. Sharon was not impressed (but she was wrong).

Along the way, Luke took the opportunity to scope out Simba Cave. More of an overhanging boulder than a cave, this landmark served as shelter for porters before the National Park disallowed cave camping. Given the amount of trash in the cave, we’re fairly convinced that it is still used occasionally.


Rewards of a long walk.

At Shira 2 we were greeted by interestingly colored pigeons and a group of Europeans. We enjoyed great views of Kibo and Mawenzi peaks and the evening provided us with possibly the most colorful sunset of the trip.

These first two days of our trek we mostly felt like the only group on the mountain. We had the trail to ourselves and only encountered a few small groups while in camp.

To Be Continued…

Next time on Destination Isolation. Luke laughs death in the face scrambling up Lava Tower, we tackle the Barranco Wall, climb higher than ever before, and experiment with AMS.