I haven’t mastered this sleeping on a mountain quite yet. It was another restless night waking up from sweating in my sleeping bag and trying to find a comfortable position. I really needed a good night’s sleep from the climb yesterday but it just wasn’t in the cards.
The morning air was crisp as I got out of the tent. I had 3 layers on plus my wool hat but I couldn’t shake the chill in the air. I shoveled in some breakfast and then got ready for the day’s trek. I was moving at a snail’s pace. My muscles didn’t want to start working, protesting already from the previous day. Unfortunately for me, thing’s weren’t going to be getting any easier.
We headed out at 8am. Thankfully, the majority of the trail was flat to begin with. It was easy to manage and the muscles started loosening up. I noticed the landscape was changing once again. Gone were the 8-foot high heather plants. Instead the terrain was more rugged and covered with very low-lying shrubs. This was going to make bathroom breaks interesting.
About an hour later the terrain changed yet again, this time opening right up into an expansive, grassy plain; the Shira Plateau. There wasn’t anything around us except the wide-open air.
The main goal of today’s trek was to begin acclimatizing to the altitude. In order to do this, we would climb up in the higher altitudes but then descend a bit into our camp for the night. To accomplish this we would be hiking to the top of Cathedral Peak, part of the Shira Cone. Kilimanjaro is made up of three volcanic cones, Kibo (our summit destination), Mawenzi, and Shira. Shira was the highest point of Kilimanjaro until it blew it’s top off in a volcanic explosion. Today, Kibo remains the highest point on the mountain.
We began our climb to Cathedral Peak and almost right away the gradient became steep. Oddly shaped, moss-covered trees flanked the pathway and clouds were blowing across the trail. It created an eerie feeling as we climbed, an almost otherworldly experience. I found it rather challenging to climb and keep up with the group, especially as I so desperately wanted to stop and take more photographs. Thankfully, I wasn’t feeling any effects from the altitude.
The view from Cathedral Peak was extraordinary! That is, when the clouds would part for a brief second and we could sneak and peak. We all high-fived and celebrated this small victory. But while 12,700 feet felt like big achievement, I was quickly brought back to reality thinking that our summit was still another 7,000 feet to go.
We had lunch near the top of Cathedral Peak and then made our way down on the backside of the Shira Cone. We then came to another flat section of the trail where the emergency road and helicopter landing pad was located. This is the furthest into the mountain a vehicle can come into Kilimanjaro and it was a sobering reminder that we were taking on some risk doing this climb.
Base camp wasn’t too far off. The trail climbed higher again, over jagged, molten rocks, and then our camp was in sight. We signed into Shira 2 Camp for the night, sleeping at an altitude of 12,800 feet.
The view in base camp was incredible. Behind where our tents had been pitched in a grid pattern was Uhuru Peak. When we first arrived, the entire camp was clouded in, but about 30 minutes after arriving, the clouds dissipated and revealed a spectacular sight! Our guide, Daniel, even pointed out the various glaciers that were on the peak. Although I was feeling a little intimidated by the sheer size of Uhuru Peak, it gave me some much needed motivation to push aside the fatigue and pain I was feeling after these past 3 days on Kilimanjaro.
Have any questions about Day 3 on Kilimanjaro’s Lemosho Route? Let me know in the comments below!
Come back again next week for Episode 4 of my Kilimanjaro video series!
Want to read more about Kilimanjaro? Check out these posts:
- 10 Tips for Climbing Kilimanjaro
- Climbing Kilimanajro – Lemosho Route
- Video: Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route – Day 1
- Video: Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route – Day 2
- Epic Montage Kilimanjaro Video