Day 4 on Kilimanjaro’s 8-day Lemosho Route is the second hardest day of the trek. Right out of camp, it’s a solid steady incline all the way to the lunch stop at a spot called Lava Tower. It’s on this day that the effects of the altitude can really start to set in as well. The elevation at Lava Tower is around 15,000 feet. We don’t stay here though, continuing back down to our camp for the night at around 13,000 feet. The day can be long but it’s a good primer for things to come.
I woke up feeling rested. I finally slept through the night! It was a really cold night though and I’m sure temperatures dipped below 0 degrees Celsius. Thankfully I’ve been using a sleeping bag that’s good for temperatures up to -30 degrees, so I was toasty warm all night.
During breakfast I was feeling nervous for the day ahead. After what felt like a tough day for me yesterday, I was worried if I would be able to keep up today. We’ve already been told that this is the second hardest day of the trail, after the summit climb, and that we would be climbing for most of the trail today. Not exactly a reassuring feeling. I noticed this morning that I didn’t really have much of an appetite. I’ve never been a big breakfast eater but it’s one of the effects of the altitude and something I need to keep an eye on.
We got organized for the day ahead and then set off. As promised, the trail weaved its way upwards right out of camp. We took it at a slow pace, which made it manageable. The terrain was very rocky with little to no vegetation and even though we were walking into the sun, it was windy and the air was cold and crisp. As we climbed higher and higher, I looked back to our camp from the previous night and was struck by the view. Our camp looked like little Lego pieces, a miniature village. But straight ahead, Uhuru Peak was getting larger and larger and I was snapped back to reality thinking ‘are we really climbing that?!’
I was amazed at how I felt both physically and mentally. I was keeping up with the group and I wasn’t feeling as fatigued as I had yesterday. The full night’s rest was definitely making an impact. One of the guides also offered to carry my extra 2L of water. At first my pride was saying ‘no I can handle it’, but remembering how I felt by the end of yesterday, I knew I had to listen to my body and accept his offer. Those 2kgs less in my bag made a noticeable difference.
It was expected to take around 5 hours to reach Lava Tower but we managed to do it in exactly 4 hours! This blew me away as I felt like we were going at a very slow pace. But apparently with everyone in the group around the same fitness level, it meant that we haven’t had to take very many breaks. So although the pace seems ‘slow’ to us, we’ve been moving steadily.
With an elevation of around 15,000 feet at Lava Tower, I was expecting to feel some of the effects of the altitude. But surprisingly I was feeling really good. A few members of the group were complaining about some minor headaches but other than that, there were no major issues. I started taking altitude medication before the start of our climb and it was appearing to be doing the trick!
After lunch we began our descent. For the next 2+ hours, we made our way down the ridge to base camp. The terrain was very rocky, and so again we were really careful about our footing. Coming down was much harder on my knees and I was relying heavily on my hiking poles to take some of my body weight.
The landscape changed as we descended. We entered back into the Heather Zone but the vegetation looked different. Most noticeably were these odd-looking trees that appeared to be a cross between a giant cactus with large pineapple-looking shapes growing in a circular pattern. They were so weird yet fascinating to look at. The whole area was also covered in a thick fog and I could feel the mist in the air.
The views really made the day for me. There were big, wide valleys, Uhuru Peak on one side, green rolling hills on the other side, and molten rock everywhere. It looked like a scene from a sci-fi movie and we joked that we were walking on Mars.
We made it to Barranco Camp just after 3pm, signed in, and got our tents organized. The entire camp was clouded in and there was a noticeable dampness in the air. We were at a similar altitude as the camp from the night before (around 13,000 feet today) but the lack of sun made it feel even colder. By dinnertime, the fog had lifted and we even got a beautiful peak at the sun setting between the mountain ridges.
Have any questions about Day 4 on Kilimanjaro’s Lemosho Route? Let me know in the comments below!
Come back again next week for Episode 5 of my Kilimanjaro video series!