Kilimanjaro Day 3 - Higher than Rainier

Machame Route – 7 Days

Start – Shira Hut – 12,500 ft

End – Baranca Wall – 13,500 ft – Total Elevation gain from start – 8,120 ft

We hit a high elevation on the day at 15k feet during our hike. This is higher than any point in the lower 48 states in the US.

*Chicago is at 573 ft above sea level. Denver is 5,470ft

Distance – 7 miles – 10.3 miles on days one and two

Time – 7.5 hours –  13 hours minutes on days one and two

Terrain – Alpine Desert

Gremlins – Stomach issues seem better – Slight headache from altitude but it’s mild

We began with our morning routine.

  • 6:30am wake up with hot beverage
  • 7am hot water provided to wash
  • 7:30am breakfast
  • 8:30am begin our hike for the day

This day was a test not only of endurance and strength but of will against the weather. The terrain became rocky and while it wasn’t a lot of climbing the steps would go from smooth ground to rocky uneven footing. The descent in to camp was particularly hard on the feet with sharp, uneven rocks.

The goal of today was to get some serious elevation under our belts. To get ready for summit day it’s best to hike high and sleep low. So we set off from Shira Hut and began going up! The weather took a turn about an hour and a half in to the hike. We had a steady rain that turned to “snow” as our guides called it but it was really hail. My warm weather gear was great! I never got cold but it wasn’t fun to walk in an alpine desert getting pelted. The terrain had a rather desolate, alien feel especially since we didn’thave too many groups around us after the start.

When lunch time came, we were all ready for a chance to sit and rest out of the weather. Our guides found/knew of a rocky area we could eat and be out of the elements. While it was dry, it sure as hell wasn’t comfortable. The warm soup we had helped and I recall this being a day when the soup, cake and cookies were the only thing I wanted to eat. You’re burning massive calories but I wasn’t really looking to eat much. You almost have to force yourself at times to eat so you can keep up your strength. I’d also started carrying a extra water bottle of a Gatorade mix to help with electrolytes and because only water was getting boring. I also hoped it would help with my stomach woes.

Once we finished lunch, we slogged our way another three hours through the weather to our descent in to camp. The sun had popped out and while it was pleasant weather wise we had to remain focused since the ground was rocky, uneven and had a lot of loose footing. Thankfully my boots stood up to the elements and the watery ground we went through.

This was a long punishing day and when I got in to my tent at camp I laid down and wasn’t completely sure I’d be getting up any time soon. Putting on your boots became a task that could put you out of breathe from fatigue and the altitude. Somehow I found a way to use a “shower wipe” to clean up and put on some dry clothes. I also ate some snacks to get my energy up before tea/dinner time.

The views from the Baranca camp were stunning. We got to see the summit even closer than we had in the past and the plain swept away below us so you could see town and the low lands around the mountain. It was beautiful. Our test on day four though was staring us in the face – the Branca Wall! It is a straight up climb with no poles, ropes or nets. It’s all about getting UP the rock face and doing it with many other hiking groups and porters trying to use the same path!

I noted in my journal this is the day I felt the most detached from technology and the world. Many things could be happening in the outside world and we would have no idea. Oddly the next day is when the shootings in Paris would occur. I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere so remote I felt that cut off.

The night wasn’t terribly rainy or cold but you still had to sleep with a few layers. Our next morning would have us deal with the most technical part of the climb but thankfully it was a shorter day of only 3 hours of hiking. It may be a short day tomorrow to come but it was also a very vertical one!


Other Posts in this Series

Why Climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

God the Save the Kili Porters

Kilimanjaro – Day 1

Kilimanjaro – Day 2

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter or instagram @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at

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