Kilimanjaro Total Lunar Eclipse Expedition: Let the Countdown Begin

In just 14 days, 9 hours, 48 minutes and 55 seconds, the next Total Lunar Eclipse will take place, and with ringside seats on top of Africa’s highest mountain, we cannot wait to witness this rare phenomenon from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro on 28th September 2015.

Our private Kilimanjaro expedition has been perfectly timed to ensure we summit on the night of the total lunar eclipse, and if everything goes to plan, we should see the full spectacle, which (according to is scheduled to start at 03:11 (Tanzanian time), reach full coverage at 05:47, and end at 08:22, by which time we should be making our way back down to Barafu Camp for a well-deserved brunch!

Climb Kilimanjaro New Year

The Total Lunar Eclipse, sometimes called the Red Moon or Blood Moon, happens when the Earth, the Sun and the Moon become perfectly aligned to form a straight line.  With the Sun lined up directly behind the Earth, the Moon cannot reflect the sun’s rays, and the Earth’s shadow is cast over the Moon causing it to have a reddish glow.

The 7 stages of the Total Lunar Eclipse include:

  • Penumbral Eclipse: The start of the process, this is when the penumbral part of Earth’s shadow starts moving over the Moon.
  • Partial Eclipse: By stage 2, the eclipse becomes more visible to the naked eye as the Earth’s umbra starts covering the Moon
  • Total Eclipse Begins: As the total eclipse begins, the Earth’s umbra completely covers the Moon to give it its reddish glow.
  • Maximum Eclipse: At this stage, the Moon is completely covered by the Earth’s shadow.
  • Total Eclipse Ends: Now, the Earth’s umbra starts to move away from the Moon.
  • Partial Eclipse Ends: In this penultimate stage, the Earth’s umbra leaves the Moon’s surface so that it is able to reflect some of the sun’s rays.
  • Penumbral Eclipse Ends: Finally, the Earth’s shadow moves away from the Moon completely, leaving the man in the moon smiling down on us!

Whether you are a fan of astronomy or not, this spectacular event is something everyone should witness in their lifetime, and as it only happens once every 2 or 3 years, it makes perfect sense to do it sooner rather than later!

We will be watching the seven stages of the Total Lunar Eclipse with a group of like-minded travellers on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro this September – where will you be watching it?



Kilimanjaro: Which Route Has the Highest Success Rate?

There is a lot to consider when planning your Kilimanjaro Climb, but the most important decision you are going to have to make, is which route to climb.

Kilimanjaro has six official climbing routes, Marangu, Machame, Umbwe, Rongai, Lemosho and Shira, although some companies now offer a 7th Route – the Northern Circuit.  While most of the routes involve camping, some routes overnight in shared huts, but don’t let that lead you into a false sense of security.  There is no electricity, no computer docs, no telephone charging points and no shower facilities on Kilimanjaro, regardless of the route you take!

Kilimanjaro - The Essential Information Guide

While there are no official statistics to confirm which Kilimanjaro Route has the highest success rate, the length of your climb will have a huge impact on the outcome of your expedition.

The Marangu Route: Otherwise referred to as the Coca Cola Route, the Marangu Routes is one of the shortest routes on the mountain, with some operators offering 5 day expedition to budget travellers.  While it can be tempting to save a few dollars, this route is widely believed to have the lowest success rate, with some reports suggesting that it has a success rate of less than 40%.

The Machame Route: One of the most popular routes on Mount Kilimanjaro, the Machame Route or Whisky Route is a great all-rounder in terms of scenery, length of trek and success rate. Most tour operators claim a success rate of 80% – 95% on this 7-day route, and I have yet to meet anyone that didn’t reach the summit on the Machame.

The Umbwe Route: Described by many as Kilimanjaro’s toughest route, the Umbwe Route starts with a steep climb, and so it is only really recommended for experienced trekkers.  Altitude sickness is common on this route, and so this could affect your success. While not all operators offer this route, those that do state a success rate of around 70%.

The Rongai Route:  The only route to approach Kilimanjaro from the north (near the Kenyan Border), the Rongai Route is widely considered to be one of the easier routes on the mountain.  Most operators offer 6 and 7 day expeditions, and estimate the success rate at around 85%.

The Lemosho Route: A route that is growing in popularity, the Lemosho Route is one of the longest routes to the Roof of Africa, with most expeditions ranging from 8 to 10 days.  As climbers have more time to acclimatize to the altitude, this route had a high success rate of around 90%, and is much less crowded than the Marangu and Machame routes.

The Shira Route: Almost identical to the Lemosho, the Shira Route approaches the mountain from the west, but climbers are driven to an elevated starting point at 3,600m.  This can cause all kinds of altitude related problems, and thus, the success rate is lower than the Lemosho route, at around 65%.

Ultimately, there is no right and wrong route on Kilimanjaro, they all lead to victory, but if you have zero hiking experience, it is worth doing some research before booking your climb.

*All stats have been sourced from the internet.





Packing for Kilimanjaro: Pack Wisely and Prepare for Everything!

When it comes to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, there are generally 2 types of people. Those who have planned, prepared, researched, and packed extensively for their expedition to the roof of Africa’s highest mountain – and those who have not!

Climb Kilimanjaro Lunar Eclipse

Mount Kilimanjaro is not technically challenging, and you do not need to pack as if you are going to spend 3 months on Everest, but it is no walk in the park either, and if you have too much gear, or not enough, your climb will not be as rewarding or as successful as it should be.

All good Kilimanjaro Climbing companies will provide you with a packing list when you book your expedition.  This should tell you what you need in terms of high altitude, wet weather, and hiking gear, and also list everyday essentials such as toiletries, spare batteries for your headlamp, a power bank to charge your phone and camera batteries, and anything else that will make your climb more comfortable.

Many companies will even go so far as to recommend specific types of sleeping bags, rucksacks and hiking poles, but many forget to tell you about packing all of this gear for your journey to Tanzania, and this is where it can all go wrong.

If you are flying to Kilimanjaro from the US or the UK, you will have to make at least one stopover on-route.  This means that your luggage is going to be transferred from one plane to another, and unfortunately, during this transition some bags do get lost… seriously lost!

It is therefore essential that you pack as many of your essentials as possible in your hand luggage.  We always travel to Kilimanjaro in our hiking boots (not sexy, but they’re not getting lost when they are on your feet!), we pack one pair of hiking trousers, a couple of t-shirts, underwear, hats, gloves, headlamp, electronics in our hand luggage, and we take our high altitude jacket with us too.

That way if our luggage does get lost, we have at least some of the essentials to start our expedition.  Most international climbing companies partner with local Kilimanjaro companies, and so there is always the possibility to rent any gear that is missing.  Sleeping bags, hiking poles, gaiters, jackets, backpacks, and even sunglasses are available to rent, so you don’t have to be stranded with nothing more than your jeans or trainers.

Taking the right stuff with you is important, but you should also prepare for the unthinkable… so max out your hand luggage – and if necessary, wear as many layers as possible on your flight to Kilimanjaro!


A Tribute to Kilimanjaro’s Porters: The Real Heroes of the Mountain

If you have climbed Africa’s highest mountain, you will know first-hand just how amazing Kilimanjaro’s Porters are, but sadly, Tanzania’s unsung heroes are often treated poorly by unscrupulous climbing companies, who do not provide them with adequate clothing, sufficient food or a fair wage.

Fortunately, there are organizations out there such as KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project) and IMEC (International Mountain Explorers Connection), who are trying to help by implementing a Partnership for Responsible Travel Program that all Kilimanjaro Climbing companies are encouraged to join.

The program is designed to ensure that all porters are treated correctly, and that they receive fair wages of at least $10 per porter per day (many companies offering cheap Kilimanjaro climbs pay them less than $3 per day), proper clothing and equipment, proper shelter and sleeping bags, at least 2 meals per day, and maximum loads of 20kg.

While everyone has a budget, choosing a cheap Kilimanjaro outfitter will not benefit the local community, and you could find your porters climbing in minus degrees with nothing more than shorts and sandals.  So look out for KPAP and IMEC registered tour operators, and give these magnificent people the respect and wage they truly deserve…

IMG_0123 IMG_0021 KPAP Approved Kilimanjaro Climbing Companies IMG_0054 IMG_0147 IMG_0185 IMG_0193 IMG_0195 IMG_0196 IMG_0262 IMG_0263 IMG_0284 IMG_0324 IMG_0332 IMG_0151





Climbing Kilimanjaro: The Truth about Summit Night

As we prepare to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro once again, I decided it was time to read through the blog posts I had written back in 2012 after climbing the 7-Day Machame Route, to remind myself what it was actually like on summit night.

No-one ever talks about summit night, quite simply because it is one of those things that you would rather not remember!  It’s tough, really tough, even for those who are not suffering with altitude sickness, but there is only one way to Uhuru Peak, and that is up, up, up….

After reading my previous posts, I’m slowly but surely starting to remember how demanding summit night really was, and while I firmly believe in the philosophy that “forewarned is forearmed”, I have to admit, I’m a tad nervous about tackling Africa’s highest mountain once again!

Climb Kilimanjaro Full Moon and Total Lunar Eclipse

Here’s the truth about summit night:

While not all routes on Kilimanjaro are the same, many climbers start their summit attempt from Barafu Camp at around midnight.  After dinner in the mess tent, you retire to your tent for a few hours’ sleep, and your guide wakes you up at around 11.30pm for sweet tea and biscuits, or if you can stomach it, breakfast. You then refill your water bottles and head off into the midnight sky.

The terrain is completely different at this level, and rather than walking on rocks or gravel, you find yourself walking through loose scree – which is not dissimilar to walking through deep sand. Your feet sink and so every step requires effort, and as there is not much air to go around, you want to conserve as much energy as possible.

For the first 3-4 hours summit night is bearable. Everyone is excited about the prospect of reaching Uhuru Peak and the atmosphere feels almost electric, but once you reach about 4am, the mood seems to change.

By now, you are at 5,600 metres above sea-level, the temperatures drop significantly, and oxygen seems scarce.  Every step is a painful reminder of how far you have come, and with no summit in sight, you soon realise that you have a long way to go.

At this stage during our expedition, no one spoke, we didn’t stop for water breaks, and progress was slow, but just when we started to doubt ourselves, the sun lit up the horizon with the most spectacular shades of red, orange and pink. This burst of energy was all we needed to reach the welcoming sign of Stella Point – and our goal was finally in sight.

From Stella Point to Uhuru Peak, the terrain is relatively flat, but you still have over a Kilometre to go, and at high altitude, it feels like you are attempting an Ultra Marathon!  However, by now, you have already ‘officially’ climbed Kilimanjaro – and the elation takes over everything else.

When standing before the sign that reads, “Congratulations, you are now at Uhuru Peak 5,895m above sea-level Africa’s highest point”, you forget everything of the past 6-7 hours, and revel in your awesomeness – you did it, you really did it!




The Best Sleeping Bag for Your Kilimanjaro Trek

Trying to get a good night’s sleep on Mount Kilimanjaro is no easy task, especially if you are trekking the Machame Route, the Lemosho Route, or one of the other camping routes that do not overnight in Mountain Huts, but there are a few things you can do to make your nights more comfortable, and it all starts with a good sleeping bag.

I personally wouldn’t want to stay in the shared huts on Kilimanjaro, quite simply because I do not think that they should be there. They were built for tourism, for those who want an easy route to Uhuru Peak, but they do not belong on Africa’s highest mountain and you will not have an authentic climbing experience if you stay there.

That said, overnighting in tents is nether glamorous or comfortable, but it is the way Kilimanjaro was meant to be climbed – with tents, sleeping bags, camp stoves, and starry skies, and as long as you plan your trip carefully, you will be able to sleep sweetly.

For our first Kilimanjaro Expedition, we purchased Me°ru’ Colorado Micro Sleeping Bags suitable for temperatures ranging from +4 degrees to -18 degrees.  They look good, they’re made from high quality fabrics, they are most definitely warm enough for Kilimanjaro, and initially, they are very comfortable, but we both found the ‘mummy’ shape too restrictive for a good night’s sleep, and so we have decided to upsize for our next Total Lunar Eclipse Expedition in September.

Sleeping BagThis year we will be spending our nights on Mount Kilimanjaro wrapped in Outwell® Campion Lux Double Sleeping Bags, which are suitable for use in temperatures ranging from +23 to -16 degrees.  While each sleeping bag is designed for two, we have ordered one each, and there is plenty of space to move around and get comfortable.

We will be combining our new Kilimanjaro sleeping bags with inflatable mattresses (should be fun blowing those up at 5,000mts above sea-level!), and our trusty fleece pillows and thermal sleeping suits that served us so well on our last trip.  Only time will tell if we’ll sleep better this time around, but we will be on Kilimanjaro – and that is worth a sleepless night – or two!









Kilimanjaro Training Plan: 8 Weeks to go until the Total Lunar Eclipse Tour

With just over 8 weeks to go until we head to Tanzania on our Kilimanjaro Total Lunar Eclipse Tour, it is time to step up the training plan and prepare for our weeklong adventure on Africa’s highest mountain.

While it is not technically challenging, climbing Kilimanjaro is mentally and physically demanding, and so preparation is key if you are serious about reaching the peak.  Many hikers arrive in Arusha with little or no training, and to save money, go for the shorter 5-day and 6-day routes, but you only have to look at the statistics to see that this equals failure.

In general, Kilimanjaro climbs of 6 days and less have a success rate of less than 50%…. something to consider when budgeting for your climb.

This time, we will be climbing the extended Machame Route, giving us plenty of time to acclimatize and adapt to our surroundings. In order to prepare for our ascent, we have relocated to our house in the Austrian Alps (lucky – I know!), and will spend the next 8 weeks hiking, running, and mentally preparing for our next big adventure.

September Kilimanjaro Group Climb

Here’s a brief example of what our Kilimanjaro Training Plan looks like (we’re not doctors or personal trainers – this is just what works for us!!):

  • Monday: 2 Hours hiking – ascending and descending to strengthen all leg muscles
  • Tuesday: 40 Minutes Cycling and 20 Minutes Strength Training (squats, lunges)
  • Wednesday: 2 Hours hiking on challenging terrain
  • Thursday: 30 Minutes Running and 30 Minutes Strength Training
  • Friday: 1 Hour Brisk Walk
  • Saturday: Long Distance Hike +/- 4 hours
  • Sunday: Day off!

Like most people, we have to work for a living, so we get up extra early and try to fit our Kilimanjaro training in before we start our day.  If you cannot commit so much time during your working week, even 30 minutes a day will make a huge difference – especially if you push yourself at the weekend!

American Author Zig Ziglar once said, “It’s your ATTITUDE not your APTITUDE that determines your ALTITUDE” and nothing could be more true when it comes to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro! Stay positive, stay strong, and just when you think you can’t do it anymore, you will see the welcoming sign of Uhuru Peak glowing under the early morning sun – Victory!