Category: Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro June 21-27, 2010, Day 4-5

Our team moved from Barranco camp Karanga camp 12,900 feet, and the weather remained beautiful yesterday during Day 4.

Kilimanjaro's Western Breach Wall from Barranco Camp

The trek took us about 3 1/2 hours and got up to about 14,000 feet as we went up Barranco wall and slowly descended down into Karanga valley and then up to camp. We got to camp in time for lunch and we were able to spend the afternoon resting and hydrating and playing cards with the porters.  Then about dinner time the clouds that are normally hovering below us moved up the mountain and put us in kind of a white-out .  Then the clouds moved down at about 9 pm and the moon which is almost full lit up Kilimanjaro beautifully  as we went to bed.

This morning day five we woke up and left around 8:30 am and arrived at our high camp Barafu at 15,300 feet.   We rolled in at about 11:45 and were able to spend the rest of our afternoon resting and hydrating and preparing for our summit bid.

We will wake up in about 4 hours to make our summit attempt in the early morning hours.

Everybody is doing great feeling strong and happy we have a really nice team that has really gelled together. And we just had a wonderful time.

Just wanted to thank everybody back home keeping us in their thoughts and prayers as we make our summit attempt tomorrow.

Porters and climbers ascending Barranco Wall

Kilimanjaro, Heim Glacier on the way to Karanga Camp

Kilimanjaro from Karanga Camp

Barranco Wall with people ascending it

Everlasting Flower

Approaching Barafu Camp, Day 5

View of Kilimanjaro from Barafu Camp

Kilimanjaro June 21-27, 2010, Day 3

Had a wonderful day three on Kilimanjaro. We left Shira camp at 8:15 am and slowly climbed to an elevation of 14,600 feet.
We took a couple breaks along the way and watched the vegetation thin out until the surrounding land looked like a moonscape and off in the distance was a beautiful cloud deck below that made us feel like we were on top of the world. Above us we saw the western breach wall of Kilimanjaro and some of the glaciers that are up high on the mountain and we continued climbing up to our high point of Lava Tower at 15,231 feet. We then stopped and had lunch at 12:30 after which we descended down to Barranco camp at 13,076 feet.
It was a clear afternoon as we traversed underneath the western breach wall with beautiful weather.
The sky is gorgeous tonight and I can see the Southern Cross on one side and as I look to the other side I can see the Big Dipper. It’s just beautiful out here.

Everybody on the team is doing well and healthy and we’ve been playing a local card game, called cardi, with the porters and having a great time.
Tomorrow we will head towards Karanga camp.

Updates to follow

Kilimanjaro's Western Breach Wall from Barranco Camp

Giant Scenacio Trees

Giant Scenacio Trees

Barranco Camp



Kilimanjaro June 21-27, 2010, Day 2

We had a very successful and memorable day 2 today, we left from our camp at the Machame Hut and went to the Shira Plateau at 12,600 feet. The entire team did a great job and we got here in the afternoon in time for tea time and to play cards with our porters. We saw lots of great scenery along the way including abundant wildflowers because the rainy season just ended here. Day three tomorrow will find us climbing to Barranco Camp.

More updates to follow.

Changing vegetation on day 2

Gladiola, day 2

Camp 2 on the Shira Plateau

Kilimanjaro June 21-27, 2010

Greetings from Moshi, Tanzania. Our team of Mike Crafts, Joe, Joey, & Brittany Szalkiewicz, and Kurt Wedberg are packed and ready to begin a 7-day climb of the highest mountain on the African continent. Stay tuned for updates to this blog. We will try to keep you up to date on the progress of our climb.

Kilimanjaro 19,340', 5895m. The Roof of Africa

Kilimanjaro Impatients: This flower is unique to Kilimanjaro. It is the only place in the world where it lives.

Machame Route Camp 14

Porters: When the German Hans Meyer first climbed Kilimanjaro in 1889 it took him 40 days and he used 90 porters. He hired them from the Chagga tribe that has historically lived at the base of Kilimanjaro. This tradition still exists today with the vast majority of the porters working on Kilimanjaro coming from the Chagga tribe.

Mt. Kenya June 10-17, 2010 – Beautiful and Untamed

After winding up a very busy spring season in the Sierra it was time to pack our luggage for another trip to Africa. Our objectives on this trip include climbs of Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro followed by a game viewing safari. On June 10 Mike Crafts and Kurt Wedberg departed from Nairobi for Mt. Kenya National Park for a 7-day adventure through this beautiful and untamed land.

Mt. Kenya has three summits that comprise part of the rim of an extinct volcano that is thought to have been higher than Mt. Everest. The three summits are called Batian (17,058′, 5199m), Nelion (17,020′, 5188m), and Point Lenana (16,400′, 4999m). The top two require a long technical rock climb to reach their summits while Pt. Lenana is a very enjoyable trekking peak. We came with an open mind and prepared to climb any and all of the three summits of the second highest peak on the African continent.

Our trek was fun and adventurous. The lower slopes of Mt. Kenya National Park feature a jungle environment teeming with wildlife. It is not uncommon to see a herd of cape buffaloes, zebras, or a couple different species of monkeys. The camps are clean and well kept with huts that have sleeping areas plus tables and chairs for eating and relaxing. Very few people visit this area and we ran into very few other parties during our time here. After two days of trekking we found ourselves at Mackinder’s Camp at 13,800′, 4200m. From here we woke early and climbed to the summit of Point Lenana under a clear and cold morning. This climb is traditionally done at night so you’re reaching the summit at sunrise which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery including a nice perspective of Nelion and Batian basking in morning light. We returned to Mackinder’s Camp and prepared to move our camp higher on the following day. As we rested in the afternoon we were treated to excellent views of Batian and Nelion with the Diamond Couloir forming a dividing line of ice in between. On day 4 we ascended to the Austrian Hut at 15,720′, 4791m. This is the highest camp in the park and offers a great viewpoint of Batian and Nelion including a good look at the rock climbing route up the south face.

Feeling well we decided to hike that afternoon to the beginning of the south face route carrying climbing equipment to leave here in preparation for an attempt at this route. This required a short descent into a glacier carved valley, crossing the Lewis Glacier, then up talus and scree to the base of the route. Leaving our gear here we returned to the Austrian Hut to hydrate and make final preparations for our climb. As weather moved in dumping snow and hail that stuck to the ground we decided to use a weather day we had built in to our itinerary and use the time to further acclimatize.

Up until now this trip had been an amazing experience. We had been in a remote and very beautiful part of the world, seen an abundance of wildlife, and enjoyed the fellowship that goes along with sharing adventures with in the mountains. On this evening as we were reflecting on our experiences to this point Mike decided that seeing Batian and Nelion from the various vantage points we have had so far was enough. While climbing to the summit of Batian and Nelion was one of our goals it wasn’t the only goal. Mountaineering is about the journey and not the destination and we have so far had a very memorable adventure. The decision was made to retrieve our equipment and head out down a different route than we entered the park.

On day 6 we traversed around the Circuit Path which is a trail that circumnavigates all three summits of Mt. Kenya. As were entered new terrain the views continued to be outstanding as we discovered new facets to this diverse environment. We descended down to Shipton’s Camp (14,025′, 4275m) named after the distinguished British mountaineer who made the first ascent of Nelion in 1929. Continuing our descent down Mackinder’s Valley we ended up at 11,200′, 3413m. This camp is situated just above the jungle zone setting us up well for our final scenic day back to the park entrance.

On day 7 we left Old Moses Camp and began seeing not only thicker vegetation but more signs of wildlife including recent elephant dung and tracks. Rounding a corner we heard a rustling in the bushes immediately stopped and listened. After a few moments we heard some more movement then looking down 100 yards away we saw an elephant. Hearing more rustling we realized there was a large herd nearby. Our Kenyan porters became very concerned. We then saw 30+ elephants cross our path 100 yards away. It was a rather tense moment and our staff looked truly worried. They have never encountered a site like this. While they have seen anywhere from 1-3 elephants in Mt. Kenya National Park they’ve never encountered a herd of this size before. They are trained to light a fire which is supposed to keep them at bay. They did that and we kept our distance as they crossed the trail. African elephants are very dangerous animals. They are unpredictable and very protective when calves are around. They had big males and baby calves. We don’t think they actually saw us although we can’t be sure. We are convinced the elephants knew we were somewhere close though. We ended up waiting a while then extinguished the fire and continued down quietly. As we continued down the dirt road we heard elephants in the distance. Our porters said the elephants will cross the road at a bend up ahead and if we don’t beat them there they’ll block our path. We moved quickly and quietly and got to that crucial bend in the road first. Up to that point we saw elephant tracks and heard movement in the bushes. After that turn in the road we didn’t see any more evidence of them and stopped hearing noises. Eventually the porters relaxed and were jovial again.

All the photos taken are currently being uploaded to the SMI photo gallery. The gallery will not be complete until we return home in early July Here’s the link to the gallery with what we currently have uploaded:

Mt. Kenya's South Face

Summit photo on Point Lenana. From left to right: Kenyan guide Charles, Mike Crafts, Kurt Wedberg

Young elephant crossing our route on the final day of our trek

Zebra mother and her new born foal.

Game Viewing Safari February 2010

Each time we go to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro we follow up the climb with a game viewing safari. This is an event not to be missed! Seeing these animals living in their natural environment just like they always have is a very special experience. We use veteran safari drivers and 4 x 4 Land Rovers with removable rooftops so we can get excellent views and photos of the animals. Photo opportunities are plentiful, the scenery is gorgeous, and the opporunity to learn more about these famous animals we were all introduced to through books and other media at a very young age makes this an excellent way to wind down after a Kilimanjaro climb.

Here are a few pictures from our latest safari. The entire photo gallery is here:

African Elephant. Elephants in East Africa are easily distinguishable from their Asian counterparts by their ears. Their ears contain many blood vessels and they flap them as a cooling mechanism. African elephants can not be tamed so we normally don’t see them in the circus.

Adult elephants guard their calves closely.

Hippos with storks in the background. Hippos spend most of the daytime hours in water.

Giraffes in Lake Manyara National Park

Spotted hyena in the Ngorongoro Crater with a vigilant Thompson’s gazelle watching its every move.

Zebra in the Ngorongoro Crater with flamingos behind.

Baby zebra learning to run.

Up close and personal.

Black rhinos have been brought to the vere of extinction in East Africa due to hunting and poaching in the last century. On our first safari we learned there were 17 rhinos remaining in the Ngorongoro Crater. Today there are 26.

It is not everybody who is fortunate enough to go on safari and see a black rhino let alone get close enough to get a clear picture of one. We were very blessed to see a couple different black rhinos on this visit to the Ngorongoro Crater

Cape buffalos in the Ngorongoro Crater.

There are over 1100 bird species on East Africa. It would be possible to spend several weeks and still not see them all. Here are a few we saw on this safari.

Egyptian Geese

Southern Grond Hornbill

Grey Crowned Crane

Bee Eater

Yellow-billed storks and African Spoonbills

100% Summit Success on Kilimanjaro February 2010!!

On February 7 SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and Sara Berghoff boarded a plane at LAX bound for Tanzania to lead another climb to the “Roof of Africa”. Kilimanjaro is one of the most famous mountains in the world and the highest mountain in the entire continent of Africa at 19,340 feet, 5895m. Our group consisted of six friends from Southern California and one who lives in Topeka, Kansas: Frank Baxter, Donna Fol, Jim Marver, Bill Simon, Cindy Simon, and Reid Stacey. Our route of choice was the Umbwe. We descended the Mweka Route. As is now customary on SMI Kilimanjaro climbs we allow 7 days for the climb instead of the standard 5-6. This gives us more acclimatization and helps set our groups up for success. We were rewarded with a safe and successful climb. We were blessed with beautiful weather for our summit day and together our entire group reached the summit and returned safely down off the mountain with a huge accomplishment to add to their life experiences.

Cindy Simon kept a detailed blog that began with some of their training hikes well before we departed on this trip. Rather than repeat the information here we invite you to visit her account of this climb on her site and get a look into our climb from the perspective of one of the participants:

Congratulations to everyone on a safe and successful climb!! We’re pround of everyone’s efforts. Below are a few pictures from the trip. The entire photo galleries can be found here:

Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet, 5895m) from below. Much of the land surrounding the base of Kilimanjaro is rich in minerals and makes for excellent cultivation of crops.

The February 2010 Kilimanjaro team. From left to right: Kurt Wedberg, Cindy Simon, Bill Simon, Sara Berghoff, Jim Marver, Donna Fol, Reid Stacey, Frank Baxter

The group ready to begin day 1 of our 7 day climb at the start of the Umbwe Route.

Kilimanjaro Impatient. This flower only grows in the jungle zone around Kilimanjaro.

The jungle zone on Kilimanjaro hosts a rich variety of flora and fauna. We were treated to a view of a troop of blue monkeys on this trip.

Setting up camp in the jungle at 9350 feet, 2850m at the end of day 1.

Bill and Cindy Simon pause for a photo on day 2 as we began breaking out of the jungle and were treated to our first view of Kilimanjaro since we began our hike on the previous day.

Lobilia plants are common in East Africa. They feature a leaf system that allows them to collect and store water that they can drink as needed.

Giant Senacio trees are seen at 12,000 – 13,000 feet on Kilimanjaro.

Jim Marver enjoying the hike as we break out of the jungle en route to Barranco Camp on day 2.

Our tents at Barranco Camp at 12,926 feet, 3940m with the Western Breach Wall of Kilimanjaro behind.

Bill and Kurt enjoying a card game with some of our Chagga staff.

Jim Marver negotiating the Barranco Wall on day 4.

Reid Stacey enjoying the hike en route to Karanga Camp on day 4.

Monarch butterfly on a thistle.

Sara and Cindy are all smiles as we near Karanga Camp on day 4.

The group poses for a picture upon arrival at Karanga Camp at 12,893 feet, 3930m after a memorable and scenic hike on day 4.

Evening at Karanga Camp with the town of Moshi in the distance.

View from Karanga Camp on the morning of day 5.

The group on the move to high camp; Barafu Camp at 15,100 feet, 4600m.

Valentine’s Day Kilimanjaro style… Bill and Cindy Simon.

The team arrives at Barafu Camp on day 5. Healthy and happy we’re in position for our summit attempt in the morning.

Our summit attempt begins in the middle of the night.

Donna Fol and Bill Simon at a rest on summit day.

Jim marver and Bill Simon pause for a photo at dawn at approximately 18,500 feet, 5640m

Frank Baxter smiling on summit day at sunrise as we approach 19,000 feet, 5791m.

The team casting shadows into the crater of Kilimanjaro shortly after sunrise. The summit is the highest point on the right skyline.

As we traverse the crater rim we see the top of the of the glaciers that flank Kilkimanjaro.

Our happy and satisfied group posing for a summit photo under a clear and windless day!! Congratulations everybody!!!