If you’re confused, read Part I of my crazy family Christmas adventure first. And if you’re bored of all this trekking, skip ahead to read about our two-day safari.

Day 5: Barafu Camp is really cold

After going up and over the Barranco Wall to Karanga Camp on the fourth day, it’s a super chill stroll up to Barafu Camp. And by chill, I mean cold. Turns out “barafu” means “ice” in Swahili. I was not down. The temperature was, though.

The final camp before the summit is at 15,300 feet, almost a thousand feet higher than I’d ever been before. It also directly translates to “ice camp” which I can confirm is accurate.
Signing in at the Barafu Camp hut which we did not get to enter but it didn’t look warm or cozy in there anyways

We arrived at Barafu Camp around noon, hiked up another hour for acclimatization purposes, and then went down to the camp for lunch.

Taken during our short acclimatization hike, those teeny-tiny colored specks over yonder are the tents at Barafu Camp

The schedule gets kinda weird after that. You eat a giant lunchtime meal, go to sleep for a few hours, and then wake up to eat yet another giant meal, sleep for another few hours, and then wake up at 10:30 pm to get ready for the summit hike. I pride myself on being a champion sleeper, so I was able to pass out for both of those naps, but there were others in our group who weren’t able to sleep at all before starting the summit push, which sounded super rough.

Day 6: To the top and then to Mweka Camp

We’ll pretend the sixth day starts a little before midnight, just for counting purposes. I mean, I did technically go to sleep and wake up again so that’s a new day, right?

We left the camp around 11:30 pm and walked through a cold dark freezer for 6.5 hours before the sun decided to make some moves. The first few hours were fine, even enjoyable, as I alternatively spent time being mesmerized by the starry sky and trying not to trip over things in the dark. It got a little rough around 4 am as I got colder and more tired and the sunrise felt like eons away, but as soon as we hit Stella Point (an hour from the summit) everyone was palpably relieved. The trail from Stella Point up to the actual summit, Uhuru Peak, is pretty easy, but we were honestly more pumped about the sunrise than about the summit itself at that point.

The most welcome sunrise I’ve ever seen
Feeling accomplished and also like the michelin man. The newspaper is a family joke, it’s from my hometown in Delaware where my dad still lives and if you submit a photo of yourself somewhere interesting with the local paper they’ll print it
My brother always has to one-up me (his handstand was objectively better), but I suppose that’s what big brothers are for. This was on the way down and not on top as I originally wanted, but still almost 19,000 ft so I call it a win

The descent was easier than I expected and only took 2.5 hours, compared to the 7-hour ascent. But I think the majority of that is fueled by actually feeling warm for the first time in hours. The sun can be an incredibly uplifting force when you haven’t seen it in a while.

Caught napping by my tent-mate post-hike. To be fair, we had just trekked for 9.5 hours up to 19,341 ft so a nap seems pretty reasonable

After getting back to Barafu Camp, we got to pass out for a few hours in our tents, but then had to wake up and pack up and start hiking down again. The second half of the sixth day was by far the hardest for me. After 9.5 hours of trekking and being cold and tired, the last thing I wanted to do was trek some more, even if it didn’t involve frozen fingers and toes. Especially not downhill for 4.5 hours, because that’s super rough on the knees and quads. Especially because my poles aren’t as useful as they would otherwise be since my collarbone is still healing and gets sad sometimes.

But we eventually got there and our chef surprised us with a delicious cake (made on a burner, not in an oven!), and I don’t think I’ve gone to bed that early or slept that long since I was in elementary school.

The chef and guides came into the tent singing “cakey, cakey!” and it was adorable. Also, “amsl” stands for “above mean sea level”

Day 7: Kilimanjaro is also a beer

Coulda used a little more water pressure to get rid of all the dirt and dust that accumulated on my person in seven days on a mountain, but hey, a hot shower is a hot shower and I was not complaining.

Exit gate! Mostly looking forward to a shower at this point if we’re being honest
Much deserved celebratory beer after seven days on ze mountain