Machame Camp (3000m) to Shira Camp (3840m)
On Day 2 of the Kili climb you leave the heat and humidity of the cloud forest behind and move into the moorlands of Kilimanjaro. The trees fall away behind you today and are replaced with a number of interesting and unique plants, many with beautiful flowers. During Day 1, there were times when the forest was a bit opressive with it’s humidity, but on Day 2 things are much better. The wide open spaces allow for cool breezes to help make the climb more comfortable although when the sun is out, it can still be quite intense.
The views are far more interesting on Day 2 as well. While we hiked through the forest, we didn’t see anything aside from thick, dense jungle, and aside from insects, there was no animal life. But on Day 2 you can get some great views, both down the mountain to the forest and plains below and up towards Kibo and Mawenzi peaks above. On top of that, you’ll actually see some birds on the mountain, including HUGE black crows, and tiny chipmunk like rodents.
This is the shortest day of climbing on the Machame Route. Your hike on Day 2 will last about four hours as you climb to the Shira Plateau. However, there are several long, vertical climbs that will result in an elevation gain of 840 meters by the time you reach camp. You’ll also have to do a bit of non-technical rock climbing/scrambling near the end of the day, which wasn’t all that difficult, but could be a bit intimidating if you aren’t use to that kind of activity. At one point, while scrambling up the rocks, there was a 200+ foot drop into the mist just off to the side. If being close to an edge like that gives you vertigo, you may not want to look down here. 😉
After the rock climbing, the trail will continue downward for a bit until you reach Shira Camp, which rests on the rocky plateau covered in volcanic rock left over from the last time Kili blew it’s top. By the time you reach this point, you’ll begin to feel the drop in temperatures associated with climbing higher. A slight mist in the air will bring a bit of a chill as well.
For me, Day 2 was a nice, brisk hike. There were sections that were certainly challenging, but nothing too difficult, and I actually enjoyed the sections of rock climbing/scrambling. The path has gone from the well groomed, clearly defined trail from Day 1, to someting more like I expected. It’s still easily followed, but clearly this section isn’t as well maintained, and it’s more challenging to hike. You’ll have to watch your footing a bit more as well, and your trekking poles become much more useful. I also appreciated the change in temperature as well. While in the cloud forest, I was sweating up a storm, but the wide open spaces of the moorlands helped a lot. The lovely scenery and change of flora were fun to watch as well.
At this point in my climb, I had about two hours of sleep on the mountain. Leading up to the climb I had traveled 28 hours from the States, and head about five hours of sleep the night before we started, and while camped at Machame Camp, I did manage to get a little shut-eye. I was hoping that by the time I got to Shira Camp, I would be tired enough to actually get some sleep, but while I was physically tired, sleep would not come.
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