Day 3 on Kilimanjaro is all about acclimatization. You’ll get a full taste of the old adage “climb high, sleep low” as you first gain 690 meters, and then descend 580 meters at the end of the day.
Much of Day 3 is spent in the alpine desert of Kilimanjaro. You’ll leave the colorful bushes, scrub grasses, and interesting plant life behind, at least for the time being, for the rocky, barren, and dry expanses of the high desert areas. You’ll continue to have amazing views throughout the day as well, and the summit will loom over you as you hike, as long as the mists clear long enough for you to see it.
You’ll reach the high point of the climb around mid-day, as you approach the Lava Tower, a 300 foot tall formation jutting out of the mountain that ws created by cooling lava at some point in Kili’s past. The morning is a steady climb up to this point, and you’ll likely have lunch in the shadow of the Tower. After that, you’ll turn down hill to make your way towards Barranco Camp. But make no mistake, just because you’re going down doesn’t mean that the trek is easy. On the contrary, you’ll be scrambling over rocks and hiking through loose rock scree that will have you watching your step at every moment. On top of that, you’re likely to have tired legs from the previous days climb and the exertion of the morning, making the descent more challenging than you’d like.
There is a reward for the day however, and that’s the beautiful scenery as you descend. The alpine desert will once again fall away, and you’ll return to the colorful moorlands. More beautiful plants will spring up around you, and as you hike down the valley to Barranco Camp, there are a number of beautiful waterfalls. Definitely take time to look around on this stage of the climb.
Barranco Camp is easily the most scenic on the Machame Route. You’ll have some amazing views of Mount Meru, Heim Glacier, and Kibo’s south face. When the mist clears at night, you’ll also be able to see all the way down theh valley into Moshi Town. Of course, it’s not all fun and games, as you won’t be able to avoid eyeing up the Barranco Wall, a 1000+ foot rock face you’ll be tackling first thing in the morning.
For me, this was a good day on the trail. The morning hike up was definitely challenging and I was ready for a break when we stopped for lunch at the lava tower. The descent was certainly more challenging than I expected, and you had to watch your footing constantly, as the scree was very loose in spots and if you weren’t careful, you could easily twist an ankle, or trip and fall. But the views in Shira Garden, as the valley leading to Barranco Camp is known, are quite stunning. Certainly some of the best you’ll see on the whole trek.
The night before this stage I probably slept a total of 20-30 minutes. Very light dozing at best, but I still felt good on the trail. My legs were feeling a bit of the strain, but generally still felt good. I remained hopeful that a good night’s sleep was just around the corner, and that the acclimatization process was going according to plan. I hadn’t suffered any head-aches or nausea, although other groups we encountered certainly were. I remained optimistic.
(Photo courtesy of Colm Donohoe. It’s a shot of myself, and our guides, Peter and Zawadi, at the Lava Tower.
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