Skip to main content

Conquering Kilimanjaro: A Journey on the Machame Route

March 1, 2024  By: Nell

Africa Adventure Consultants’ own Nell Pollak has a deep passion for Africa. She has enjoyed a variety of adventures across the continent, including a four-month trip to Kenya after college as well as walking 1,088 miles over 58 days across Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. One indelible memory for her was kicking off a new year on Uhuru Peak on Mt. Kilimanjaro for sunrise. She shared her day by day experience with us here on the blog.

Nell at sunrise

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak, had always been a dream of mine. The challenge, the allure of reaching the “Roof of Africa” and the breathtaking views from the summit were enough to convince me to embark on this epic adventure. I chose the Machame Route, known for its stunning scenery and diverse landscapes, and what follows is an accounting of my incredible journey to the summit.

Nell at Machame gate

Day 1

The beginning of my Kilimanjaro adventure started at the Machame Gate, where I met my fellow trekkers and our experienced guides. The Machame Route is a popular choice for those seeking a more adventurous and scenic experience, and it didn’t take long to see why. The lush rainforest enveloped us as we began our ascent, and the first day’s hike was a gentle introduction to what lay ahead.

beginning of the hike

Day 2

The second day brought a noticeable change in the landscape. The dense rainforest gave way to moorland, and the air began to thin as we gained elevation. The hiking was more strenuous, but the promise of reaching the Shira Plateau kept us motivated. The evening sky treated us to a stunning display of stars.


Day 3

The Shira Plateau is a high desert-like expanse, and it’s truly a sight to behold. We trekked across this otherworldly landscape, feeling like we were on another planet. The stark beauty of the surroundings and the sense of isolation from the outside world made for a unique experience.

Nell with blanket

Day 4

One of the most challenging and exhilarating days of the journey was when we tackled the Barranco Wall. This steep climb required some scrambling and determination. As we conquered the wall, we were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Barranco Valley below.

hiking in snow

Day 5

Karanga Camp marked our progress towards the summit, and our excitement was palpable. We could see the snowy peak of Kilimanjaro above us, reminding us of the ultimate goal of summitting. As we settled into our camp, we knew that the next day would be the most demanding yet.

Nell in snow

Day 6

The day leading to Barafu Camp was physically and mentally taxing. The thin air and challenging terrain made this ascent a true test of endurance. Arriving at Barafu Camp, we knew that the summit was within reach, but we also understood the immense challenge that lay ahead.

Nell at summit

Summit Night

The summit night is what Kilimanjaro climbers often describe as the most challenging part of the journey. We woke in the dead of night and bundled up against the freezing cold. Slow and steady or “pole, pole” (slowly, slowly in Swahili) we ascended the scree slopes of the summit, navigating by headlamp. The air was thin, and every step was a challenge, but the determination to reach Uhuru Peak kept us going.

The summit reaching Uhuru Peak, the highest point on Kilimanjaro, was an overwhelming moment. The sense of accomplishment, the spectacular sunrise and the breathtaking views across the African plains were nothing short of magical. We had conquered Kilimanjaro!

Climbing Kilimanjaro on the Machame Route was the adventure of a lifetime. The journey challenged me physically and mentally, but the rewards were immeasurable. The diverse landscapes, the camaraderie with fellow trekkers and the triumph of standing on Uhuru Peak made this experience unforgettable. Kilimanjaro is not just a mountain; it’s a symbol of determination and the human spirit’s ability to conquer even the highest peaks. If you’re seeking an adventure like no other, consider the Machame Route and make your own journey to the Roof of Africa.

Nell with group at summit

Tips for Travelers Interested in Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

  • Choose the right route: Kilimanjaro offers several routes with varying degrees of difficulty. Discuss your options with your Journey Specialist and choose a route that aligns with your fitness level, hiking expertise and the kind of experience you want.
  • Acclimatize: Spend at least one extra day at a high-altitude camp for acclimatization. This will help your body adjust to reduced oxygen levels, reducing the risk of altitude sickness.
  • Physical preparation: Train for your trek by improving your cardiovascular fitness and leg strength. Hiking, running and stair climbing can be beneficial. Carry a backpack to simulate the weight of your gear.
  • Gear and clothing: Invest in quality gear and clothing suitable for various weather conditions. Layering is key to regulating your body temperature. Don’t forget a good, comfortable pair of hiking boots! And make sure you break in the boots before trekking in them. You can rent some gear locally; your Journey Specialist can advise on options.
  • Pack light: Keep your gear as lightweight as possible. Porters will carry the majority of your equipment, but you’ll need to carry a daypack with essentials like water, snacks and extra clothing layers.
  • Stay hydrated and eat well: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Dehydration can worsen with altitude sickness. Your chef on the mountain will prepare hot, balanced meals for you, but it’s up to you to eat them to maintain your energy levels.
  • Stay healthy: Make sure you’re in good health before attempting the climb.
  • Travel insurance: Purchase travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and trip cancellations.
  • Mental preparedness: Climbing Kili is as much a mental feat as it is physical. Stay positive, focused and maintain a can-do attitude. Remember why you embarked on this journey.
  • Respect the environment: Kilimanjaro is a protected national park. Follow the Leave No Trace principles and respect the environment.
  • Communicate with your guides and porters: Put in the effort to get to know your guides and porters. This is an exceptional way to learn about a new culture, as well as to share with your team about your own. Be-friending my guides and porters made my experience much more special! We had such a fun time and I learned more than I ever could’ve imagined on such a trek.
  • Have fun: Enjoy the company, the scenery and the vast beauty of this once-in -a -lifetime experience! It truly is one for the bucket list!
  • Pro Tip: A cold beverage (and a shower) at the end will hit the spot!
post hike beer

Interested in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

Contact a Journey Specialist to begin planning or subscribe to our newsletter below to stay connected.


* indicates required