If you want your Kilimanjaro climb to be a really unique adventure then how about planning to sleep on the Roof of Africa. At 5730 metres, Crater Camp on Mount Kilimanjaro is an almost untouched and unvisited wilderness. For climbers who are confident that they acclimatise well and have successfully been to altitude before then climbing Kilimanjaro and sleeping overnight in the Crater is a fantastic option.
You know you are on a really unique adventure when you can stay tucked in your sleeping bag while everybody else sets off up Kilimanjaro just after midnight. Instead you get a full night’s sleep, have a good breakfast and climb to the summit without all the crowds.
And while everyone else is heading back down with little time to explore, you can enjoy the summit before dropping just 150m down into the crater where your camp will have been set up. You will then have time to explore the remaining glaciers in the crater and visit the still smoking ash pit before getting to the Western ridge to watch the sunset. Next morning you then have a short hike to the Eastern ridge to be there before anyone else to see the sunrise.
Be warned though, if you choose the Crater Camp option you do run a real risk of getting altitude sickness and it is therefore only suitable if you know you acclimatise well. Most climbers on Kilimanjaro will suffer some degree of altitude sickness but they descend quickly after summiting before any condition deteriorates. When you sleep overnight in Crater Camp you stay high for a full 24 hours and this can cause problems.
To minimise the dangers we only offer the option of sleeping in Crater Camp on the Machame route, Lemosho route and Northern Circuit routes. You will also spend more time at the summit itself before descending down into the crater to sleep, following the golden rule of acclimatisation - 'climb high, sleep low'.
You should know that some climbers who have booked the Crater Camp option have changed their minds while on the mountain having decided that they have not acclimatised enough to make the overnight stay safe and comfortable. Remember always, sleeping in Crater Camp is optional: getting down safely is mandatory.
We will be there to meet you at Kilimanjaro Airport, and transport you and your luggage to the hotel in Moshi.
Tomorrow, the mountain!
We'll pick you up at your hotel and bring you to the main gate at Machame to register. While that is going on, our crew will be preparing the gear and supplies.
Next, we'll start along a trail through the high rain forest up to Machame Camp where we will spend the night.
On day three we will leave the lush rainforest behind, trekking through high moorland until we reach Shira 1 Camp. Whilst most of the vegetation has been left behind, keep an eye out for the Giant Lobelia which few who have not explored Kilimanjaro have ever seen.
Going will start to get tough on day four, and you can expect to feel the first altitude-related symptoms of the trek. Lava Tower is 4600 metres above sea level. We will rest there for acclimatisation purposes, and have lunch as well. Because we like to 'walk high, sleep low', we will then descend into Barranco Valley to make camp for the night.
The descent from Lava Tower is a great time to enjoy the scenery and take photos, especially of the Western Breach and the Great Barranco Wall. Camp is directly below the Wall, and sunsets here are amazing.
In another day of acclimatisation, we will climb to the top of the Great Barranco Wall. We'll be well above the cloud layer here, and the views are amazing in every direction.
Camp for the night will be low again, in the Karanga Valley beneath the Decken, Kersten and Heim Glaciers.
From Karanga, we will go up the well-travelled Mweka descent trail, then turn off for Barafu Hut. Barafu Hut marks the end of the Southern Circuit, which offers views of the summit itself from many different angles.
This is a short day, and you should take advantage of the down-time to rest up for the summit day tomorrow. Do take a bit of time to look about, though. You can see both Kibo and Mawenzi clearly from this vista.
We'll wake at 7am and have a full breakfast before making the summit attempt. Our route takes us between the Rebman Glacier and the Ratzel Glacier. From there, we will go up heavy scree to reach Stella Point on the rim of the crater itself.
We will have a short rest at Stella, which is a good time to enjoy one of the most spectacular views in Africa. Next it is on to the summit itself, Uhuru Peak. After another break for celebration and photos (weather permitting) we'll begin the descent to Kibo Crater to camp for the night. Depending on the time of year, Kibo could be icy, snowy or sandy desert.
Well before dawn, we will set off over the rim to see the sun rise at the very top of Africa.
We will then begin the descent, first to Barafu Hut for lunch then on to Mweka Camp, at a mere 3100 metres above sea level. The last stretch is over loose gravel, and you will need your poles.
The last leg of our trek will be a short but probably muddy descent to Mweka Park Gate. it is likely to be rainy or hot, so prepare for both. After picking up your certificate for summiting Kilimanjaro, we'll take you to your hotel in Moshi for celebration or sleep, depending on your mood and energy.
We'll collect you from your hotel to take you to Kilimanjaro Airport.
Congratulations! You climbed to the top of Africa, and returned to tell the tale!
Q1HOW HIGH IS CRATER CAMP?
Crater camp stands at an altitude of 5730 metres or 18,799 feet.
Q2HOW WAS THE CRATER FORMED?
Mount Kilimanjaro is actually an ancient volcano (3 volcanoes technically) and when Shira, the largest of the three, stopped erupting over 500,000 years ago, the top collapsed in on itself forming the caldera (cone like formation) you see today.
Q3IS ALTITUDE SICKNESS A PROBLEM ON THIS TREK?
Yes. Nearly all people suffer some form of altitude sickness when reaching the summit, however, this is always followed by a quick descent. Crater Camp is different because you stay at high altitude for a period of 24 hours. Therefore, this option should only be attempted by people who know they are okay at high altitude.