Entries from Kilimanjaro
November 10, 2023
Trekking to the summit of Kilimanjaro is an experience of fitness and endurance. It is also an experience of culture – the sights, sounds, and people of Tanzania are a delightful overwhelm. What are you waiting for?!?!
In September, our very own RMI Office Team Member Lacey Meadows joined RMI Guide Casey Grom and our team in Tanzania to climb to the Roof of Africa and view the wildlife of Tanzania on our Kilimanjaro Climb & Safari. She wasn't disappointed. And if you have questions about this trip, call our office and talk with Lacey. She would love to tell you all about it. Here is her experience:
"Someone asked me recently about my trip to Africa, and they wanted to know if it was as “life changing” as I thought it would be. That was a tough question to answer because I knew it was going to be a very cool trip. I mean, I have spent the last 15 years wanting to go, and of course as a part of my job, I frequently talk with our climbers about the trip details, process the forms and payments, and post the trip dispatches and photos from our guides to the RMI Expeditions Blog. I really felt like I knew everything I needed to know to go to Africa to climb the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. No big deal. Until I got off the airplane at Kilimanjaro International Airport…
"Everything was different from the moment I arrived. The sights of dirt roads, open air buildings that looked mostly unfinished, and markets on about every street. The sounds of horns, motorcycles, and monkeys jumping through the trees, and the smell, a mix of sweet and smoky from the wood fired cooking and heat. This trip was going to be so much more than the climb!
"From the first dinner and team meeting at the Rivertrees Country Inn, our basecamp for this trip, our team connected. We ranged in age from 68 to 26, all different occupations and life experiences. It became noticeably clear that whatever individual experiences of suffering and triumph the mountain would bring over the next seven days, 37 miles and 17,000’ of elevation gain…We would experience it together as a team!
"How this connection happens with every RMI team, I will never truly know. To me it’s the real “trail magic” everyone talks about! This could also be to the credit of our guide, Casey Grom, and our local guides and mountain staff from Barking Zebra Tours who anticipated our needs before we even knew what that need was. Most often, this was some hot tea and a snack during our rest breaks or pulling into camp just in time for an afternoon nap.
"For seven days, we traveled together on the Machame Route. Each day started with a breakfast of hot cereal, avocado toast, bacon, sausage, and coffee, then a few (or more) hours of walking, soaking in the views as we ascended the slopes of Kilimanjaro. The landscape looked out of this world: unique plants, rock formations, and views for miles of the Great Rift Valley. A highlight was the Barranco Wall, a class 4 scramble, and for me, one of the best parts of the climb.
"Time spent in camp was never wasted. Our evenings were spent in the dining tent reflecting on the day, laughing at newly christened trail names and how they came to be, all while eating an amazing variety of soup, chicken dishes, rice, fresh vegetables, and fruits. The fuel we needed to keep our spirits high, and our bodies going. We watched the sunset from every camp and learned how to take photos of the stars with our iPhones. Some of us played cards or took cribbage lessons before turning into our tents with our hot water bottles keeping us cozy.
"One of the most amazing things to me was how our camps were always set up by the time we arrived. Our dining, sleeping, and toilet tents were all waiting for us. I have never seen a more elite group of athletes than the guides and porters that trek up and down Kilimanjaro!
"We arrived at Barafu Camp (high camp) as a team, as we had done each day. Getting to high camp was surreal, the day was short, but the walking was slow, and breathing was heavy, in the pressure breathing sort of way that you do at 15,200’. This was excellent practice for what was to come.
"We ate lunch in our dining tent and Casey gave us a good rundown of how our summit day was going to play out, what to wear, what to eat, what to keep in our packs, and ensured each one of us that the summit was within our reach. We absorbed what information we could and spent the remainder of the afternoon organizing ourselves and our gear. It was back to the dining tent for an early dinner of pasta, veggies, and bread. Then it was off to bed before the sun even set (which is early near the equator) for what little rest we may gain before an alpine start. The energy was quite electric…equal part nerves and excitement, but our team was ready!
"“Pole, pole,” Swahili for “slowly, slowly,” became a bit of a mantra in my brain. When the walking gets tough, I usually sing Staying Alive by the Bee Gees and stare at my feet. The beat is “pole pole” and it's better than looking up at the endless string of headlamps as far as you can see. One foot in front of the other until you reach the rest break where you must eat.
"Note: Bring food that is easy to consume, because you must force yourself to chew and swallow above 16k!
"There were six rest breaks on summit day, the fifth one being Stella Point, the crater rim, at sunrise. That seemed so far away as we were leaving camp at midnight, but I just knew if I could keep walking until sunrise I would summit. I do not know, but I am going to guess that there is a time of delirium for everyone on summit day. You need to dig deep and distract yourself from what your mind thinks is too hard, but that your body trained all year to do. It also takes a little tough love from your guide!
"Suddenly, you look up at the most brilliant orange and purple sky you have ever seen, the sun is coming! We did it! We are on top of the world!
"I AM ON TOP OF THE WORLD!
"The tears were overwhelming and I didn't really know if it was joy, pride, relief, or sadness. It is an indescribable feeling unless you have been there, but you know you have kept the promise to yourself, your team, your guide, and all the people in your corner cheering you on. Forty-five minutes later our team crossed the crater rim and we were standing on the true summit, all smiles, taking photos, celebrating, and taking our sixth and final rest break! Our entire team…100%…every single person stood on top!
"Three hours later with some easy downhill on fields of dusty scree we were back at camp. Greeted by the sounds of our porters and cooking staff singing the most joyous music, our tired legs could not help but dance, and yes, I cried some more!
"What goes up must come down, so they say! After a long walk and about 9,000’ of elevation loss, a muddy trail, and tired legs we settled into our final night at Mweka Camp. The ease of sleeping at 10,000’ might have been one of my best night's sleep ever!
"One more early morning, and a final descent to the Mweka Gate, and plenty of talk about how many showers it might take to get completely clean (about three!). At the gate we were welcomed with a final meal, song, and dance with our local guides, porters, and mountain staff – what a joyous celebration it was!
"I am not sure I have met a kinder group of humans than the ones that led us and took care of us on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. I was sad to say goodbye to Kilimanjaro and the people that ensured our safe passing. I will forever be in debt for the kindness and care they gave. Asante sana!
"After at least four hot showers and a good night’s sleep in a real bed back at Rivertrees Country Inn, we swapped our mountain duffels for our safari duffels. We all opted for the more casual attire of open-toed shoes and armed ourselves with cameras and binoculars as we loaded into our specialized Toyota Land Cruisers for the second half of our African Adventure.
"This time, we headed west of Arusha toward the game parks. Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, and Tarangire National Park were our new objectives. This was our chance to see the “big five” - lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalo. The big five is a list from trophy hunting back in the day, but capturing them on camera is usually the goal today. Why giraffes are not on this list is beyond me because that is all I really wanted to see! Honestly, I am glad the giraffe did not make the list!!
"Our first stop was Lake Manyara, home of the tree climbing lions, and a stunning concentration of baboons. We were so excited to be on safari that our mountain guide turned safari guide Casey Grom told us that we would see plenty of baboons, otherwise we all might have had 200 photos of baboons on our cameras! We saw lions (not in trees), elephants, zebras, and way in the distance a lone giraffe.
"Fun fact: When a lion is laying in the middle of the road, you just wait….and wait!
"A later lunch by the lake shore wrapped up the day, and we headed to the Plantation Lodge, our home for the next two nights. If I could have figured out how to work remotely and convinced my family to move to Africa, I would have never left the Plantation Lodge. The food and accommodations were five stars, a wine cellar to rival all, and the views stunning.
"When we entered the Ngorongoro Crater, I could not help but feel we were on hallowed ground; the crater was once a mountain the size of Kilimanjaro that erupted and caved in upon itself, and the very place where some of the first hominoid species were discovered and believed to have lived and walked this earth. We share that DNA. The biodiversity is such that, except for giraffe and impala, every other notable African mammal lives successfully within the giant caldera, 100 square miles surrounded by 360 degrees of steep embankment. AMAZING!
"This is where we saw the big lions up close, so close that one male felt our Land Cruiser was in a great position to mark his territory. The crater floor is filled with enormous herds of zebra, antelope, wildebeest, cape buffalo, and pools full of hippos trying to stay cool in the midday heat. If you ever watched Wild Kingdom as a kid, just know that in the crater, you are living it!
"Saving the best for last, yes! Tarangire National Park and the giraffes! I was looking forward to these final two days on safari. We saw a leopard in a tree, a lion in a tree, and had to stop many times for elephants in the road, living their best lives grazing and knocking down trees, for fun or food, I do not know.
"The landscape was what I imagined safari to look like, giant termite mounds, huge baobab trees, and large herds of zebra and wildebeest moving along. I continued to be awe-struck when looking through the binoculars and seeing so many varied species within my view, still only one lone giraffe. I was starting to worry I would not see them. But as we approached our safari camp, there they were – a large herd of giraffe! It is hard for me to put this experience into words, but it was as magical as I had always dreamed it would be.
"We spent our last night on safari watching “bush TV” (a bonfire). With a glass of wine, elephants meandering, and our final African sunset, we reflected on our days on the mountain and safari. Coming together as a team and how perfectly we all fit together, we have shared experiences now, ones we will not soon forget.
"So, to answer the first question, was my trip to Africa life changing? No. I am back home, doing all the things I did before. You know, family, friends, work, and all the day-to-day activities life brings, so it did not really change my life. But, this trip was LIFE ENRICHING! Me, a girl from a small town, age 50, first ever passport, and I travelled over halfway across the world to climb a mountain and see giraffes. I did not realize it was going to be so much more. I know now firsthand that the world is big and beautiful, there are so many unique humans to meet, and even more wonderful places to see. A trip of a lifetime, sure, but not the last trip of my lifetime!"
Hey Lacey! That is an Awesome Experience you shared with all of us! Thank you! The part of your experience when you said you had tears of emotion or exhaustion or what ever they come from on the summit….that is very real. I have tears of joy on every summit! :)
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 11/11/2023 at 3:17 am
We spent our final day yesterday touring Tarangire National Park, which is home to more elephants per square kilometer than any place on earth and it didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of other animals as usual, and we got pretty close which was amazing. There were also plenty of the other large African mammals, including a bunch of Giraffes and even a leopard napping in a tree.
We ended our day at a remote and off grid camp within the National Park and surrounded by wildlife. The camp has screened in rooms that allow the night sounds and smells of Africa in.
It's been a memorable experience for everyone with great friendships forged. But finally it's time to return home to our families and loved ones.
Thanks for following!
RMI Guide Casey Grom and the Safari crew!
Great photos and I enjoyed the daily stories. I’m looking forward to hearing about this epic adventure from Suzanne Rust when I see her again next summer in Talkeetna, AK. I’ve been considering doing this trek as well so it will be nice to get a first hand impression from someone who has done it with RMI.
Posted by: Gregory Beckstrom on 9/29/2023 at 8:06 pm
What a lovely way to end your adventure. I was hoping to see some gin and tonics around the fire. Last night I was standing outside in Colorado, looking at the full moon and wondering if you were seeing the same thing in Tanzania. Looking forward to seeing you soon, Natasha!
Posted by: CHERYL BUHLER on 9/29/2023 at 11:08 am
Today we visited the famous Ngorongoro Crater, considered by many to be the eighth natural wonder of the world. The crater is roughly 100 square miles of what was once an enormous volcano similar to Kilimanjaro that erupted and collapse on its self. It is known for its abundance of animals that call the crater home with some estimates as high as 30,000 mammals.
We hit the road early with hopes of catching a few of the big cats before the heat of the day.
There were many sightings today of hyenas, zebras, wildebeest, Cape buffalo, ostrich, and countless other birds. We managed to see several lions, including one huge male very close.
We also saw a few Black Rhinos far in the distance, which have become very rare due to poaching.
We have just finished another wonderful meal here at the Plantation Lodge.
RMI Guide Casey Grom and crew
Today was the start of our safari adventure and we visited the beautiful Lake Manyara National Park. The lake is a brief stopping ground for many migratory animals and home to more than 350 different birds. Everyone enjoyed the day cruising around in our safari vehicles with cold beverages in hand while seeing a few animals up close.
We didn’t see a ton of animals today, but we did get up close to a few elephants, baboons and 6 beautiful lions! Also managed to see a couple of zebras and a giraffe off in the distance.
It was a nice introduction to the incredible diversity of wildlife that Africa has and the team is looking forward to seeing more tomorrow.
We wrapped up the evening with a wonderful meal at our new lodge www.plantation-lodge.com see for yourself!
RMI Guide Casey Grom and the Safari crew
Our final day on the mountain!
Today the gang got up at 6:30 refreshed after a much needed nights sleep, we had breakfast, then hit the trail one last time. It took just around three hours to reach the park gate where the team had lunch and said our final goodbyes to our amazing crew that took such great care of us on the mountain.
We finished the little celebration by handing out their well deserved tips and then hopped aboard our awaiting bus for the ride back to the lodge.
Finally we are all safe and sound, cleaner, and smelling fresh after an exciting seven day journey up and down Kilimanjaro.
Stayed tuned, Safari starts tomorrow!
RMI Guide Casey Grom and crew
September 24, 2023
Posted by: Casey Grom
Elevation: 19, 340'
The RMI Kilimanjaro September 16th team reached the summit of Kilimanjaro, 19.340'! All team members climbed strong and were all at the summit together.
The team has descended and is currently at Mweka Camp, 10,000', their final camp of the climb.
Way to go team!
Congrats to everyone…my son and I accomplished the climb exactly 6 years ago… unforgeteble
Posted by: Steve Wahman on 9/27/2023 at 4:27 pm
Way to Go Lacey!!!
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 9/25/2023 at 3:42 am
Hello again everyone,
The team had a good nights rest last night and today was just a short 3 hour hike up to 15,000' to our high camp. Everyone is excited and maybe just a touch nervous, which is very normal!
The team has just wrapped up lunch and discussed in great detail the plan for tomorrow’s climb. Everyone knows what we’ll be wearing, what will be in the pack, as well as the schedule.
Our game plan will be to wake at 10:30pm and have a quick breakfast at 11, then hopefully hit the trail around 11:30pm. It’s looking a little busy, so will hit the trail a little early to hopefully avoid any traffic jams and allow us to cruise at our own steady pace.
The team has been doing great thus far and I’m expecting us to reach the summit in 7 to 8 hours if things go according to plan.
We had trivia challenge, and one lucky winner will get a phone call from the summit.
So everyone back home please keep your phones handy and if you receive a call from a strange number please answer. We are 7hrs ahead of the east coast time zone.
RMI Guide Casey Grom and the RMI summit bound team!
Lacey + Team
Hope your summit sunrise was stupendous.
Congratulation from the flatlands of Indiana.
Walter, Uhuru Peak 2009
Posted by: Walter Glover on 9/24/2023 at 2:40 am
We’re thinking of you on this big day & praying for safety. Happy birthday to Reagan! Hugs to all of you.
Posted by: Cheryl Buhler on 9/23/2023 at 6:11 pm
Right out of camp we were faced with the only significant technical obstacle for this climb. This hurdle is the great Barranco Wall, which rises about 1,000ft and looks as intimidating as it sounds. Thankfully there is a nice narrow trail that weaves its way up and through the wall and all the way to the top. Most of it feels more like steep hiking, but there are a few places that require the use of our hands to help us climb up.
The team did a good job of moving steady and allowing a few porters through with their loads precariously balanced on their heads. Which was astonishing to see!
After reaching the top we took a nice break and enjoyed the amazing views of the ice ladened south face and valleys below. The team continued our hike for a few more hours up and down through a few valleys before reaching today's endpoint.
All in all, it took only about 4 hours for us to reach our next camp called Karanga, named for the big and beautiful valley which it overlooks.
RMI Guide Casey Grom and crew
Looks like you are making great progress. Great job! Enjoy the journey. I will echo what Chad said, do what Casey tells you to do.
Posted by: Dylan Reingold on 9/23/2023 at 5:42 am
Great to see the progress! Love the pictures of the team! To the RKN girls proud of you, such an accomplishment and lifetime adventure! Keep safe everyone.
Posted by: Bevan on 9/22/2023 at 8:57 am
September 21, 2023
Posted by: Casey Grom
Howdy everyone back home,
All is well in Tanzania. We’ve had great weather and the team is humming along really well.
We hit the trail just after 8 am and hiked for an hour before taking our usual 15 minute break, then back on the trail for another hour and so on. All total today we hiked for just over 6 hours before reaching Barranco camp. Our gracious Kilimanjaro porters have been working very hard and we arrive once again to a camp set up and ready for us.
Along the way we passed around the famous Lava Tower reaching just over 15,000' setting new altitude records for many. We also passed by many of the giant groundsels and towering Senecio trees that made us feel as if we were in some crazy Dr. Suess story.
The team is in good spirits and doing great.
RMI Guide Casey Grom and the Kili crew
Climb Lacey Climb!!! :)
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 9/22/2023 at 3:13 am
Looks like it’s getting chilly! What temps are you seeing?
Posted by: Patti Tito on 9/21/2023 at 7:37 pm
September 20, 2023
Posted by: Casey Grom
Hello again everyone
The team had a really nice day here on Kili today, waking to clear skies and a beautiful view of Kilimanjaro looming in the distance. We had a light cloudy layer which helped keep us cool while on the trail, which was nice as the sun can be quite intense here near the equator.
We started the day waking at 6:30 to start packing up before moving into our dinning tent for a nice breakfast with porridge, fried eggs, toast, avocado and even some fresh fruit, and most importantly plenty of hot coffee.
We hit the trail shortly after 8am and slowly made our way up the rocky trail with occasional views of Kili above. The trail climbed up a blunted ridge and eventually out of the trees and allowed for some truly spectacular views of the valley below. The team hiked for a little more than 4 hours before reaching our next camp that sits on the Shira plateau, which is the remnant of an ancient lava flow.
Everyone is doing very well and we are currently relaxing in camp.
RMI Guide Casey Grom and crew
Woohoo Lacey!! Love seeing that classic smile of yours! So excited for you.
Posted by: Jen Killion on 9/21/2023 at 8:30 pm
Keep looking up Lacey! Dad and I love you!!
Posted by: Pam Holt on 9/21/2023 at 9:20 am