THE SUMMIT DAY
WAKE UP AROUND MIDNIGHT
Summit day begins the night before. You start with an early dinner and go to sleep early. You will wake up around midnight to prepare for the summit attempt. After a light snack, your ascent will begin. The summit day is a tough, 11 to 16 hour day of hiking. This diﬃcult feat is what makes climbing Kilimanjaro a monumental achievement. The guides—based on how the group has climbed so far—time their trekking party to reach Stella Point near sunrise. That means you will be hiking in the cold, and possibly windy, darkness for at least 6 hours. These climbing conditions are extremely diﬃcult, especially in the dark as you make your way up a very steep slope on loose rock.
After several hours, you will reach Stella Point. There is a sign visible from several meters away, you’ll want to focus on it despite your burning legs and light-headedness. Don’t worry, it is easier after this push. Once you reach Stella Point. you can take a break and take in the stunning views. You are standing on the edge of the crater and have 360° views of the mountain, Mt. Mawenzi, Mt. Meru and the rainforest clouds below you.
From here you only have 40-60 minutes left to the summit. The trail is much more gradual from this point on. You will pass by the majestic Southern Icefields and will have amazing views of the glaciers. And finally, once you reach the summit, a short time is spent celebrating and taking photos, before returning to high camp, either Barafu or Kibo Hut. There, you eat lunch and regain your strength before continuing the descent to a much lower camp. The long descent immediately following the summit is where most people feel very tired. This is due to the partial night’s sleep, the energy required to reach the top and the long distance covered that day. This fatigue is completely normal.
UNABLE TO SUMMIT
In addition, it is common that during the trek, someone may have to turn around on the mountain due to altitude sickness, exhaustion or a variety of other issues. Each group will have a lead guide, a number of assistant guides depending on the party size, and lead porters—all of whom are able to escort climbers down.
If a person cannot continue the ascent, one of the staff members will accompany this climber back down while the lead guide continues on schedule with the rest of the party to the summit.