We camped at a different place each night in different environments on the mountain, and each campsite was interesting and beautiful. The first night was Machame (3000m), in the cloud forest. It was wet and chilly, but the foliage was gorgeous with moss hanging off the trees covered in dew, and flowers everywhere.
The second night, Shira Plateau(3800m), was just above the clouds. Shira camp is right on the edge of the plateau, so the clouds blowing up the mountain roll off the ridge and dissipate 100 feet from our campsite. The effect is stunning. The rugged mountain terrain partially bathed in clouds in an every changing painting of rock and cloud, and the perfect volcano cone of Mt Meru in the background was picture perfect. When the sun started to set, it was magical. I also got in some rock climbing on the protruding boulders, and found a cool set of cairns on top of a ridge. I also went outside early in the morning to check out the stars, and they were incredible as you might imagine. Constellations, planets, shooting stars, the Milky Way, and satellites were all bright and clear in the utter darkness at 12,000 ft.
The third night, Barranco(4000m), is in the middle of a valley at the foot of the summit cone. The imposing Barranco Wall (the next day’s climb) looms over one side, and again, the clouds blew up the valley to dissipate around us. The weather would go from sunny to middle of cloud and back again in the span of a minute. The clouds also formed a cloud rainbow, with the mountain as a backdrop, which unfortunately, didn’t show up on the camera as well as it did in real life. A truly beautiful location.
The fourth night, Barafu(4600m), meaning “ice,” is perched on a ridge, the ridge that you climb to the summit. You can see most of the summit day’s climb from camp, as well as the satellite peak of Mawenzi. This is a high alpine, or arctic environment, and there was not a living thing in sight, other than the crows that feed on the campsite refuse. Speaking of refuse, Barafu camp was really dirty, with trash and food scraps everywhere. The other campsites had been tolerably clean to very clean. But, the views of sunset, and the stars were incredible, and made up for the trash.
The fifth night, Mweka on the descent route, is back in cloud forest, and it’s much the same as Machame. I played drafti (checkers) with some of the porters, and got my butt handed to me. I had never thought of checkers as a difficult game, especially after chess, but I’m certainly missing something major. I’ll post on checkers later.
I’ll leave you with this picture of Meru from Shira camp. It was taken at the very end of sunset in very low light conditions, cool effect. I wish I’d remembered the tripod…