Sunday, July 16, 2023

Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro (5895m) with the best companion ever!

Plateau visible on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Uhuru peak is hidden further behind

A completely dark & moonless night, extremely cold & fierce winds throwing needle-like sand particles on our face, sub-zero temperature, steep climb on a fully exposed mountain face, climbing one step at a time on the rocky & sandy moraine towards the summit, and the best part.... I was with my 10 year old son on this adventure!

It was not easy, and it didn’t come as early as I wanted it to be. Here is a simple and a bit detailed view of how it all started, how everything was managed or just happened, and how it panned out. Please share your queries & feedbacks, I will be happy to answer these and get some more learnings along the way.

I was planning for Mt. Kilimanjaro for many years now. Mostly funds, sometimes job responsibilities and sometimes not having a job [(no) thanks to pandemic)] kept me waiting for it. Finally everything fell into place this time, and when I was very close to finalising my expedition with a climbing agency in Tanzania, my son Param (10yrs at the time) started taking interest in the online searches I was doing for this program. Seeing his curiosity I asked him whether he wants to join me? His first reaction was, in disbelief, Can I also go!? I explained to him that it will be difficult but if he is willing to do it he can go for it. To which he replied excitedly that he wants to join me.

Leaving from home on 10th Feb. 2023

I was happy to have Param with me, and equally cautious and tensed for his safety. Very few children from around the world have summited Kilimanjaro and it was not going to be easy for Param. Generally there are three categories to categorise any trek, i.e. Easy, Moderate and Challenging, and Mt. Kilimanjaro falls into the ‘Challenging’ one. Its difficult even for adults and there have been injuries and deaths of climbers and support team members on this mountain.

Evaluating all these points, I informed the climbing agency to also include my son in the program and to suggest a suitable route, as there are various climbing routes on this mountain. I was initially planning for Machame 7 days’ route, and when Param joined me it was changed to Lemosho 8 days’ route. To add to the information there were seven routes to choose from, i.e. Lemosho, Machame, Marangu, Rongai, Northern Circuit, Shira & Umbwe. Each of these had their specific benefits, challenges and durations to reach summit and return.

Once our Kilimanjaro booking was confirmed we started collecting essential items including personal clothing and gear. It reminded me again that mountaineering is among one of the most expensive sports. I have been facing it since I started it, or I must say that actually my parents faced it in my earlier days & now my wife! But then I also owe many of my life lessons to this addiction to adventure sports.

For the things to carry along, I made a decision to travel and climb as light as possible so that I can be more alert around Param. I decided to rent most of the mountain gears and clothing from Moshi, which was our base town situated around 45-50 minute's drive away from Kilimanjaro airport. It also made our travel easier as we didn't have to manage heavy luggage during our travel. On similar lines, I booked the Kilimanjaro airport pick-up and drop through the climbing agency itself, even when it was more expensive then booking a direct one. I tried to outsource as much as possible and kept my hands free to keep an eye on Param, while being completely aware of not interfering in his independent exploration & learning throughout the travel and the climb. It may seem that I would be safe-guarding Param too much on the mountain, but I would like to mention here that I allow him to take his own decisions, go wrong, think of options, hurt himself, get through the task and have all first hand experiences. I keep myself very much alert behind the scenes and ready to tackle wherever it is going to be too dangerous. It gives the child the right experience of being on a mountain on his own and also doesn’t snatch away the difficult, rare & once-in-a-lifetime experiences which one must have for overall mental & physical development.

The dates finalised for our complete program were 10th Feb 2023 to 22nd Feb 2023, from Madrid to Kilimanjaro and back. At that time we were staying at Madrid (Spain) as Param’s mother Shipra was working there, and by the the time this article was published we had moved to Amsterdam (Netherlands). Shipra loves adventure at her own pace, and provides full encouragement to Param to explore his capabilities. This Kilimanjaro climb was also fully sponsored by her.

Waiting for departure at Madrid airport


It was around 30 hrs journey from Madrid to Moshi, where we had an eight hour layover at Doha (Qatar) airport. Having a long layover doesn't feel good, but it also has at least one benefit. There are less chances of the checked-in luggage being left behind by the airlines.

Flight from Madrid to Doha took around 7hrs. The experience at Doha airport was very nice. It was too big and very busy all the time. After having our meals we selected a place to rest. The selection was based on the universal rule of having a 'working' mobile charging point nearby, and we found one. I wish airports had waiting chairs with longer and ergonomic back rest. 

Greenery at Doha airport

Airport layover management


Our next flight was from Doha to Kilimanjaro, with one stopover at Dar-Es-Salaam (Tanzania) for 1:30hrs. This was going to be a longer flight for 9hrs., and the movies on board were of great help to pass the time. The departure from Doha was at 8:00 in the morning, and we were ready at the boarding gate by 6:30AM.

Kilimanjaro airport as seen while deboarding the plane

We landed at Kilimanjaro just before 5:00PM local time. It was hot weather as compared to Madrid. From 3-4 degrees Celsius in Madrid we were now at 26-27 degrees Celsius. Kilimanjaro airport is a small one and nicely managed. We had an unpleasant incident while returning, & I have mentioned it later in the story.

For Tanzania visa, there are both options of getting it online or receiving it on-arrival at the airport. I wanted to apply online to avoid any concern or delays at the airport later on. But I didn't apply for online as the standard processing time was 10 days and by the time I was ready there were only 9 working days left according to our program. At the airport it actually became better for us, as the online visa holders' queue was a long one and on-arrival applicants were hardly any. We applied for our visa and got it within 10minutes. I would say it was more of luck as we cleared the visa formalities, because the payment was to be done only in cash, and I only had Euro 100 cash on me which Shipra had insistingly gave me for any emergency. The visa fee was USD 50 per person and those 100 Euros saved us. We didn't get any balance payment return as the visa official considered USD & Euro equal. If anyone is planning for on-arrival visa make sure to carry cash, as there was no card payment or ATM facility (inside immigration area) at all when I was there.

As we came out of the airport and started looking for our pick-up person, we were disappointed to see that out of all the printed placards being held by the waiting drivers none had our name. After waiting for a few minutes I noticed there was only one person holding a hand written sheet of paper which was not clear as the paper kept folding down in his hands. Watching a bit closely I saw my name on it and it made me smile. Out of all the placards the only one which was not properly made was the one meant for us. Nevertheless we waived to the driver and he led us to his vehicle. It was an old van parked a little ahead in the open parking. We loaded our luggage and were off to Moshi.

On the way from Kilimanjaro airport to our hotel at Moshi

A sandy gust of wind enroute Moshi


Moshi is one of the three small towns, 42km / 45-50 min drive away from Kilimanjaro airport, where many of the Kilimanjaro aspirants have their first contact with their support teams. Other two nearby towns used for Kilimanjaro programs are Arusha and Marangu. We reached at our hotel by the evening of 11th Feb, and soon after check-in the team from our climbing agency came to meet us and brief us for the climb. During this briefing each phase of the trek, its requirements, schedule and related points were discussed. The indemnity bond, which is a mandatory step for taking part in adventure activities, was also signed during this briefing. The general context of indemnity bonds for adventure activities is that the organising agency will take all standard precautions for safety and if any mishap occurs then the agency will not be held responsible.

Briefing session at the hotel at Moshi

After completing the briefing, the team checked all our personal clothing & equipment and helped make a list of all the items which were to be rented. There are many rental agencies in Moshi but I went with the one which was already working with our climbing agency. It was with the same thought to keep my hands free for other important works. It did help later, as when we came back from the mountain we didn’t have to go to the rental agency to return the items. The climbing agency received all the items at their office itself and sent it to the rental agency.

Later that evening we had Indian meals for dinner at our hotel itself. The restaurant had Indian menu only for Saturdays & Sundays, and luckily we landed there on a Saturday. Before going to bed we went through all our stuff once more to check in case we missed any important item. For Param, basic Decathlon trekking shoes (ankle support), warm jacket, wind & water resistant jacket, warmer sachets, hygiene kit, among others. For myself, I used Nike Pegasus running shoes till camp-2 (Shira-1) and Salomon Cross Hike for the rest of the climb. Apart from general warm clothing I had rented a windproof set for the higher altitude. 

 We ran through our entire luggage and & closed the day with a pep talk.


On 12th Feb, the agency’s vehicle picked us up from the hotel at 10AM and went first to the rental agency. We selected all the items which were listed last evening and got those packed with our other items. The rent was to be paid in advance and I withdrew the amount from the local ATM. The currency used at Moshi is Tanzanian Shillings (TZS), and apart from it only the US dollars (printed after 2009) were accepted. ATMs only had TZS hence I withdrew the same and avoided going to currency exchange agencies. The shops used to calculate 1 USD at 2400-2500 TZS at the time.

Ready to leave from the hotel

Selecting equipment at the rental agency's shop

Shortly after, the vehicle picked up four other participants who formed our final group of six. Apart from two of us from India, there were two from Canada, one from UK and one from Denmark. In the vehicle were also the support team consisting of the porters, cook, guides and all the equipment and ration for our complete trek. The distance from Moshi to Lemosho gate (starting point of our trek) was approx. 100km. and we covered it in 3hrs, including lunch break. We also sighted Giraffes and Zebras on the way.

We sighted Giraffes on the way from Moshi to Lemosho gate, pic clicked by Param

We also saw a dazzle of Zebras enroute Lemosho gate

We reached the Lemosho gate by 3PM. The support team got busy in packing and distributing the load between them, and we waited for the guide to start the trek. Here one surprise was waiting for me. The TANAPA (Tanzania National Park) official informed our guide that Param will not be allowed for the trek as the minimum permissible age for the children is 12 years. Before booking this program I had searched online, and I found 10 years to be the accepted minimum age for Kilimanjaro climb. But the TANAPA official is the final authority to check & decide for entry of anyone at the entry point. I would suggest anyone planning with younger children to specifically check with climbing agency to avoid any issue later on. For reference the following official link can be referred, where it mentions that children beyond 10 years will not be allowed to climb beyond 3700 mtrs. -

Also make a note to always check the latest regulations, as these may get updated any time. Thankfully, there was a provision of special approval for which I applied. I was called in the office at Lemosho gate and the official asked a few general questions. Then he asked few questions directly to Param which I think were to check whether the child had come with his own interest and not being pushed by the parents against the child’s willingness. After a couple of minutes' discussion the official printed an indemnity bond, and once I signed it Param got the permission to start his trek.

Start of the trek at Lemosho gate

Finally, at 4:30PM, with a lot of anticipation and excitement, we started our trek from Lemosho gate (2100m).

The entire distance of the trek, through Lemosho route, is 70.5 kms. The camps, altitude, distance & suggested trek time in the sequence are:

1. Lemosho gate (2100mtrs) to Mti Mkubwa camp (also called Big Tree camp, 2650 mtrs)- 7 kms (4 hrs)

2. Mti Mkubwa to Shira-1 (3610 mtrs)- 7 kms (5 hrs)

3. Shira-1 to Shira-2 (3850 mtrs)- 10 kms (4 hrs)

4. Shira-2 to Baranco (3900 mtrs) via Lava Tower (4600 mtrs) - 10 mms (6 hrs)

5. Baranco to Karanga (3995 mtrs)- 5 kms (4 hrs)

6. Karanga to Barafu (4673 mtrs)- 4 kms (4 hrs)

7. Barafu to Uhuru peak (5895 mtrs, summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro)- 5 kms (7 hrs)

8. Uhuru peak to Barafu- 5 kms (3hrs)

9. Barafu to Millenium camp (3950 mtrs, also called High camp)- 4 kms (2 hrs)

10. Millenium camp to end of trek at Mweka gate (1640 mtrs) via Mweka camp (3100 mtrs)- 13.5 kms (5 hrs)

On the way to Big Tree camp

African Fireball flower enroute Big Tree camp

On the first day it took us 2:15 hrs to cover the 7km distance, and following our way through the rain forest we reached Big Tree camp (2650m) at 6:45PM. Luckily we didn’t have to face any rains during our trek even though the entire trek was through the rain forest zone. There are mainly four vegetation zones that one passes through during the Kilimanjaro trek, i.e. Rain Forest zone, Moorland zone, Alpine Desert zone and Arctic zone.

Tents of other trekkers at Big Tree camp

At the Big Tree camp the support team had already set up our tents. I and Param were allotted a two men tent for the entire duration of the climb. We kept our backpacks in the tent and had warm drinking water to relax ourselves. The dinner was served at 7:30pm and the guide briefed us for the next day in the dining tent itself. After dinner, the daily routine included individual health check by the guide, briefing for the next day and answers to any queries of ours. Our usual morning schedule used to be 6:30 AM wake up, 7:00AM warm water for cleaning, 7:30AM breakfast and between 8:00AM to 8:30AM start of trek towards the next camp.

Blue monkey at our Big Tree camp


Next day, on 13th Feb, we started at 8:30AM for Shira-1 camp (3610m). This was going to be a long and tiring day. The distance was 7 kms and the rise in altitude was almost 1000 mtrs. I generally walk slow during the climbs to maintain my stamina and to keep my headache at bay. While with Param on this trek I kept my pace further slower. I also kept reminding Param to walk slower as his speed is faster and he would not know at this stage how to conserve his energy for the unforeseen circumstances that are always there on the mountains.

Mount Meru (4566m) rising above the clouds in the background

Protea flower- Africa's national flower

Ground Francolins sighted enroute Shira-1

African white-necked Raven

I mostly use a hanky with a cap, as I find it more flexible & useful then a sun hat

Shira-1 camp visible at a distance, like coloured dots

On this day we reached the Shira-1 camp at 3:00PM, trekking for 6:30hrs and at this location Param faced his first high altitude effect on his body. After reaching the camp he had severe headache and a little bit of vomit. I massaged his head and made him eat the lunch as much he could. It was the first, out of only two times, Param said that he wants go home. Without any explanation I immediately replied that its fine and we will go back as soon as he is fit for starting the trek. To my surprise, as soon as Param’s headache went away, in around an hour, he said that he wants to continue the trek to fulfil his aim of wishing his mother a happy anniversary from the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I really felt proud of him that he is developing his fighting spirit at this young age and isn’t afraid of the adversities.

At night when Param came out of the tent for his nature’s call, I asked him to switch off his head-light and look up. He was wowed by seeing the vast & clear night-sky full of shining stars. He was extremely delighted to see this view and I could see it in his eyes. It was a different feeling to be with him at this location and watch him absorb the vastness of the universe as much he could.

Our campsite at Shira-1

Param making the placard for summit, after recovering from his severe headache

Param amused seeing the layer of ice on our tent, due to the sub-zero temperatures last night


On 14th Feb, it was the same morning schedule and we started for Shira-2 camp (3850m) at 8:30AM. Today’s was a longer trek of 10kms though the gain in altitude was just approx. 250m. It was comparatively an easier day as the gradient was lesser. We reached Shira-2 around 1PM. We also saw a very clear view of the top of Kilimanjaro peak on the way, the summit wasn't visible though.

Porters carrying the loads

...after a small rock climbing stint on the way to Shira-2

A clear view of the top of Kilimanjaro (summit is further behind this top)

Sparrow spotted on the mountain

Dove spotted on the mountain

Reaching Shira-2 camp (such structures are there at every camp)

It was a clear sky when we started in the morning but became cloudy as we reached Shira-2 camp. Param was feeling happy to have come over the sickness of previous day and he was now acclimatising very well. He was having proper meals as well. The support team and Param were very playful with each others, and they used to call Param as Simba or Simbamtoto (Swahili for young Simba). I had headache after reaching at the camp and I took a medicine to cure it. My appetite was not up to the mark but I was filling my stomach so as not to disturb my energy levels. The besan laddoos (gram flour sweets) made by Shipra came very handy. We used to grab couple of pieces whenever we felt like eating something during the trek.

At this camp, Param was elated as he found a team member (Tim) from another support team, who was getting a faint mobile signal. He had a Vodacom SIM. He provided his hotspot through which Param called his mother. Seeing Shipra on a video call made Param so happy that all his tiredness went away. We paid a small amount to Tim, and Param added another small amount from his side for Tim as he was wearing the badge of Param’s favourite football club FC Barcelona on his trousers.

Inside our tent at Shira-2 camp

Lunch time

That evening, we had a plan to go for a small acclimatisation walk. But it started to rain and the plan was cancelled. The evening was spent in taking rest and walking around the camp.

Param's chess session with Claude (58 and super fit)

Param counting his energy bars

African striped mouse spotted & clicked by Param


On 15th Feb it was another long trek of 10kms, to Baranco (3900m). The suggested trek time for this day was 6hrs. After our regular morning regime, we took off slowly & steadily. We were lucky again regarding weather and had a clear sky for most of the part. After a while we crossed Shira Junction where the Machame route merges with Shira route.

During this trek we were also going to pass through the Lava Tower (4600m), which acts as a good altitude gain for better acclimatisation. 

Getting ready in the morning on the mountains is also a unique experience

Cairns (small stones kept one above another) are used as route markers in the mountains

Transitioning from Moorland to Alpine Desert zone

At Lava tower

When we were close to Lava tower Param became very tired and the support team member proposed to pick him up. Param showed his mental strength again and refused to be picked up, and just held his hand for support. After 5:30hrs of trek we reached Lava Tower at 2:00PM, and had lunch provided by our support team in the dining tent set up temporarily by them. Param was feeling energised after having lunch & some rest, and we got back on the trek around 3:00PM towards Baranco camp. It was all downhill from here and it took us 2:30hrs to reach Baranco.

Start off from Lava Tower to Baranco

Kilimanjari- a unique tree found only on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Crossing a stream on the way to Baranco

Closing-in on Baranco camp

Reached Baranco at 5:30PM on 15th Feb. 2023

All set for a good night's sleep


Next day, 16th Feb, was our move to Karanga (3995m) which is 6km from Baranco. The first phase of this day includes an extremely steep mountain face called Baranco Wall, which is 80-90 degrees at few spots, and one has to do a bit of rock-climbing to pass through. The guides call a few spots on the Baranco wall as 'kissing points'. This is so because at some spots a climber has to almost hug the rock face to pass on the other side, and it seems like the climber is kissing the rocks.

Winding up of Baranco camp in the morning, Baranco wall in the background

Climbers who started early, looking like tiny coloured dots on the Baranco wall

Climbing the Baranco wall

Cheering everyone on the way

Baranco top

Still a long way to go, Karanga visible atop the elevation in the background

We started at 8:30AM and reached the top of Baranco wall at 10:30AM. From here it was a gradual terrain until a last drop into the valley form where it was steep up to our camp. At our steady pace it took us 3:30hrs from Baranco top to reach our night halt Karanga at 2:00PM. We took 1:30hrs more than the suggested time, but it is better to not stretch or compete with anyone. Best is to maintain stamina and conserve energy. While taking regular & small breaks, it is also better to keep sipping water and having some energy foods during the trek like dry fruits, peanuts, home-made desi ghee (Indian clarified butter) sweets, energy bars, trail-mix bars & any other healthy supplement one knows of as these help in recovering the lost energy.

Also to note, energy bars are not for kids. I did search online earlier and found unclear information. Maximum one would find information like 'not tested for kids hence no data available' like statements. I did give Param a few times as he liked the taste, but he realised that after having energy bars he felt some strange feeling in his stomach and it was not helping him. It was a good realisation for him that home-made or the natural foods are better, and he didn't have any energy bars after that. Adults can easily have energy bars as they like, but I would suggest to keep it as a second preference. I did the same and used home-made bites, and energy bars from Decathlon. I also think that if we can have some packaging solution for Indian home-made energy sweets it will be the best solution.

Param was fit today as well and was acclimatising well. I did have headache and took a medicine to prevent it from shooting up. In the evening, we used to wash our feet using warm water. Keeping feet clean and dry is among the best practices for trekking. It helps avoid blisters & bad odour. Add fresh socks to it and one can counter numbing of toes due to extreme cold to a great extent.

Later in the afternoon some team members went up for an acclimatisation walk for an hour. I and Param decided to rest in our tent.

Reaching Karanga

Next two days & the night in-between were going to be the most arduous of all. With little rest we would be moving from Karanga to our base camp / summit camp Barafu in the morning, and same day's night we would be leaving for the summit at midnight, then we would be at summit in the morning, and after coming back to Barafu from the summit we had to move our camp further down to High Camp or Mweka Camp. A day before and after the summit is a real endurance test on most of the mountains.

Day-8 > Summit march > Day 9:

We started for Barafu (4673m) at around 8:30AM on 17th Feb. It was a clear sky for us. We have been lucky till now regarding weather.

Getting ready to move from Karanga to Barafu

A rescue helicopter going to Barafu

It's a gradual uphill climb to Barafu

Above the clouds

A butterfly spotted enroute

TANAPA has appointed trek cleaners who keep moving on the routes

Param filling up clouds in his mouth

One more spotting, a spider

A shoe-eye view

After trekking for 4:30hrs we reached Barafu just before 1:00PM. We had our lunch and checked our backpack to keep it ready for summit march at midnight. The day went in preparing ourselves mentally for the long & tough climb (and descent) we were going to start at night. We had our dinner very early at 5PM and went back in the tent to rest a bit. 

All set for the summit march at 12AM 18th Feb 2023

At 11PM we got up and put on our personal clothing and equipment to start the summit march. We ate some porridge prepared by our support team and packed few snacks. Sharp at 12 midnight we started on the way to realise our dream. It was dark and very windy. The Alpine Desert zone made the situation worse as the strong winds also carried the sand particles with them.

A completely dark & moonless night, extremely cold & fierce winds throwing sand particles feeling like needles on our face, sub-zero temperature, steep uphill climb on a fully exposed mountain face, climbing one step at a time on the rocky & sandy moraine, both of us moving cautiously and in anticipation of realising a dream.

After 45-50min, closer to Kosovo camp, Param had a strange feeling in his stomach and he vomited. Such instances are common at high altitude and Param kept his calm & waited for a while. Suddenly his energy levels declined, and I thought we may have to go back from here. We had seen many climbers return everyday during our approach till this point, and there had also been a death of a climber the previous day due to some high altitude sickness. But to my surprise Param said he wanted to go further and asked the support team to help him which they happily did. They picked up Param on their shoulders. I may not be able to explain how good I felt about Param's decision, but when instead of getting frightened of the weather, the night, the cold, the difficult terrain or the feeling of weakness after the vomit, Param decided to continue further towards summit, I was happy & proud. I had already thought that I will not push Param after a limit but it was heartening to see Param setting new benchmarks for himself.

Here, one other point-of-view also arises that if Param was carried by the support team it dilutes the importance of climbing (I must add here that except for this day Param completed each day on his own walking every single step). I have another point-of-view to this incident, continuing from the wordings in the last paragraph. For me, the most important point at that time, or I must say the sentiment to take care of, was Param's love for adventure and his interest in trying out difficult things. When Param had already shown his mental strength a few days ago (when he had a severe headache and wanted to go home, and as soon as he felt better he decided to continue his trek) I already noticed him stretching his limits. If I had pushed him to walk at this point during summit march, there were more chance of him starting to dislike this activity. On the contrary, I believe he was sure that he can ask me to return any  time he wants, and this belief gave him confidence to try something more difficult. He kept trying to move further. He kept facing more difficulties, his fingers and toes became extremely cold after a short while (for which I had to insert warmers in his gloves and shoes), most of the time he was not able to see me because he was around 40-50 mtrs ahead of me and it was a dark night, the temperature was -5/-6 degrees, there were non-stop strong, sandy, cold winds but still he didn't ask to turn back. For me he summited at that very moment itself!

It was mentally very tough to keep going knowing that the sunlight will be visible only around 6:00-6:30AM, and till then we had to keep pushing our limits.

The water froze in our bottles

The sunrise pic taken just below the Stella Point


We endured this challenge for our entire climb and reached Stella point (5756m) at around 7:30AM. Stella point is 4.3km from Barafu. On the way up, when the temperatures went further down I was taking Param's additional jacket out from the backpack. Sean (our climbing group member from UK) was standing close to us holding his additional jacket in his hands. He was very kind to give his spare jacket to Param, and that's the reason Param can be seen wearing an oversize jacket in his summit pics.

It hadn't been  easy in these weather conditions, but there was a feeling of relaxation, as from Stella point onwards the steep climb gets over and it is a gradual climb till the summit, i.e. Uhuru peak. Our team had scattered by now and some other climbers were already returning from their summit. We kept moving slowly & steadily towards the Uhuru peak and moving closer with every step. Soon I could see an identifiable structure made of wooden planks, and it has on it the carved out and painted information confirming the details of the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

We took our long awaited final step at the summit at 8:30 AM (Tanzania time) on 18th Feb. 2023 (Param reached earlier then I did but the time mentioned on our official summit certificates was the same for both of us). There was a bit of crowd waiting to get their pics clicked at the summit point. We clicked some pics though we could not click the pics as we wanted. And yes, Param succeeded in taking the pic which he wanted to as a gift for his mother.

Param had planned some pics with some names/messages written on A4 papers. A few of those flew away in the strong winds when we took those out of our backpack. If someone is planning similar placards for their summits, I would suggest to make a spiral calendar of all the placards using a thicker paper (card paper, photo paper, etc.). I will be easier to handle in such situations. Everybody around was elated but also tired at the same time, and we have to respect everyones time and the remaining 50% of the journey, i.e. return safely. 

Nonetheless, it was the proudest moment for me as my son was with me at 'THE' summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in African continent. I greeted & hugged Param on achieving this feat. I thanked god and all well wishers with whose blessings we could make it.

At the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro (5895m) with the Indian flag, 0830hrs (Tanzania time), 18th Feb 2023

The driving force for Param to reach the summit, the anniversary wish to his mother

It was definitely not an easy one. And I would suggest to do it with kids only when the kids have a prior exposure to adventure lifestyle. Param had started very early and had been to adventure activities and treks. Though this one was his toughest and highest one but he did have some reference in his mind through which he was able to convince himself and make up his mind to face the tough challenges. I was very happy to see Param improving upon his capabilities and taking risks.

With this achievement, Param got his name enlisted among the youngest in the world to reach the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. His & other brave kids' information can be seen by clicking on this 'page-link' which is managed by Mark Whitman, who also advices people on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

We started to return around 8:45AM, and took our first rest at Stella point. Param got some snow in his water bottle to take back to Madrid as a remembrance. Each of us had a bottle, so I emptied my water in another support team member’s bottle, and used my bottle to keep the snow. Though this proved a bit problematic for me later on. I realised later that Param’s water bottle was taken ahead in another backpack. So I was left with no water till I reached Barafu. It made my throat extremely dry & stingy, due to the fine dust of this terrain sticking in my mouth & throat because of the windy situation. It took a week for my throat to feel better. 

Returning through the same way we came up for the summit

We started to return around 9:30AM from Stella Point, and reached Barafu around 1:30PM. The winds became calmer only when when we were close to Kosovo. One of our team members was feeling sick. I noticed him swaying a bit while walking down. I & my support team member Mushi accompanied him till we reached our camp.

Param was sleeping in the tent when we reached back to Barafu. It was lunch time but I let him sleep and skipped my lunch too as we both were very exhausted. It was Param’s first day in his life to stay awake the whole night and that too in such difficult conditions. After a while we were informed that we will be going down to High Camp (3950m) today itself, and it was a 2hr downhill trek from Barafu. I and Param had homemade energy sweets (laddoos made by Shipra) to cover up for our missed lunch, and little bit of fruits that our support team provided before the start of the trek. We started at around 3PM and reached High Camp at around 5PM. Some other climbing teams had started earlier than us and they decided to halt at Mweka camp which is further 2hrs down from High camp.

On the way down from Barafu to High Camp

Param playing a local board game at High Camp

The back up camera I kept unused till summit, Param used it to its fullest later on

We all were mentally much relaxed now and feeling happy that we were able to realise our dream, and everyone in the team was healthy. After our final dinner on the mountain the senior guide asked us to decide about the amount we as a group will be gifting to the support team as a tip. This tip is a standard culture for Kilimanjaro programs and it is a direct deal between the climbers and the support teams. The booking agency does provide some guidelines on how to calculate the tip, and it is very helpful. This amount has to be announced on the last morning on the mountain, from where most of the support team members will not meet us again. With some difficulty we came to a figure and distribution for porters, cook, cook's help, Guide and Assistant Guides. That night we went to sleep in our tents for the last time on this interesting mountain.


On the morning of 19th Feb, we had our breakfast earlier than other days, at 6:30AM, and kept our bags packed to move ahead. Soon after, the senior guide came to us and requested to announce the tip. The entire team had made a semi-circle and were waiting eagerly for the announcement. Once we announced it everyone was happy and they started to sing and dance for us. They have very catchy Swahili songs and interesting dance moves.

Mary announcing the tip to the support team

Param announcing special tip for supporting him

After celebrating for 15-20min we went back to our tents and picked up our backpacks. Today was going to be the longest trek at a total of 13.5kms till Mweka gate. We started from High Camp at around 8:00AM and covered 3.5kms till Mweka camp (3100m) in 1.5hrs. 

Leaving from the High Camp

Last view of Kilimanjaro top (in the background)

One of the many beautiful parts of the trek

At Mweka Camp, 19th Feb 2023, 9:30AM

The next 10kms were covered in 3hrs and we reached Mweka Gate (1640m) at around 12:30PM. I had kept one camera as a backup in case my phone doesn’t work in the cold weather of the summit day. It is always recommended to keep one camera and extra batteries exclusively for summit day. Thankfully the backup camera was not required and I gave it to Param to click whatever he wanted. He was very happy and took so many photographs & videos on the way. We were also lucky to see Blue monkeys and White Kalabas monkeys on the way and Param clicked their pics as well.

Param taking a photo of a tree floating in air

On the way from Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate

White Kalabas monkeys clicked by Param

Once we reached Mweka Gate we had to go to the TANAPA office building and apply for the official certificate of summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro. It takes just 5-10min for the same but we had to wait for half an hour as the internet was slow that day. Soon we got our certificates and got into our vehicle which was already loaded with all our luggage while we were waiting there.

Trek finished at Mweka Gate

All team members at Mweka Gate

TANAPA office at Mweka Gate (all trekkers have to report here to get the official certificate)

All set to return to Moshi

The return journey was only one hour long, as Mweka gate is closer to Moshi than Lemosho gate. Reaching Moshi, we first went to the ATM because I didn’t have much cash on me to pay for the tips (do remember to activate/change the status & limits of your card's cash withdrawal through your bank's app to avoid any concerns at the last moment, you can also keep all transaction closed for safety when the debit/credit card is not in use).

After cash withdrawal we went to the office of our climbing agency where we filled their feedback form, paid the cash for the tip to the senior guide, handed over the rented equipment (which they would return to the rental agency) and got a group photo clicked with all the team members holding their summit certificates in their hand. Everyone dispersed from there in different vehicles. Claude was with us and he was dropped at his hotel first, subsequently the vehicle dropped us at our hotel and we went for the long awaited bath under a shower and refresh ourselves.

Group photo at Monkey Adventure's Moshi office


I had kept a day extra just to cover some unforeseen issues and it came handy to take better rest and relax our bodies. Otherwise it would have been more tiring to wake up at 4AM the next morning to catch the flight. This one day I and Param used to recover from our tiredness, lazed around in the hotel, watched TV, and brought some snacks and chocolates from the market.

Day-12 & 13:

The return flight was through the same route but with an increased layover of 14hrs at Doha. The experience at Kilimanjaro airport was very nice except for one unpleasant incident. Param had kept two small pop-it hangings with him the entire expedition (tucked to his backpack's zippers), and he also took those with him to the summit. He wanted to keep these as a memory, but at the first baggage x-ray check point just inside the Kilimanjaro airport, someone took those out without informing us. It was also unusual that both of us were asked to remove our shoes at the entrance checkpoint which was just next to the main entrance of the airport, whereas I have always noticed that passengers are asked to remove their shoes at the security check which is after checkin and immigration. We realised this loss only after we crossed the standard security check, after taking our boarding passes from the checkin counters and clearing through the immigration. Those hangings were also not under any dangerous category as those were gifted by Qatar airways itself, and such items are always cleared of all safety concerns beforehand. Those small hangings (white & blue) can be seen in the pic below which was clicked just before entering the airport. Apart from this, all clearances were managed smoothly in this small airport.

Photo clicked just before entering Kilimanjaro airport (with Param's beloved hangings visible on the bag, & which someone removed at the airport entrance x-ray without informing us)

Final steps on the land of Kilimanjaro

Our return route was exactly the same, i.e. Kilimanjaro > Dar-Es-Salam > Doha > Madrid. This time the layover at Doha was longer at 14hrs. but the feelings were all different.

While browsing some more pics of Kilimanjaro on the internet, Param also noticed the Kilimanjaro crater and said that he missed seeing it from up close. Nonetheless, this was an experience that he will remember and cherish for his lifetime.

After a long 30 hours' journey we finally reached Madrid on the evening of 22nd Feb 2023 where Param’s mother Shipra was waiting for us at the airport. The happiness on Param’s face after seeing his mother was all to remove the entire tiredness of our entire expedition & a long travel. It ended well and left us with a lifetime of memories, and also some said-unsaid learnings that Param is going to keep with him forever.

Adios, until we are ready with another adventurous experience to share with you all and seek your wishes and blessings.

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