Uhuru Peak (5,895m/19,341ft) to Millenium Camp (3,800m/12,600ft)
Distance: 8km/5mi, 3-7 hours
Altitude: 2,100m/6,800ft down in elevation
Once you’ve reached the peak, your day has only just begun!
For some, the way down may be even more challenging than the way up because it’s hard on your knees; others may be flying downhill on the steep slope of sand and scree just like skiing. Either way, it will be a scenic start with Mawenzi peak constantly in view across of a wide expanse of sand, “The Saddle”.
For all, the day gets really long latest once you’ve reached Barafu Hut camp. This is the base camp used by hikers on the Machame and Lemosho routes. Its agglomeration of some 100 tents in different colors speaks for itself and shows what your experience would have been like all along on the more popular routes. Situated on a rocky ridge with edgy boulders everywhere, however, Barafu Hut reminds more of a Nepalese or South American mining village than a hiking base camp, at least when surrounded by thick fog.
You might not worry about mass tourism any longer because all you want by now is sleep. Unfortunately, your day isn’t over yet as you will still need to push on to Millenium Camp, or perhaps even further down to Mweka Camp. It’s these last two to three hours that will make even the strongest of all hikers feel their legs and knees.
As clouds tend to hang in the mountain from mid-morning, you may find yourself shrouded in fog with very poor visibility for a while south of Barafu Hut camp. Idle rescue stretchers to the side of the path will make you feel grateful that you have made it thus far on your own feet. No matter how tired and exhausted you feel, remember it could have been a lot worse.
There are no helicopter evacuations from that high up the mountain. The closest helipad is just before Millenium Camp, a long way down for the sick or wounded! And unless it’s a real life-threatening emergency, good luck organizing a helicopter on short notice. Those unfortunate hikers who really can’t walk any longer will have to be strapped in and bounced around one of those stretchers all the way down, which will make most summit night memories pale next to such an ordeal. Hopefully, you will never have to find out for yourself how that feels!
By the time you reach your camp, you will likely have completed the longest marathon hike ever with some 12 hours or more constantly on your feet. Congratulations! As on all the other days, your tent readily set up and hot lunch will await you in return. Finally it’s time to recover and get some sleep.