Kilimanjaro Trek Day 3 – Shira Caves to Baranco Camp

Kilimanjaro Trek Vital Stats

Shira Cave to Baranco Camp

  • Distance: 7.1 miles
  • Starting Elevation: 3735m
  • Ending Elevation: 3875
  • Total Climbing: 808m
  • Total Descent: 650m
  • Highest Elevation: 4498m
  • Total Time: 7:08:19
  • Moving Time: 4:38:09
  • Calories: 1930
  • Oxygen Saturation at end of day: 80%%

Today was split into two halves, A climb up to the Lava Tower where we had lunch and then a descent to Baranco Camp. The idea of this is to help acclimatisation by climbing high during the day and then sleeping lower overnight. I spent a second night without any sleep at all. My early morning checks showed my oxygen levels to have risen to be 89% and my heart rate 52bpm. Not too bad, but I did have some slight nausea very briefly first thing in the morning. Breakfast soon sorted that out though and before long we were once again on our way.

There were some nice views behind us out to Mount Meru once again but the skies were clouding over as we left Shira Caves Camp behind and entered the alpine desert zone. We seemed to depart camp along with many other groups today so were soon in a long procession of people across the Shire Plateau.

Leaving Shira Caves Camp Behind

The Shira Plateau is actually a collapsed caldera of a third peak of Kilimanjaro that probably existed as an active volcano before Mawenzi and Kibo. This is a boulder strewn landscape, the boulders are presumably glacial erratics dumped here as the ice retreated or possibly lava bombs from an eruption of Kibo. It is usually a dry, dusty landscape where the main worry is that of sunburn. Today however it soon started to rain and before long it was hammering down.

The walking was easy though with a steady but not very steep gradient picked out between the boulders. We stopped regularly and I even had a go at carrying a porters load for a while. It didn’t actually feel too bad.

By the time we reached the Lava Tower we were soaked through and some people were feeling pretty miserable. We were now at around 4600m in elevation which was a new record for me. My previous best was 4167m at the summit of Mount Toubkal. I had actually quite enjoyed walking in the rain but Hugh was feeling the effects of the altitude and had been sick a couple of times and Simran was freezing despite wearing several layers and a ski jacket. I as usual was a little but too warm despite the wetness.

We had the usual photos at the signpost and with the Lava Tower behind us. Usually there would be an option to climb to the top of it for an extra 57m of altitude but today things were just too wet and slippery. The porters had of course arrived before us and had set up both the kitchen tent and mess tent so that King could cook us up a lunch and we could sit at this elevation for a couple of hours.

After lunch we climbed down through a rocky gorge and then started the descent into the Barranco Valley.

Descending through the gorge

Soon we were surrounded by the weird and wonderful Groundsel plants and giant lobelias. It was a lovely valley, full of life and greenery set within desperate stark walls of volcanic rocks. Cliffs towered over it. We followed the path of a tumbling stream as we made our way to the camp. Unfortunately it was still pouring with rain so there was little motivation to stop and take it all in. A shame really as it looked like a lovely valley, but I guess there’s nothing that can be done about the weather.

At camp my tent and mattress were soaking wet, as was everything in my duffel bag.

Wet Wet Wet

Some items of clothing were drenched, as was my sleeping bag. I wrung them out as best I could, stuffed the worst bits to the bottom of my sleeping bag (which itself was sodden) and vowed to try to dry it all out with body heat overnight. Anna’s down slippers that she had let me borrow were quite wet too, so they went into the sleeping bag as well. Other peoples kit was wet too and everyone was now in a terrible mood. To top it off, dinner was a little disappointing with no meat today, just plain pasta and some veggies. I don’t know if this was by design as ‘stomach engineering’ following a day at greater elevation or just due to the fact that no doubt King’s kit was all wet and soggy too and he wasn’t feeling great about it either!

No one gathered at the camp signpost today for a photo so here’s a photo of the signpost on its own that I took as I arrived in camp.

After a day of trekking in the rain we were pretty much back down the elevation that we had started at. Somewhere through the mist, mirk and driving rain was the indomitable Baranco Wall that would would have to scale in the morning, but we couldn’t see it.

My Oxygen saturation was 80% during the health check but there wasn’t much else to do so I climbed into my sleeping bag early that evening and tried to dry some kit out with body heat. I did also take a bottle full of hot water into the sleeping bag with me for extra heat and extra drying power. I also sleep with my battery pack and phone in the sleeping bag so as to keep them warm and protect their batteries. I drew the line at putting my waterproof coat and trousers which were of course also soaked through into my sleeping bag as well.

Needless to say that with half of my clothes, various electrical items, down slippers, towels and an aluminium hot water bottle at the bottom of my soaking wet sleeping bag it wasn’t particularly comfortable. Amazingly the sleeping bag was still insulating well and I was actually too hot all night. I had to stay in it though so as to generate heat to dry my clothes so didn’t get much sleep. I also had quite a headache now, presumably due to the effects of altitude. I did at least dose of for an hour or two in the early morning which was better than on previous nights.

1 Response

  1. Mum x says:

    Oh what a shame about the weather….I don’t think I’d like a wet sleeping bag ! Day two sounded good though, despite Nelson telling you not hold any gas in ? he obviously didn’t know you very well at that stage ,still at least Richard went off to bed laughing and no doubt the others were all happy that you’d paid extra for a tent just for your self !!!
    Not sure if the porters dance was traditional looked more like just having fun …I wonder what the words were !!

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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