Kilimanjaro Climb and Running Plans

Three parts to this blog post really – running above Arusha, climbing the mountain, and my plans on running around it. Skip to whichever you prefer. 

I’m sadly out of time; writing anything creative, profound, or otherwise is simply not going to happen. 
Tomorrow morning I leave for a high altitude run around and over the ridges of Kilimanjaro and maybe another trip up to the summit. There are far too many loose ends I need to tackle. One of those is providing an update to those who have encouraged me to explore myself and the world. So, sadly not delving in as deeply as these parts deserve – here is a bit about my last couple weeks and an upcoming run that leaves me both terrified and excited.

Part I: Running above Arusha City, Tanzania.


Arusha  has a bit of a reputation. I won’t get into it, except to say that running in the hills above the city is a welcome break from the smog and street touts below. High above, I found some kids to run with and fresh air to inhale. It was a good way to stretch my legs until the rest of the S2 team arrived for the climb. Here are a few pictures, there are 30 odd more pictures from my Arusha runs in this online album.

Running with kids with machetes. Fun.

Part II: Climbing Kilimanjaro

The rest of the S2 team Kilimanjaro arrived in trickles and torrents, inbound from Istanbul or Amsterdam. The team included nine clients from all over the US – each interested in stepping a little out of the comfort zone and going for a ~42 mile walk up to the roof of Africa. Big thanks to Jeff Reynolds who was the lead western guide, Deo Naali who worked as the local lead guide, managing a huge amount of the logistics, and all of the other people who made the trip a success. Everyone made it to the top! It was really fun to experience such a beautiful mountain with such great people. Congrats to everyone. Again – here are a few select pictures, the remaining ~30 can be found in an online album.
Heading up from Lemosho Gate
A big bad ant nest
Out of the rain forest and above tree line
Trail running at 12,000 ft. Shira Plateau, testing my Ultraspire Fastpack
Taking flight
High above the clouds – Day 6?
On the summit with Kim and Liam
Mount Meru and Porters
Plugging probar. Thanks!
Celebration dinner back in Arusha.

Part III: A single day around Kilimanjaro.

The last few days since getting back to Arusha have been a bit of a blur with saying good bye to new friends, watching the second S2 Team come in, lead by Lee Klopfer, and catching up on some projects via my laptop.  In between, I’ve tried to squeeze in figuring out the logistics for running around Kilimanjaro. I’ve explored a wide variety of routes over the past six months or so, including a road run around the base with a vehicle escort to mitigate against lions, elephants, buffalo, and muggers.
But high up on the mountain, at close to 14,000 feet, our trail overlapped with part of what is roughly called the ‘southern circuit’ and I started to question a high altitude circumnavigation on a patch work of trails, an idea I considered and discarded a long time ago as too high, and potentially a scree and permit nightmare. But talking with local guides Deo and Jacob convinced me it might be possible.
Too tempting not to pass up.
And so I’ve spent the last few days searching for information about the northern and southern circuit routes on Kili. I have not found any reports of anyone attempting to run it; perhaps Jacob and I will be the first. It will be an interesting experiment, with a more narrow margin for safety than I would otherwise like – mostly because the majority of the route will be around 14,000 ft, sometimes tipping up over 15. I’m worried about altitude sickness and having minimal gear with us during the run. And, yeah, the potential of lions on the remote northern side freaks me a little too – though I have been assured it is really unlikely. I could use a few more ‘reallys’ in that sentence. I don’t have a good map or even GPS tracks. To be in the park, I have to be with a local licensed guide. Jacob did awesome helping members of S2 get to the summit and he assures me he knows every inch of the mountain, he’s been up it 400 times and that he can run. He only had boots and street shoes; so we scored some worn out pair of trail runners at the market, cast offs from some trekkers – likely given to porters and then sold to these small shops. It was all we could find. No running stores here! Jacob may not have the running mileage base, but he has the attitude and altitude base. I have the opposite problem – we will make a good pair!
Jacky, Debbie, and Jacob heading up the mountain last week.
With a little detective work, I’ve been able to piece together a total circumference of 54k, give or take 10k, all if it looks to be between 13-15,000ft, Kilimanjaro tops out at 19,341ft.   I have no idea what the elevation gain/loss for this circumnavigation will be – but it will be substantial as we drop in and out of valleys once carved out by glaciers long since gone. We will hug the mountain in a continuous circle, running clockwise from the northeast corner; taking any shortcut possible, this will leave us with the ‘easier’ northern circuit completed last as we run east into the setting sun. This is a little riskier as the northern side has the not-to-worry about lions and less access to descent trails, but it also has smoother trail and will be much easier to finish on…so I hope!  We’ll be carrying a SPOT sat tracker/rescue beacon (from hell sometimes, another rant),  but it looks like my Thuraya Satellite phone does not work here.  Thanks to PROBAR, RUNA Tea Clean Energy for their calories and energy. And I’m psyched to try my ultraspire fastpack.
So please wish us luck, we have a hodgepodge of gear and I am also hiring a porter to watch all of it  at our starting point for the circuit (3rd Caves).  We will hike in to the circuit starting tomorrow carrying equal loads. Our actual run may start on Monday, or more likely Tuesday if we take a rest day to acclimatize. You can follow our GPS tracks using the ‘Current Location‘ tab at the top of my site. Also – best of luck to everyone running Western States tomorrow!
Cheers, Seth.
Crudely annotated crude map of run.
Tentative Itinerary (still a lot of inaccuracies here…)
1. Saturday – enter via Rongai Gate, stay with S2 group at Simba Camp,
2. Sunday – leave S2 group and go to Rongai Camp 3rd Caves. Now we are on the circuit.
3. Monday – Possible rest day to acclimatize – maybe day hike up the mountain.
4. Tuesday – Run starting at 4am, heading clockwise
  • Stage I: Third Cave 3,870m (or 3998m?) to Kibo Huts  to 4,695m. (~10k)
  • Stage II: Kibo Hut to Barrafu  (Distance Unknown. Guess 5k)
  • Stage III: Barrafu to Karanga (~3.3k)
  • Stage IV:  Karanga to Barranco to  (6.6k – book says 8.5k)
  • Stage V:  Barranco to Moir Camp to via lava tower (11k – can take shortcut, likely 9k)
  • Stage VI: Moir Hut 4166M to Pofu Camp 3998M (10.4k)
  • Stage VII:  Pofu to 3rd Cave   (8k)
Total: 54.2k? Average Elevation: 14,000?, Elevation Gain/Loss: Who knows. 
Day 5.  Wednesday – Rest and move to School Hut (5k?) or head out the mountain.
Day 6. Thursday – Summit? – go down as far as we can. Ty to call to arrange transport.
Day 7. Friday, July 5th. Out Marangu gate…. Transport to Arusha.
One step at a time!

3 Responses to “Kilimanjaro Climb and Running Plans

  • Hope all goes better than planned.

    Love, John and Georgie

  • Happy happy Birthday on Kilimanjaro — you were always a restless baby bvut who expected a manic middle age ??? Thinking of you with allour Lovge Mom and rafael

  • Seth….incredible pics, incredible adventures. Miss you. Seriously…no lions, except from far off.

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