Posted by: Laura Hartstone | 25 January, 2011

Day 15 – The Whiskey Route

From the gate onwards (and upwards) - yesterday

The preparation to climb Kili isn’t easy. 20,000 people plan for it every year. They head to the shops to find the warmest down jacket and sturdiest trekking poles.  They don their hiking boots on the airplane with hopes to break them in before the climb, and arrive in East Africa sticking out like a sore thumb. They wander through the hotel gardens at night with headlamps strapped to their foreheads, practicing.  They get to the park gate and realize the time has come and it’s time to test the gear.

To prep for 3 Peaks, the task is even greater. Though the team might have left a few layers at base camp for the previous climbs, they were told to pack everything for this one. Layers. Layers. And more layers. New socks for the summit, not ones they have previously used. Snacks. Enough snacks to keep them well fed and energized. They easily expend 3000 to 4000 calories per day (and more on summit night). Some tried to get out of taking too much, and protested that they had experienced very cold winters back home. But when asked if they had experienced the arctic, they realized they had better bring everything with them – every fleece, every jacket, every thermal.

The team is heading up the Machame Route on Kili, also known as the Whiskey Route, a beautiful trail that covers a beautiful side of the mountain while gaining a good deal of altitude. The days are much longer than what they were on Meru and Kenya, hence why it is called Whiskey – it’s tough and hard. A much shorter and less difficult route on Kili is the Marangu Route – or the “Coco-cola Route,” known for being much easier.

Mawenzi - the side peak on Kili

It’s hard to say that any route up Kili is easy. Yes, Kilimanjaro is a National Park, but to get to its summit, it’s no walk in the park. Today the team has gained 800m (2640ft) and is sleeping tight at 3800m (12,467ft). From here they have a long arduous day tomorrow with lunch on the trail. The will ascend to 4600m and then descend to 3900m for the nights sleep. It is one of the most difficult days on the trek as it often times brings on feelings of altitude sickness. Word from the guides is that the team is strong and pushing forward with no problems.


The guides, are another story altogether, along with the camp crew and porters. They have 11 women on the team + 1 filmer (Doug), and over 50 other guys hiking along side them, running ahead to set up camp, and taking care to have meals hot, fresh and appetizing – a skill not easy to recreate on the trail. Thanks to Adventure International the services are superb!!!


Posted by Laura Hartstone



  1. Ok..this post is almost making me dizzy!! You girls are such an inspiration, you are achieving things that most people never will….we only dream about it, yet you all are doing it!!! Lots of prayers are coming your way for this final climb….love to you all, Kelly’s mom, Becky

  2. wish the whole world was aware of what you have experienced so far and what you all have achieved ! STAY STRONG.. GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU..

  3. Thank you, Laura, for yet another insightful post. After having already climbed 2^^, it is amazing to even think of taking one more step. Thank you for the acknowledgement of the outstanding crew that are making this team’s dream come true. I want to kiss and hug them all and give them a big tip!!! I know it is their job and from the sounds of it, they do it well. Wonder how many times they have climbed Kili? 20,000 people climb (or attempt) yearly. Boy, those are beaten paths. Someone at yoga class told me she climbed Kili and that it was the hardest thing she has ever done. (Gee thanks) Sending you all the kharma I can muster. Except for Kaitlyn, I know no one, but I love you all from far and away. XXOOMOM

  4. I just googled Ilboru Safari Lodge. I could just stay there and watch people climb up and down the Mt. Nice headquarters, Laura. I’d love to come help you with updates while Kaitlyn climbs. Can I send the Ema/Simba messages please? XXOOMOM

  5. Val and companions,
    I know you will stay strong as you tackle the toughest climb yet. Have a wonderful time, enjoy the extraordinary sights and stay healthy.
    Dad and Mom

  6. a few think of even seeing this as a possibility and how great they are for thinking…. of those few…fewer still go forth and prepare to make it happen and again how great they are for preparing, and of those few fewer still accomplish it, and how great they are for the accomplishment. not a one of the few, the fewer or the fewest r greater than the other, but they all inspire those of us who sit and have yet to dare dream.

  7. Courage à tous! Ayez foi en vous et en ce que vous faites… Nous, supporters, en tout cas, sommes de tout coeur avec vous! L’ascension va semble-t-il être plus ardue que les autres, mais comme on dit en France, jamais 2 sans 3 donc les filles, vous serez toutes au sommet!!
    Force, endurance et persévérance Sis’, je pense très fort à toi!!
    Des bisous!

  8. I am in awe of all of you! keep pushing, you are almost there 🙂 love to all


  10. Ithink you are sleeping and staying warm at this time.Sounds like you have a great
    support team.Keeping you all in my prayers.I am sure you have the mind set to
    accomplish this challange with flying colors (Kaitlyn style)Enjoy the journey.I am so proud of you. Love ya,Nana

  11. Yes – life at Ilboru is very comfortable and highly recommended for any travelers to Arusha!


    More updates to come!

  12. Energie et volonté et le sommet est à vous
    plein de bises à tous

  13. From one of your benefactors (Rich Sheehan) here at Notre Dame: Poli, Poli. You are constantly on my mind and I can’t wait for the next post. Love and God’s speed to all of you wonderful women.

  14. Sarah,
    After reading yesterday’s blog about how you are the team’s “Emotion”, I can only imagine what this week will be like for you. Sharing a room with you through most of our childhood, seems they got it right. I know your strong, but I wish I could be there to hug you when you need it. I know you’ve go the love and support you need around you. I’m sure the new friends you’ve made on this journey are just as amazing as you. You’re doing it Sarah!! Your climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro!!! What an amazing story you’ll have to share with your own babies someday. I love you so so much!

  15. It’s great to hear that you have a flimer with you to document the journey. Enjoy the trip, live in the molment and soon you will be at the Summit! Sending support and cheers to you all!

  16. I don’t know if you are familiar with another mountain climber by the name of Lonnie Dupre, from Grand Marais, MN. He is currently attempting the first solo ascent of Denali (Mt. McKinley in Alaska) in the month of January. Recently he was stranded for 6 days due to nasty weather at 17,000 feet. Pasted to the back of his journal is the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. I thought of all of you, and your “unconquerable souls” when I read it…..

    “Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll.
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.”

  17. Thinking of you…needed to share this poem…

    Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
    And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

    — John Gillespie Magee, Jr

  18. Sarah and Team, This is it the final test. Be there for each other and share your strengths. This is a team effort and everyone of your talents will be needed to complete the journey. We are all so very proud and excited for you, knowing what an unbelievable goal you’ve set for yourselves. May God be with you all and enjoy the conquest!!!!!! 🙂 Love, Dad Kaczor

  19. Love the poem, Gayle! Go Unconquerable Souls!


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