Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – Trekking to Shira Plateau

This is part 2 of my Mount Kilimanjaro climb. If you missed part 1, you can read it here.

I awoke to the sound of footsteps outside my tent. The soft morning light filtered in through the half open zip on one of the windows and as the footsteps got closer, I remembered that I had just spent my first night on Mount Kilimanjaro. “Hello” I heard a voice call out from outside my tent. “Water for washing”. “Okay, thank you” I replied, realizing that this was my wake up call.

The warm water felt great on my cold hands, and after splashing my face and feeling the cool crisp air against it, I was awake and ready to continue my climb of Africa’s highest mountain.

After packing up our gear and enjoying a hot breakfast in the dining tent, we started off on our trek, our guide continuing the slow pace that had been set the day before. The morning sun shined down to melt the frost that covered the ground as we began climbing. The terrain was immediately steep, but the slow pace kept me from feeling out of breathe.

The rocky path was surrounded by the low shrubs and bushes of the moorland that cover this part of the mountain, and as we climbed higher above the clouds we could see Mount Meru in the distance, poking it’s head above the cloud cover. Every time that we stopped to let some porters past, I took the opportunity to look back at where we had come and enjoy the incredible views out across the blanket of clouds.

A porter on Mount Kilimanjaro near Machame Hut, Tanzania

A porter climbs up the trail from Machame Hut

Mount Meru above the clouds on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

View of Mount Meru above the clouds

Waiting for porters to pass on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Waiting for porters to pass, with Mount Meru in the distance

The higher we climbed, the better the views became. As we reached the top of a ridge, Kibo Peak once again made an appearance, taking my eyes away from the already stunning scenery of the moorland and views from the mountain. The snow and ice capped peak of Kilimanjaro towered above the rocky rugged terrain of the Shira Plateau above me, while all around me the unique vegetation and wild flowers took my breathe away. There was so much to see that I couldn’t even notice any tiredness in my legs from the steep hike.

Kibo Peak on the Machame Route on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Kibo Peak towers above the Shira Plateau above me

A porter resting on  a rock on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

A porter takes a rest on top of a rock

Mount Meru above the clouds on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

View of Mount Meru above the blanket of clouds

Wild flowers on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Wild flowers

View of Kibo Peak on the Machame Route on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The trail provides amazing views of the mountain

Slowly we trekked on, climbing the steep rocky path one ridge at a time, often climbing up boulders and rocky steps, all the while the scenery remained breathtaking. When we finally reached the half way point, we stopped for a break to have a snack and take in plenty of water. A popular resting spot for hikers, this place seemed to attract a large number of native crows known as White Necked Ravens. They were much larger than the typical crow that I am used to seeing, and their beaks are thicker but more rounded.

A crow on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

A crow at our rest spot

From here we could see the trail making it’s way up the rocky terrain above us, slowly climbing and moving along to the left towards the Shira Plateau. There was still a long way to go.

Our guides made sure that we never rested for too long, and we were soon up and hiking again. The terrain remained very similar for the next few hours as we slowly made our way to the top of the climb, passing Shira Cave on our way.

An icicle on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

An icicle in Shira Cave

A native flower on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

A native flower

Climbing to Shira Plateau on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Looking at the top of the climb – Shira Plateau

Eventually, just when it seemed that the Shira Plateau would never arrive, I climbed the final steep rocky steps and found myself once again looking at Kibo Peak, this time with the vast rocky landscape of the Shira Plateau before me. Just around the corner I could see the very welcome sight of Shira Camp, our destination for the day at 3840m.

Kibo Peak from Shira Plateau on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Climbing the final steps up the trail. Kibo Peak towers above Shira Plateau

Shira Camp on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Looking down at Shira Camp

We settled into camp with a wash and a hot lunch, some of our group spending the afternoon having a nap, while a few of us played cards with some of our crew in the dining tent. Before long our lead guide came to collect us to go on an acclimatization hike to Shira Hut, meaning that we would climb up higher, before returning to sleep at the lower altitude of our camp.

As the sun sank low on the lava formed landscape, we trekked the fairly gradual climb up to Shira Hut, where the Shira and Lomosho routes come up the mountain. The soft light of the late afternoon made the already beautiful landscape spectacular.

View of Kibo Peak from Shira Hut on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

View of Kibo Peak just before sunset from Shira Hut

Silhouette of a porter watching the sunset on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

A porter watches as the sun sinks over Shira Peak

As we made our way back to camp, the sun set over Shira Peak in the west, casting a glow over the rocky landscape and blanket of clouds below us. The cool air of the night set in on the Shira Plateau, and when we arrived back at camp and had dinner, I was well and truly ready for bed. The next day was going to be a big one.

Sunset over Shira Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The sun sets over Shira Peak

Sunset from Shira Plateau on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The last light on the Shira Plateau


Read part 3 – The Lava Tower and the Great Barranco Valley

Mount Kilimanjaro Adventure Series

  1. Machame Gate to Machame Hut 
  2. Trekking to Shira Plateau
  3. The Lava Tower and the Great Barranco Valley
  4. The Great Barranco Wall to Barafu Camp
  5. Conquering the Summit

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14 comments… add one
  • Malcolm Aug 1, 2012

    The views are really stunning especially the view of Mount Meru above the clouds. I wonder how it feels being up there. Thank you for sharing this wonderful travel story and I hope you post more.

    • Dean Wickham Aug 3, 2012

      Hi Malcolm. It felt quite amazing to be there…it’s kind of one of those things that are hard to describe. The only real way to find out is to experience it yourself 🙂 Thanks for reading

  • Spencer Aug 1, 2012

    Wonderful photos! The views look absolutely amazing! I would love to do that myself one day.
    Spencer recently posted..Great Hotels of the World #12 – Trump International Hotel and Tower New YorkMy Profile

  • Wow! I can’t believe those views!
    Brock – Backpack With Brock recently posted..Snapshot: Florence, Italy – My First Italian CityMy Profile

    • Dean Wickham Aug 3, 2012

      Hey Brock. The views seemed to get better and better with each day.

  • David Aug 2, 2012

    I just need to repeat what they have already mentioned: The views look greaaaat! Must be worth the trip!

    • Dean Wickham Aug 3, 2012

      Hi David. I always found my mouth wide open every time I looked around at the views. It’s definitely worth the trip 🙂

  • Beautiful photos… I especially like the ones of the alpine flowers

    • Dean Wickham Aug 7, 2012

      Thanks Jade. The flowers on Kili were really amazing, with many unique to the mountain. The next section of the mountain is alpine dessert, and yet the flowers still cling to life there as well.

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