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Blanton Blogs:

Dr. Blanton's hiking/backpacking adventures

8-Day Trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

(Uhuru Peak - 19,341 feet) with overnight stay in the crater (18,864 feet)

Three Tanzanian-/Swahili words/phrases to guide us in life:

  • Hujambo (Welcome)
  • Karibu (Thank You)
  • and Polepole (slowly)

Monday - August 21, 2023: Four trekkers (Mike Blanton, Bryan Sutton, Keith and Ethan Bedrock) set off separately on a 8,400 mile, ~25 hour journey that would take each of us to Arusha, Tanzania. Here we met with representatives of Team Kilimanjaro (the organizers of the 8-day hiking trek) that would take us from Lemosho Gate  (elevation 7,800 feet) to the summit of Kilimanjaro (Uhuru Peak - elevation 19,341 feet).

Wednesday - August 23, 2023: Team Kilimanjaro arranged a tour of a coffee plantation (photos of this excursion, the trek, and the safari posted on the Team Kilimanjaro website (see MIBL for Climber and Safari reports)

Trekking Day 1 (Thursday August 24, 2023): 7 AM start - Our Team Kilimanjaro trekking group met us at our hotel (Mvuli Lodge - Arusha, Tanzania) and we posed for a group photo as our duffel bags were added to the supplies of top of the bus. 16! Yes - that is how many porters, guides, and cooks are needed to get us 4 to the summit and back in 8 days - boy it takes a village!First Group Photo

The Trekking Group: Mike Blanton (trail name, Mr. Adolf), Bryan Sutton (Simi Soft/Mr. Cialis), Keith Bendrock (Bwana Polepole), Ethan Bendrock (El Vato).

Note: trail names are bestowed by the group. Bryan was taking Cialis is because he read that it worked for altitude acclimation; I busted my lip open on day two and with the scab it looked like Adolf Hitlers mustache; Keith found it extremely difficult to hike slowly - hence Bwana Polepole (Mr. Slowly); One day Ethan was sporting an outfit that looked like something from East L.A. - hence El Vato.

Team Kilimanjaro: Chief Kilimanjaro Guide: Ally Swalehe; Assistant Guide: Emmanual Agape; Cook: Yassin Juma Crew: Arnold Pallangyo, Mirisho Mirisho, Bakari Amir, Mo Khamis, Omary Abduli, Smiley Bachu, Kibwana Ramadhani, Yasin Amir, Juma Wakunesa, Nurdin Rashid, Joseph Charles, Omary Abduli, Mohamed Nasr, Aron Nkya & Gudluck George.

Following a three hour bus drive - we arrived at Lemosho Gate - Kilimanjaro National Park. Following a bag lunch we posed at Lemosho Gate and started off on 4 mile hike to our camp for the night (MTI Mkumba Camp- elevation 9,000 feet).trekkers lemosho gate

We settled into our tents....tents

....enjoyed afternoon tea and popcorn, and then a fantastic dinner- Zucchini soup, Nile perch, and pasta.

 tea and popcorn

For this first day we were hiking in the rainforest and blue monkeys entertained us during our first night.

Trekking Day 2: 6 A.M. - Not so bad when hot coffee or tea is delivered to you in your tent.


After a breakfast of hot porridge, fried egg, British sausage, banana, and coffee we set off on a 4 hour hike (5.4 miles) to our next camp (Shira I camp, elevation 11,000 feet) along a dusty trail….We carried our daypacks and the porters carried everything else.

trekking w/ gear

We had most of the afternoon free....lunch consisted of Zucchini pasta with chicken and watermelon; dinner - pumpkin soup, chicken and curry….I think you are getting the point that we ate very well! We all expected to lose weight on this trip but I gained 5 lbs!

Trekking Day 3: 6 A.M. wake-up ..same routine…today we hiked 6 miles to Shira II camp (elevation 13,600 feet). After lunch we did a short acclimation hike up to 14,448 feet and enjoyed a mug of ginger tea to aid in the acclimation.

day 3 trek landscape

ginger tea

For dinner Yassin had prepared a deep dish vegetable dish that was fantastic; even more impressive when you consider that all these meals are being cooked in a small tent with propane.

the chef

Trekking Day 4: 6 A.M. wake-up - today we covered 10 miles on our way to Third Cave Camp (elevation 13,000 feet - yes we descended 600 feet today). Dinner - sweet potato soup, rice and vegetables.

third camp

Trekking Day 5:  7 A.M. wake-up - having rounded the mountain to the south end we began our ascent….hiking to School Hut camp (elevation 15,410 feet) with an afternoon acclimation hike to 16,000 feet. Lunch - and early night – tomorrow is the Big Day!

trek day 5

Trekking Day 6: 4 A.M. wake-up - We start the 6 mile (7 hour) ascent to Uhuru Peak (19,341 feet).

uhuru peak start

The ascent is steep along a trail that is mostly loose gravel…but by 10 A.M. we have made it to Gilman’s Point (elevation 18,652 feet).

gilmans point

….within an hour we are closing in on Uhuru Peak…albeit polepole (slowly!)….

progress toward uhuru

At 11:32 A.M. we make it to the summit (19, 341 feet - the highest point in Africa) and pose for group photos!


ttu kilimanjaro

I also pull out my flask and we all enjoy a sip or two of Blanton’s Bourbon! 

Celebrations completed - we descend ~500 feet to the crater floor....

crater floor

Our porters have set up camp on the crater floor (18,864 feet) and after lunch we walk over to Furtwangler Glacier.

furtwangler glacier

Back in 1900 this glacier covered the entire surface of the crater…it is expected to be completely gone in less than 10 years. At this point - Keith and Bryan head back to camp for a nap…while Ethan and myself continue on to the Ash Pit....

Ash Pit

....and then to the highlight of the climb, the Northern Icefield (Credner Glacier) the largest remaining glacier on the continent of Africa.

Credner Panoramic

credner glacier

credner glacier 2

Day 6 evening/Day 7 morning: My expectation from the start was that the greatest challenge of this trip would not be ascending to 19,341 feet…but rather spending the night in the crater at 18,864 feet. At 17 F it was cold – but once I was snuggled into my sleeping bag combo set-up (2 sleeping bags + liner + four layers of clothing including a down jacket)...I was actually quite comfortable…No - for first the five hours of Day 6 evening the mild headache combined with a shortness of breath that I speculate must be what it is like living with COPD kept me from falling asleep… alas around midnight…I dosed off and by morning felt much better. 

Trekking Day 7-8 : Now the hard part of trek - I kid you not - on Day 7 we descended 8,000 feet to Makeka Camp and Day 8 we descended another 5,000 feet (total descent 13,000 feet). Descending this fast and long can be brutal on your body…and I was barely able to walk for days afterwards. Having completed the trek we each received our official certificate from the Tanzanian Government and had a celebratory lunch with our Team Kilimanjaro group. By mid afternoon we were back to Mvuli Lodge in Arusha and enjoyed multiple showers!

celebratory lunch

The following morning we set off on our 5-day safari with Team Kilimanjaro guide - Joshua. The safari was truly fantastic and I have posted ~40 photos from this part of trip on my Facebook page 

I hope you enjoyed a snapshot of the more than 1000 photos I took… please let me know if you would like to see more photos from either trek or safari!

You can view our entire route (56 miles, >10,000 feet of climbing) by going to my Garmin In-Reach Map page: 

Grand Tour of Four Alpine Lakes in the Pecos Wilderness of New Mexico


Day 1: Saturday July 8, 2023. A group of 4 hikers – Mike Blanton and Igor Ponomarev from Lubbock;  Tom Pressley (TTUHSC/SOM Emeritus Professor- Colorado Springs, CO); and Curt Pfarr (PLFSOM Professor, El Paso, Texas) all converged on the parking lot for Ski Santa Fe (New Mexico) the gateway to the Pecos Wilderness- within Santa Fe and Carson National Forests

This was the starting point for a 6 Day, 50 mile backpacking trip that would traverse the Pecos Wilderness and would include overnight camps at four alpine lakes ( Nambe, Katherine, Pecos Baldy, and Upper Truchas).  Also included in journey would be an ascent of Santa Fe Baldy (12,600 feet), hiking along the Trail riders Wall (12,000 feet), and traversing the Santa Barbara divide (12,000 feet).

We arrived at the parking lot for Ski Santa Fe in the late afternoon, paused for the obligatory group photo, then hefted on our backpacks and started the 3.5 mile, 1,000 foot climb to Nambe Lake at 11,388 feet.


While only 3.5 miles that first stretch is always an adjustment- with 48.5 lb backpack and at 11,000 feet! The effort was well worth it and as we set up camp we marveled at the beauty!  


Day 2: Sunday July 9, 2023. I started the day by sending a satellite text to my wife Elizabeth with a grateful 36th wedding anniversary message- she had provided me with a card reminding me that I had scheduled a hiking trip during our anniversary…yes I had forgotten that in my scheduling…. after coffee and breakfast and a morning fire (thank you Igor) we packed up and headed off. Today would take us to Lake Katherine with a side trip up to the summit of Santa Baldy peak (12, 600 feet). Those in Lubbock and El Paso will cringe when I say it was too hot for my taste…. The morning was in the upper 40’s and by mid afternoon it must have been close to 75 F! By mid afternoon we had all made it to Lake Katherine (11, 742 feet) and Igor bid us fare well as he headed back to Ski Santa Fe…..  he did leave me with two Deep Eddy flavored vodka bottles, thank you- Igor!



Day 3: Monday July 10, 2023. It was mostly downhill today as we headed to Panchuela campground… of course the downhill can be a curse..and indeed Tom tripped on a tree root and sprained his ankle… and so by the time we reached Panchuela he had decided “he did not want to be that hiker that needed to be airlifted out” and so he sent satellite message to Beth to please come get him …yes- there is a paved road that goes to Panchuela CG. 


… beautiful trail …but watch your feet!

Day 4: Tuesday July 11, 2023. As we packed up in the morning, Curt let me know that he had enough- he was having leg cramps and respiratory issues, and so was going to leave with Tom….. which left me instantly with the realization that I would be traveling solo the next three days!

Those that know me well know that I am a huge advocate of self-reflection…and what I realized after backpacking solo for the next three days and two nights-  I need social contact far more than I expected- it was a lonely experience! … and to my wife’s relief solo backpacking is a little too scary for my taste.

On the upside the scenery continued to be spectacular! 


As I regained the altitude lost yesterday (~3,000 feet) and  I camped at Pecos Baldy Lake (elevation 11, 750 feet)

Day 5: Wednesday July 12, 2023. If Tuesday had certainly been an adjustment- hiking solo… today was a really good day-  climbing up from Pecos Baldy Lake took me to one of my favorite sections in the Pecos 

Wilderness- The Trail riders Wall.  At approximately 12,000 feet elevation the Trail riders wall provides spectacular views of nearly the entire Pecos Wilderness- Truchas peaks to the north, Hamilton’s Mesa to the east, and Santa Fe Baldy to the south.  Then by noon I had reached Upper Truchas Lake (elevation 11,929 feet) my view the 2nd most beautiful lake in the Pecos Wilderness (Trampas Lake being No. 1). 


Day 6: Thursday July 13, 2023. The original plan for this trip included a 5th Alpine Lake ( Serpent Lake)  and then down to Santa Barbara campground along a trail I had never been on- therefore out of caution I decided to skip this lake and take the more direct route to Santa Barbara which I was more familiar with- the West Fork Santa Barbara Trail #25..would take me over the Santa Barbara divide (elevation 12,000 feet) with equally spectacular views to the north and to the south… and then as you descend down into the Santa Barbara valley the view looking back south to Chimayosos Peak is equally stunning…..


By noon I had reached Santa Barbara campground and was relieved to see my brand new 2022 Tundra Hybrid was still there! By 7 PM I was back in Lubbock…. Although as I drove into Lubbock and the thermometer read 106 F…. I already started to long for those cool mountain temps of New Mexico.

All things considered…and I think Tom and Curt would agree… great trip… hope to make it back soon!

You can view our trek by going to my Garmin map share page. 

Next hike-  Trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania


2023 Hiking Schedule

  • March

    • Bataan Memorial Death March, New Mexico
  • April

    • Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
  • July

    • Alpine Lakes, New Mexico
  • August

    • Mount Kilamanjaro, Tanzania, Africa
  • October

    • Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico