The following is a list of camps and descriptions that we stayed at while hiking up the Shira route.
Base Camp is located at 6500 feet among lush vegetation. During certain times of the year elephants and herds of animals can be seen in this area. During clear days stunning views of Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro can be seen. There are some small roads and trails in this area. Several trails lead up to small mountains from which you can get excellent views of the African plains and surrounding mountains.
Camp I is located at 9000 feet. The jungle extended all the way from base camp to about 10,000 feet on the mountain. The trail is meanders its way through the jungle and slowly climbs to this camp. Hiking time to Camp I is about 5 or 6 hours if you have to deal with the mud and rainy conditions.
Camp II is located among lava flows in a vast valley between several lower ridges and higher ridges that lead to the enormous Kilimanjaro. This camp is free of the jungle and in the lower heath zone. You will find small bushes and grass at this camp. Normally the bushes are quite tall at this location but a recent fire came through here and burned many of the bushes. This camp is located at 11,500 feet. Hiking time today is between 6 and 8 hours.
Camp III is called the Fischer camp named after Scott Fisher, the Mountain Madness guide who pioneered this particular route up Kili. This camp is located at the upper Heath zone. This means you will still have bushes growing but you will also pick up a unique native plant to the slopes of Kilamanjaro. This plant is called the Giant Ground Sel or (Senecio kilamanjarii). This unique plant looks somewhat like a saguaro cactus found in the deserts of Arizona. It is tall and has several forked vertical branches. There are several small streams nearby and lots of rocks. This camp elevation is 12,300 feet. Hiking time today is between 4 and 6 hours.
Camp IV is called the Lava Tower Camp. This camp is located about 30 minutes walking time below a large lava formation. Camp here is among bare ground and rocks with a few tufts of grass. At this point you are in the base of one side of Kilimanjaro. From this comp you can see exactly where you need to walk, and you can see just how steep it will be. If you look carefully you will be able to see a glacier that roughly resembles an arrow. This is where your next camp will be. You can get some excellent sun setting photos at this camp, provided you are not clouded in. From here you can see approximately where the summit is. Know that you still have over 5000 feet to get there. This camp elevation is about 14,300 feet. Hiking time today is about 5 to 7 hours.
Camp V is called the Arrow Glacier Camp. This is the shortest hiking day of the trek. Expect to camp in and near snow. It is a miserable camp if it is raining or snowing. From here you stare at a wall of the mountain that rises 3500 vertical feet. Know that the next day you have to climb this entire vertical wall to the crater rim. From this camp, it is very impressive to look up at the sheer snow covered walls and rock. Some guided groups opt to sleep for a couple of hours at this elevation and then attempt the summit beginning at midnight. This is crazy and would be an incredibly long strenuous day. You would be climbing the 3500 vertical feet in the darkness with nothing but your headlamp to guide the way. By the time you reach the top you will be exhausted and then you still have the steep downhill to deal with. This camp elevation is about 15,300 feet. Hiking time is about 3 hours.
Camp VI is called the summit crater camp and this day is one of the hardest hiking days. You climb from 15,3000 to 18,500 feet. If you were going to climb 3200 feet vertical from sea level you would have a much easier time. This vertical elevation gain at this high altitude is much harder. It is best to take it slow and climb carefully. This is the most dangerous day of the climb. Some of the sections are extremely steep and slippery, not to mention you may have to watch out for rock fall. One group that I am aware of had a member who was recovering from a melon-sized rock that crashed into his skull. His blood was draining into a plastic bucket as they attempted to bandage and help him. There will be climbing on all fours on this day in particular sections. The views are incredible! 16,000 foot Mt. Meru is clearly visible peaking above the ascending cloud layer. While we were climbing we did not see or hear any rock fall. If you are careful you will be fine. In the steep sections, take it very slowly and be aware of where you are stepping or climbing. Camp elevation this day is 18,500 feet. Hiking time is between 7 to 10 hours.
Mweka Camp is located at 10,000 feet. Before getting to this camp you summit the mountain, which takes about 1 to 2 hours from Crater Camp. There are two routes, one straight up to the summit, or the other via a longer route up the valley and then up to the summit. I won’t give any specifics of the summit except to say it is an incredible experience upon reaching the top. After spending some valuable time on the top you descend down to Barafu Hut. Descending can be quite difficult. You are descending on volcanic scree which is very loose. You end up sliding down in sections more than actually hiking. This day will have dropped about 9500 feet from the summit. Mweka camp is located at 10,000 feet. Here you briefly experience the crowds that climb this mountain. When I was here, this camp had the feel of a refuge camp. Many tour groups had tents scattered as far as the eye could see. Toilets and other belongings were randomly strewn about. From here you have great views of Kilimanjaro. Hiking time on this day is about 7 to 9 hours.
The last day takes about 4 to 6 hours to make the steep descent to one of the park’s entrances at the Mountain Village Lodge. This was the muddiest day of the entire climb. You end up being in mud up to your knees in some places. If the trail was not muddy you could make very good time.