Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route – Day 4 – Shira II to Barranco 2


I wake up with a tremendous headache and noticeable loss of appetite – symptoms of altitude sickness. The others in the group are fine, but they are all taking acetazolamide (which goes by the trade-name Diamox) a drug that induces deep, heavy breathing, and thus improves oxygen enrichment of blood in high altitude environments. I’ve been coping with the reduced oxygen levels while I’ve been awake, but clearly my respiration rate was a little low whilst I was asleep, and I’ve ended up with this headache.

I don’t want to take acetazolamide – I’ve got nothing against the drug; I’d just prefer to summit Kilimanjaro without the use of medical crutches if possible – so I’ve come up with a cunning plan to avoid the morning headache scenario. I’ll test out my idea tonight.

Frosty morning at Shira II camp, Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Frosty morning at Shira II camp. Photo credit: Benjamin White

There’s frost on the tents, but we have clear skies this morning; a welcome change after two days of on-and-off rain.

Today’s hike takes us into the desert-like, extreme-alpine zone. There’s no vegetation to speak of. Porters can be seen picking their way across the lunar landscape several kilometres in advance, thanks to their brightly coloured wind-cheaters and pack-covers.

Extreme alpine zone, Day 4, Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Entering the extreme alpine zone on Day 4 of the Lemosho Route. Photo credit: Benjamin White

It’s slow and steady climbing all morning. Lunch is taken alongside the Lava Tower, an enormous formation of basaltic rock at 4,642 metres elevation. We’ve gone high this morning to help acclimatise, and there are several members in my group complaining of nausea, headaches, and loss of appetite.

The Lava Tower, Day 4, Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The Lava Tower. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Not me though; our situations have reversed. I’m feeling fine. My headache is gone and my appetite is back. I wolf down a big, carb-heavy lunch.

It starts snowing during the lunch break so we wrap things up early and hit the trail. It’s downhill all the way to Barranco Hut this afternoon (climb high, sleep low is the mountaineering motto).

Snowy falling as we depart the Lava Tower, Day 4, Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Snowy falling as we depart the Lava Tower. Photo credit: Benjamin White

We leave the vegetation-deprived alpine desert behind and enter a stream-fed valley filled with unusual high altitude flora species. The weirdest of all is the prehistoric-looking Giant Groundsel (Dendrosenecio kilimanjari).

Giant Groundsel, Day 4, Lemosho Route, Tanzania

Photo credit: Benjamin White

As we descend thick fog begins to waft over the alien landscape in the manner of a cheaply-made 80s sci-fi flick.

Alien landscape, Day 4, Lemosho Route, Tanzania

Mist wafting over alien landscapes. Photo credit: Benjamin White

With these bizarre pre-historic plants growing all around, and the fog wafting by, it seems at times that we have entered a Lost World similar to the one created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, where stegosaurus and iguanadon and giant moths still roam the lands.

Barranco Hut (3,940m)

Giant Groundsel, Day 4, Lemosho Route, Tanzania

Giant Groundsel. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Camp 4 is at Barranco Hut, at 3,940 metres elevation. Barranco camp sits at the junction of the Lemosho/Shiro, Umbwe, and Machame Routes (Machame is the second most popular route on Kilimanjaro). After leaving Barranco Hut the trail will become noticeably busier.

Practical information and how to reach Barranco Hut:

Mount Kilimanjaro is located in northern Tanzania. Most hikers will access the mountain via Kilimanjaro International Airport, which has sporadic direct flights from Amsterdam, Istanbul, Doha, Nairobi, and Addis Ababa.

If you wish to climb Mount Kilimanjaro then you must engage the services of a licensed guide, which for most people will mean joining a tour. Cost and quality varies significantly between companies. My advise is to steer clear of the cheapest operators, go with a tour company that has plenty of trustworthy reviews online, and sits in the middle of the pack price-wise. More info on tours and transport arrangements here.

Read more of the Mt Kilimanjaro series:

Day 1, 2, 3 – Mti Mkubwa to Shira II

Day 5 – Barrranco to Karanga

Day 6 – Karanga to Barafu

Day 7, 8 – Barafu to Uhuru Peak

More on Tanzania:

Ngorongoro Crater – volcano stuffed full of animals

Zanzibar – mystical paradise or cold, hard, tourist trap?

More on East Africa:


Lake Nakuru – the greatest bird spectacle on Earth

Old Town, Lamu – Swahili port city that time forgot


Hiking amongst the Tea Fields of Gisakura, Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda – clean, green capital with harrowing genocide tours


Kampala, Uganda – worth a visit?

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