Paul Atherton - conquering Kili: A seven-day trek to the roof of Africa


October 2023

Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak, stands at 19,341 feet (5,895 meters). Its distinct snow-capped summit is a result of the mountain's glacial cap, which has been shrinking due to climate change

Mount Kilimanjaro, a colossal giant standing at 19,341 feet, is one of the world’s seven summits and Africa’s highest peak. Paul Atherton has recently returned from a seven-day trek to the summit, to help raise funds for Happy Street Paws dog shelter in Sri Lanka. This cause is very close to Paul’s heart as they have already rescued eight dogs, who lives with them at home and certainly keeps them on their toes.

Paul said ‘Many say we have changed their lives, but really it is them that have changed ours. The thankful look in their eyes, tail wags and paw cuddles makes it all worthwhile’.

In successfully reaching the summit, as part of a team of eight friends, Paul followed the Lemosho Route, which is renowned for its scenic beauty, with the trek passing through all of Kilimanjaro’s climate zones – from the rainforest, through to the moorland, alpine desert, and finally the artic zone. A summary of his journey is below.

Paul’s Kilimanjaro Journey


Day 1 – Lemosho Gate to Mkubwa Camp

After the slightly overwhelming sight of seeing Kilimanjaro appear above the clouds from his plane window, Paul’s journey begins at Lemosho Gate, where he and the rest of his team weave through the lush rainforest, sighting blue monkeys and vividly hearing and seeing whole range of exotic species of birds. Paul arrives late at Mkubwa Camp, with the sounds of the forest at night helping to secure a good first night’s rest in the tent, and as everyone can feel the anticipation building for the coming days ahead.

Altitude – 7,381ft to 9,498ft

Day 2 – Mkubwa Camp to Shira 2 Camp

On the second day, the hike moves into the heather moorland zone, with everyone enjoying being so close to nature, crossing stream after stream, and witnessing the landscape slowly transforming from the lush rainforest they have gradually left behind into moorland. By lunch time, the Shira Plateau becomes visible, offering the first distant views of Kibo, Kilimanjaro’s summit. The trek continues into the afternoon across the Shira plateau, with Paul and some of the group start to show signs of altitude sickness. Whilst a potential cause for concern, this only strengthens his resolve for the ascent ahead.

Altitude – 9,498ft to 12,500ft

Day 3: Shira 2 to Barranco Camp via Lava Tower

Having overcome initial symptoms of altitude sickness overnight, Paul’s trek continues with the route ascending to Lava Tower before descending to Barranco Camp. However, others in his group are less fortunate, with some experiencing more testing symptoms of altitude sickness as they make their way across the alpine desert, encountering towering senecios and lobelias before the descent into the lush Barranco Valley.

Altitude – 12,500ft to 13,200ft

Day 4: Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp

The famous Barranco Wall and Kissing Rock await on day 4 – the most fun day of the entire trek! Successive ascents and descents characterise the route to the Karanga Camp, offering fantastic views of Kilimanjaro’s southern glaciers. Everyone is amazed at the skill and stamina of the porters who scale Barranco with tents, water and food – often carried on their heads!

Altitude – 13,200ft to 14,950ft

Day 5 – Karanage Camp to Barafu Camp

On the penultimate ascent day, Paul navigates rocky paths, gradually ascending to Barafu Camp – otherwise known as Base Camp, and the launching point for the final summit push. Paul rests and loads up on food with the rest of team, as they all mentally and physically prepare for the tough midnight ascent to the summit. The atmosphere at Base camp is anxious and somber, with the low oxygen levels taking a toll on everyone.

Altitude – 13,044ft to 15,331ft

Day 6 – Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak to Millenium Camp

The summit day starts at midnight, at -15C temperature with a clear sky lit up by the stars, as the trek steeply ascends upwards on heavy scree towards Stella Point – a final resting point on the way to the summit. Paul arrives just in time to see someone getting engaged! The summit tested the resilience and determination of everyone in the group and, upon reaching Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa, everyone is rewarded with unparalleled views of the surrounding landscape and a profound sense of achievement. However, the day is not over, with descent to Millennium Camp the culmination of the day. Unfortunately, it turns out that going down is a lot harder than going up!

Altitude – 15,331ft to 19,341 to 12,250ft

Day 7 – Millennium Camp to Mweka Gate

On the final day, Paul descends back through the montane forest to Mweka Gate, marking the successful completion of his trek. The journey through the varying ecosystems, the physical challenge, and the sheer spectacle of nature leave a lasting imprint on the whole group. There’s a huge sense of pride and personal satisfaction for every member of the team, with everyone having been able to raise money for a range of good causes that are close to their hearts. Everyone finishes in time to enjoy a celebratory Kilimanjaro beer!

Altitude: 12,250ft to 5,380ft

What a great achievement, if you would like to support Paul’s fantastic cause, please click the link: Happy Street Paws – GoFundMe

Paul is now planning his next big adventure – a trek to Everest Base Camp in 2024.