REACHING THE MOUNTAIN TOP — Orange brothers climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro

Published 12:08 am Saturday, March 18, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Joe Dougharty climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro during a seven-day excursion that led he and his older brother, Paul, through high altitudes and rough terrain and ended in a breathless view of the summit.

On the way down, they traveled through a tropical rain forest that concluded the hike. This adventure was chosen by chance of a draw from a bowl of bucket list destinations.

The Orange native brothers began their seven-day journey Feb. 25 on the dormant volcano located in Tanzania, Africa.

“I pulled a piece of folded paper from a bowl and handed it to Paul,” Joe said. “Paul opens and reads the slip of paper silently then he smiles at me and says, ‘Our next trip is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.’”

Joe Dougharty retired from Chevron Phillips in Port Arthur last year and decided to join Paul on his excursions through the globe. The mountain adventure was something Paul had always wanted to do.

“We chose the Lemosho route, which is one of the best routes on Kilimanjaro with excellent high-altitude acclimatization and beautiful panoramic landscapes,” he said. “Climbing Lemosho begins with an altitude of 3,500 meters above sea level on the western slope of Kilimanjaro.”

The hikers passed through five climatic zones of Kilimanjaro, including equatorial, rainforest and arctic. The hike takes five days to reach the summit and two days down to complete the trek.

“There are different types of routes that climbers can choose, ranging from three-day to nine-day climbs,” Joe said. “We chose the seven-day route to ensure we would be successful in completing the hike. Also, since that country is closer to the equator, they have wet and dry season. We went at the end of the dry season.”

Altezza Travel recommends the seven-day Lemosho route for beginners and experienced mountain hikers. The ascent does not require special equipment or skills and 98 percent of the people successfully reach the summit.

“Our route went up and down the contours of the mountain,” he said. “And each day, we would hike to our next camp site, set up and then hike to a higher altitude and hang out up there for awhile before going back to camp.”

The brothers’ group of hikers was made up of other tourists, tour guides and porters.

“When you join a group, you do not know the diversity of races, ages and cultures,” Joe said. “There was one lady from Morocco, two men from South Africa, a father and son from Chicago, a father with his two sons from New York and a couple from California.”

The walk is mostly a quiet time of trying to find safe places to step, but during the meal hours, the group bonds through laughing and cutting up.

“This is when we had the opportunity to learn more about each other and have conversations,” Joe said. “This is when people bond and make lasting friendships with people who share goals and hobbies.”

On their first day of hiking, the group departed from Shira in a light trek toward the second high altitude camp.

“The trek was not difficult,” Joe said. “We saw spectacular views of Africa and the unique flora of Kilimanjaro. Once we reached the second camp, we had lunch and a two-hour rest period before completing an acclimatization hike towards Lava Tower Camp that features a 200-meter gain altitude. This hike speeds up the acclimatization process and increases the chance of successfully summiting Kilimanjaro and prevents altitude sickness.”

On the second day, the group began their route to lava tower.

“This section of the route has a lot of ascents and descents that end at a camp at over 4,600 meters,” he said. “We had lunch there for two hours to successfully acclimate before we descended to the Barranco camp.”

The famous Barranco wall is impressive with massive size and steepness.

The third day, the group would be climbing it.

“Hiking up the gorge takes about an hour,” Joe said. “The hikers finished the climb and took photos in front of the Kibo Volcano. The next hike to Karanga camp was more difficult.”

The trail features numerous ascents and descents during the hike.

After a couple of hours, the hikers had to complete an acclimatization hike in the direction of Barafu Camp with a 200-meter gain in altitude before descending back to camp.

The group’s first obstacle was trying to agree on a pace speed.

Trying to get everyone to move at the same speed is a challenge, but Joe said they made it to base camp at noon on the fifth day.

On the fifth day, the group began their hike to the summit at midnight.

“This camp is the starting point for a night summiting Uhuru Peak that is at 5,895 meters and the end goal,” he said. “Reaching the summit is the literal and figurative peak of the Kilimanjaro trek. We departed camp and walked the edge of the crater rim. Then we climbed to the highest point in Africa- Uhuru Peak and stood at 5,895 meters.”

This is a great achievement and a test to a hiker’s strength and stamina.

“At the top of Uhuru Peak, the group took photos and watched an amazing sunrise with a view across Africa,” Joe said. “We departed the Barafu Camp at night to the Millennium camp, which is located in a tropical rainforest.”

After the expedition, the hikers were given a commemorative certificate to celebrate their achievement.

To follow Joe Dougharty and his brother Paul on their next adventure, follow his Facebook page.

— Written by Sierra Kondos