Mti Mkubwa (2,800m / 9,200ft) to Shira 1 camp (3,500m/11,500ft)
Distance: 8km/5mi, 5-6 hours
Altitude: 700m/2,300ft up in elevation
Same as the first day, day 2 of the Northern Circuit route continues along the Lemosho route. Waking up on a small clearing surrounded by tall trees that block the sun, you will find the morning temperature to be still quite chilly, even though you are in the midst of a lush rainforest. This will change within few minutes into your hike, however, when the rainforest changes into a coniferous forest that gives way to the morning sun rays.
After about an hour, you will emerge from the forest and get your first glimpse into the distance. The top of Kilimanjaro, however, remains hidden for now.
A series of gentle uphill and downhill slopes will lead you to the bottom of the Shira plateau. By now, all trees have disappeared and given way to shrubs. Only a few scarce plants such as the Protea Kilimandscharica with their red flower buds distinguish themselves against the otherwise predominantly olive green vegetation.
Expect a two hour steep ascent to the top of the Shira plateau. This part is usually described as one of the most difficult parts of your entire hike, until your final summit push. I’m not sure I would agree with that. Yes, it’s steep, but the air is still relatively thick and there is no rush. Pole pole (slowly, slowly) everyone will reach the top of the Shira plateau sooner or later, there’s no need to rush. Once accomplished, you are rewarded with a spectacular view not only back down into the hilly lowlands, but more importantly your first view of Kibo cone at the far opposite end of the Shira plateau.
During the remaining flat to gently down-hill sloping 45 minutes towards Shira 1 camp, you will pass an artistic assembly of stones that seems to have no special meaning or purpose, other than providing yet another rest and photo opportunity.
Shira 1 camp, your camp for your second night, is set in the middle of the vast open Shira plateau. Up here, bushes grow no more than knee-tall, allowing free view into the far distance towards all sides. Unless blocked by clouds that tend to hang in the mountain, glacier-covered Kibo cone will be your constant backdrop from now on. Though as of now, it still looks rather far away . . .
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