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The Lemosho Trail to Mt. Kilimanjaro

TRACIE . 13 February 2019

When Stone and I met six years ago, climbing Kilimanjaro was on both our bucket lists. Not all bucket list things are impossible things. But they sometimes require things like time and money and stubborn determination. The first two, we have realized, are more elastic than we think and will often stretch to accommodate the third. Even if it takes a while to get there, and even if we're a little hazy on some of the details till it's too late to change things.

Which is how, a few months ago, we found ourselves on the slopes of Kili, dead smack in the middle of the rainy season, cold, wet and thoroughly unimpressed with the weather forecast. As with many of our adventures, it was hard and miserable and awe-inspiring and life-changing all at once. If we had to do it all over again, we absolutely would. In summer.

(Cont'd after photos)




We took one of the trails less traversed, the eight day Lemosho Route, because it gave us the most time to acclimatize, and took us through some very diverse topography on the mountain. This also meant that we spent a good deal more time in the rain! But we travelled with a crew of porters who laughed and sang and danced their way through the wet, frigid days and nights, constantly inspiring us to tough it up.

To sustain and support the local economy, expeditions have to be booked through a registered Kilimanjaro tour operator, and they usually come with guides and porters and chefs and hot meals and a mess tent to eat in and almost the kitchen sink. No really, they actually had plastic basins with hot water for each of us, to wash up every morning, I kid you not.

Now we're used to roughing it, so we didn't think the half of it was necessary, but it was just the most affordable + ethical way to go about it. Let me assure you, after just one long day of being buffeted by icy winds and rain, we were SO grateful for that mess tent!

If we could give just three bits of advice to anyone who wants to climb Kili - 1. Do it. 2. Don't do it in the rainy season, and 3. Do it with a KPAP registered operator.

A little plug for KPAP here: There are a lot of Kili tour operators who offer really cheap tours, but make no mistake, the dollars you save come at the expense of the porters, who will get fewer meals, less wages and shoddy gear. Last year alone, three porters died of hypothermia and exposure, because they didn't have the right gear. The Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) has been working hard to ensure that porters are treated well and get fair wages. So finding a tour operator who is KPAP registered is an absolute non-negotiable. (There are ethical companies who are not KPAP registered, but you really have to do your research.) It's not cheap, and we had to swallow hard a couple of times, but we told ourselves from the beginning that if we couldn't afford the KPAP fees, we couldn't afford to do it at all. Because putting someone's life and/or livelihood at risk to satisfy our dreams is nasty business. No-one does it intentionally, but the travel industry is rife with examples and we've all been a little guilty of it at some point, so a little self-education is a good thing!

As we've said before, the porters of Kilimanjaro are its real heroes. They work harder than you could possibly imagine, and we've tried to capture some of those moments in this photo-essay.

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  • The Lemosho Trail to Mt. Kilimanjaro

    When Stone and I met six years ago, climbing Kilimanjaro was on both our bucket lists. Not all bucket list things are impossible things. But they sometimes require things like time and money and stubborn determination. The first two, we have realized, are more elastic than we think and will often stretch to accommodate the third. Even if it takes a while to get there, and even if we're a little hazy on some of the details till it's too late to change things.

  • Downtown Girl

    Oh how I love girl dates with coffee and thousands of WORDS. Throw in a photo-op, graffiti and nutella crepes, and you pretty much have me on a leash. Meet the very talented Erin Fisher, musician, photographer, and one of the most honest-to-goodness people you've every met.

  • The Hales

    It’s PCS season. For non-military folk, that’s an abbreviation for All The Cool Kids Are Leaving.

  • The Bouchards

    This story must needs telling. I was at a retreat in North Carolina a couple of months ago, where I met this beautiful, funny, adorable couple - Andrea and Jeremiah.

  • The Mavros

    April was a cold month in Hawaii. Stone will tell you there was perhaps a mild chill in the air.  Me, I had my winter woolies out. Any excuse to wear boots and scarves in these parts.

  • Mommy & Mila

    The island is a transient place. People come and go. And while the eternal goodbyes are never easy, you also get to meet some truly fascinating people. Rahat is one of them.

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  • The Shearers

    Eric and Heather joined us for a mini shoot on the beach by Makai pier with their three little people. Riley and Tyson had their toes and fingers in every crevice in the rocks, always looking for something to explore and discover. (They reminded me so much of that very awesome book in Keri Smith's collection: How to be an explorer of the world.) And Emily looked like she would turn into a mermaid any second.

  • The Cashions

    Chase & Nancy Cashion, with their littlies, Greg and wee Violette, we met at a big (and we mean BIG!) family reunion shoot we did a couple of months ago. More of that to come soon, but in the mean time, here are a few of the beautiful Cashions.

  • The Oakleys

    We loved meeting this wonderful, beautiful, happy family of three. Black hawk pilot turned chiropracter Christine and U.S Marine Ryan wanted to celebrate their little Ayla turning one. As you've gathered from our Instagram posts, we fell in love with Ayla, and we had the best fun with these guys. 

  • Urban Escape with The Mauds

    These guys are some of our favourite people in the world. The Mauds and I took a drive into Maboneng, the revitalised inner city of Johannesburg one afternoon to grab some family pictures. We stopped for coffee and slushies (as one should during a shoot), walked the streets we love so dearly and made memories.

  • Windswept and Wave-smacked: Jonathan and Mackenzie

    Jonathan and Mackenzie are kindred spirits who love laughter and a good adventure. Mackenzie was scheduled for a long over-due double-knee surgery this month, and she knew it would be a while before she was out of her wheelchair and skipping across boulders by the sea. So we sneaked in this shoot a few days before her surgery. Ten minutes into the shoot, the waves crashed down on us. Soaked in in salty sea, we saved some timeless moments for posterity.

  • Sheep Shearing in the Eastern Cape

    'Tis the season for shearing sleepy sheep. Say that twenty times. Fast. July in the Eastern Cape of South Africa is when farmers round up all their sheep for shearing week.

  • When Daddy's home.

    Sunita emailed me one day to say her husband Dave was flying home from his deployment for a couple of days, unexpectedly. She was seven months pregnant, and wanted some pictures taken while he was here - their family of three before the baby comes this November. So of course we made it happen. Military life is full of last-minute plans, I have learned.

  • One golden winter afternoon with the McDonalds

    Winter in Johannesburg is a sunny affair. The trees are all naked ebony and the grass is all golden yellow and there are red cappuccinos to be had.


    Rory and Denise are the kind of couple you want at every single party, because they are so loveable in every way. They get a million points here for not only being beautiful and funny and hysterically in love, but also for not complaining about the scratchy veld. God knows I would have.

  • The Hoffners

    John and Tiffany, with their ridiculously adorable kids, Roarke and Margot, recently moved back to the mainland after having made Hawaii home for a few years. But not before we got to shoot them at the Makapu‘u tide pools, one of their favourite places to hang out on the island. They have a lot of special memories here, so we loved that we were able to save some of these moments for them.


    It is public knowledge that Stone and I hike at very different paces, and that this is sometimes cause for a savage tirade or two on my part, and much slow breathing on his. But throw some kids into the mix, and I am no longer the slowest wolfcub in the pack. "I'm stopping because the KIDS WANT TO STOP, babe." This must surely be why people have children. So they can stop and eat snacks often.

  • Welcome to the world, Selah.

    I did a family shoot for the Chos a while ago, when Sunita was still pregnant with her second little girl. Last month, the beautiful Selah was born into the world. Dave was home from deployment just long enough for us to sneak in a home session and capture some of these earliest moments of Selah's life with her precious family - mom, dad and big sister Olivia. 


    She laughed. All the time. When she was sitting on her bed in her room-of-many-years, and she looked around wistfully and said, "That was my last night here!". And when she showed me her mother's wedding dress framed and hanging on the wall by the stairwell. And when Sean saw her for the first time. And when they kissed.