Crater Camp is a campsite that is located near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, around 18,800 feet above sea level. (Uhuru Peak is 19,345 feet above sea level.) It is utilized by some climb operators during eight or nine day climbs, usually via the Lemosho or Shira route and Western Breach approach.
The campsite sits in between Uhuru and the Furtwangler Glacier. Understandably, clients are intrigued at the opportunity to sleep next to the disappearing glacier. Additonally, they like the idea of having a short walk to the summit.
We are occasionally asked whether we use Crater Camp on our routes. We do not. Here’s why. Sleeping at such a high altitude is the most dangerous thing you can do on Mount Kilimanjaro. The previous night’s altitude is about 15,000-16,000 feet in elevation, whether you stayed at Arrow Glacier or Barafu. A gain of 3,000-4,000 feet is simply too much of an adjustment for most people. The result is that there is a high likelihood to be stricken by altitude sickness, especially during sleep. And once that occurs, a evacuation from near the top of Kilimanjaro in the middle of the night, though possible, is a burdensome task.
It is far easier on the body to climb from 15,000-16,000 feet to the summit (19,345 feet), then descend down to Mweka (10,065 feet). Clients who are affected by altitude sickness on the way up will usually recover very quickly as they descend. That is a stark contrast to what would happen if they were required to sleep at almost 19,000 feet.
Therefore, we do not use Crater Camp because of the risk involved for both clients and staff (the porters do not want to sleep up there either due to altitude sickness, extreme weather conditions, and lack of toilets).