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Day One on the Mountain

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa


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"As wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Mount Kilimanjaro." - Ernest Hemingway

Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5890 metres, is the highest peak in Africa. It also has the distinction of being the tallest free-standing mountain (i.e. not in an mountain range) and the tallest "walkable" mountain in the world. Today, the 23rd of January 2005, I will start my attempt to ascend to the peak of Kibo, the tallest point on the mountain.

20050123 0..ir Shot.JPG

A Short Geology and History Lesson

Mount Kilimanjaro lies on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, just south of the Equator. To the west lies the Great African Rift Valley, created by tremendous tectonic forces which also gave birth to a string of other volcanoes. One of these, Mount Kenya, was originally much higher than Kilimanjaro.

The three summits of Mount Kilimanjaro, Shira, Kibo and Mawenzi are all of very recent origin. Shira and Mawenzi both have suffered considerable erosion and only jagged peaks remain. Kibo, the central, youngest and highest peak has survived as an almost perfect cone.

20050123 01 Kibo.JPG

It is unknown if any of the natives in the area had ever climbed the mountain all the way to the top. Europeans first arriving in the area heard tales of brave souls sent up the mountain to bring back the silver on it's slopes. They reached the silver slopes and gathered up the silver, but upon coming down the mount found the silver had turned to water.

Dr. Hans Meyer was the first European to summit the mount on the 5th of October 1889.

Interested to learn more? Click here.

The Route

I will be taking the Rongai route. Rongai is the only route over on the northeastern side of the mountain, starting close to the Kenyan border. It is not as popular as other routes, probably because it was closed for many years due to border skirmishes between Kenya and Tanzania. The route has re-opened (no more skirmishes) and is gaining popularity.

Day one is a 3 to 4 hour climb from Rongai village up to Moorland camp at 2600m, a rise of 650m. The climb is through a pine forest, emerging eventually into the moorland.

Day two is a 6 to 7 hour trek rising 1000m up to 3600m to the Kikelewa Caves camp.

Day 3 climbs from Kikelewa Cave to Mawenzi Tarn Camp, a rise of 730m to 4330m in 3 to 4 hours. On this climb I should see the giant senecios growing in an almost alien landscape.

Day 4 climbs across the saddle between the Kibo and Mawenzi peaks, rising 520m beforing decending 100m and ending at 4750m. The trek takes about 4 to 5 hours. The landscape at this high altitude is alpine desert. It's an early night to bed as the summit attempt is early the next day.

Day 5 starts very early as the drive to the summit happens at night, however, it will be a full moon so if the night is clear we should have good light. We leave the school camp probably around midnight for Gillman's point at 5735m above sea level. This will take 5 to 6 hours switch backing up the loose volcanic scree.

Arriving at Gillman's Point the Park Rangers will award you a certificate, but the real goal is still 2 hours ahead, Uhuru Peak at 5896m above sea level. Somewhere in here, the sun will rise and I will (assuming I am still alive and on the mountain) see the sun rise over the clouds.

After a short stint at the top, the descent starts right away. From the summit, we descend 2016m to Horombo Huts at 3720m altitude. All told, the summit and the descent will take anywhere from 9 to 15 hours of hiking.

The final day descends us back to Arusha at 1650m.

So, that, in a clinical, dull nutshell is the climb. The more important and interesting stuff should come in about a week, when I get on here and tell you how it ACTUALLY went.

Wish me luck!

Posted by GregW 19:09 Archived in Tanzania

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