On the roof of Africa!! Like it was yesterday… December 2013 brought for me another major expedition … Tanzania, Africa 5 895 m “Kili” – the tallest mountain in Africa, one of the “seven summits” (the highest of each continent), and the largest freestanding mountain in the world. From the savannah at the base, Kili supports five major ecological zones: rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and glaciers. Paying for guides is not my usual style. But it’s not an option in Tanzania and many other African countries. This is a big business, that draws in significant hard currency, and it is not legal to go on the mountain in any other fashion.
The regular route on Kilimanjaro is the “Marangu”; as the easiest and most direct way to the summit that utilizes hotel-sized huts for sleeping, it draws 80% of the traffic on the mountain.
While thousands of people climb the traditional routes on the front of the mountain, we were going to take on the lesser travelled and more challenging Machame route ending with a summit night push up the Western Breach. The Machame route is longer and more difficult, but also much more scenic. 20 years ago it was an adventure, with only a few ascents per year. It is now drawing serious traffic; we shared it with several other parties on the same itinerary.
…Day six… to the summit
Summit night, the worst night of my life.
We “woke up” by getting out of sleeping bag at 12 p.m. and immediately layering up. It was dark, and very cold out.
By going pole pole instead of as fast as some of us would have tried we avoided being at the edge of our breath… We were able to make it!
The climb was routine – one foot in front of the other up a long, dark trail formed by tens of thousands of boots in the volcanic scree and dust. I began to long for a sliver of light on the horizon just to break the boredom…. No wind, no precipitation. Just a whole lot of stars and a bright moon to keep us company.
In the pre-dawn gloom I could see the slope ahead finally begin to relent from the uniform steep slopes we had been on for hours. We were arriving at the crater rim! This point is named: Stella Point. It is an important point for many, because a decision is often reached here not to go on, depending on the conditions of weather, the route, and the clients.
We got to Stella Point at around 6:00 am. The sky to the east was starting to lighten. After gaining Stella Point the rest of the trip to the summit is physically much easier. There is one spot where the guides feel the need to watch you squeeze by some rock that steers you near the edge.
The crater is MASSIVE — you could fit a small town inside it—and as with any climb, there’s an amazing sense of accomplishment that comes from arriving at a point you’ve been looking up at for days or weeks at a time. We’d made it to the roof of Africa, and we were proud and happy (and cold).
For me the sun came up between Stella and the summit. Finally it happened – the sun burst spectacularly over the horizon, bathing the summit in a deep orange glow. I felt great! This was my most emotional moment. The sun warmed us up physically and mentally, and we eventually started creeping by those southern glaciers we’d been staring at all week.
If you ever get the chance to climb Kili, you should definitely do it! The mountain will beat you up however the whole trip would be amazing!!!!! GO FOR IT!!!
It was one of the most difficult but rewarding things I have ever done in my life!
#life #Kilimanjaro #dream #roof #of #Africa