*This post has little to do with food or kids, but I just had to share. Thanks*On the way from the airport after a midnight landing, to a little town called Moshi, Tanzania, our taxi driver motioned towards the sky and asked ‘Can you see those clouds up there?’
‘Those are not clouds. Those are the snow fields at the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro.’
And at that moment we each clenched a little. The enormity of it all sunk in.
It was Kilimanjaro that we (myself, the Doctor and our friend Val) had come to climb.
Sitting at 5895 mts above sea level, Kilimanjaro is the stuff of legend, paintings and song. The highest free-standing (not attached to a range) mountain in the world. The above pic is taken from around 4000m above sea level, the summit in the background.
The Mountain (as it’s known in my head) was our main purpose for visiting Africa. The wildlife we spoke of recently, here , whilst thoroughly impressive in its own way, was added to the trip as an after thought.
I’ve never climbed a mountain. Or camped much since I was a kid. So I’d like to start by saying this – climbing The Mountain is the toughest, but possibly the most thrilling and rewarding thing I’ve done so far in my life.
8 days in all saw us hiking, climbing and scrambling up different terrains and climates each day. Dense rainforest full of monkeys, dusty desert plains, rocky craters, alpine spruce and steep scree slopes to the snow fields, craters and icebergs of the summit. A hoard of guides and porters make the trip a little easier and more comfortable. You think you’re fairly fit and strong until you see porters with 20kg balanced on their heads, carrying their own back packs as well, race past you up a cliff on the way to the next camp.On day 2 the Doctor asked me to marry her and I gladly said yes! She’s a good sort after all. We are planning a seaside wedding for next spring.
Save the date!It is impossible to capture the true scale of the Mountain without some serious photography equipment, but I did my best with my little mirror-less.Camping. All set up by the porters and ready when we arrived at each camp after the day’s hiking. Along with a communal mess tent, purified water and good (basic), hot meals.There was even a porter to carry a camp toilet up the mountain so we didn’t need to use the ‘long drops’. He was my favourite porter. Along with the guide Richard who carried Doctor’s pack up the last leg to the summit, and mine for while too.
Scrambling. We never needed ropes (except for that one bit on the side of that cliff, we’ve moved on now) but there was still some quite serious scrambling, pushing and pulling up the sides of The Mountain. Exhausting stuff, particularly as the air became thinner.Floating on clouds. Our mate Val.The Summit. After 5 days hard work and training, the final push starts at midnight after 4hrs ‘sleep’ through a blizzard.
Arriving just on sunrise is the closest I can imagine we’ll get to arriving on a new planet.Fighting for breath. The thin air at this altitude (and for most of the last leg) has a different effect on everybody. The Doctor had a little nausea, I felt a bit delirious. It’s hard to recover your breath. I liken the sensation to walking 5 metres but feeling like you’ve run 100. The higher you go, the harder it is to recover. We elevated 2500m in 4 days and then 1500m in 6hrs to the summit. It is hard going.
Ice bergs and glaciers. They say climate change has caused the cap to melt considerably. Others say it’s the effect of local deforestation on the micro-climate. I don’t know who’s right, but what we saw was breath-taking. Well, literally.The way down. Same way we came up. We didn’t stay on the summit too long. Aside from the thin air it also -20*c and blowing a gale. It’s quite a surprise to see what you’ve just climbed up, having done it all in darkness with head torches.
Two days down-hill scrambling to the national park gates, another hour by bus and we were back safe at the hotel in Moshi.
A great cheer from all the climbers, guides and porters at our achievement.
An actual shower, cold beers, hot chips and eggs the perfect home-coming.
Sore muscles and bones sleeping soundly in warm beds.
I’ll never forget The Mountain.