Story in photos
I am pleased that I’m your first entry for Africa. Let me be the first to get you some photos of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. It’s a stunning climb. We did it last November (2004). It wasn't a charity trek, but we did some fundraising for charity. I organized it and it was called “Kilts To Kilimanjaro”. There were 18 of us. And yes, I did wear the kilt on the summit.
We went the Rongai Route. I'd recommend it. Much quieter than the other
We were away about 9 days. We didn’t spend time acclimatising, we just arrived and set off the next day.
You do feel the effects of altitude though. We had a company looking after us – Guerba organised it and all the porters. The company and the place where we stayed briefed us on how to cope with altitude – they say polé polé – slowly slowly – that’s how to deal with altitude. It’s not a technically demanding climb though.
If you want to go out there, you get a group together and tie up with one of these companies. We’ve got a guy from work going to climb it in a fortnight with 4 or 5 others. The company sorted out the hotel – the Marangu at Moshi, Tanzania. We flew to Kilimanjaro international airport – most folk fly to Nairobi, then travel on to Kilimanjaro. We returned via Dar Es Salaam and Amsterdam with KLM. When you come out of Kilimanjaro airport it’s just a couple of hours to the start of the mountain.
It’s just one big mountain, as it’s a volcano, but there are about 5 routes. We did an unusual route: the most common it the Machame route but we went on the Rongai route. We were there in November, bordering on the wet season, with the risk of wet weather, and when I was researching it I was told the driest route was this route up the back. Also it’s the quietest route, you’re not walking into lots of other trekkers – and it’s also one of the easiest routes – it’s just a long walk. The whole thing’s about 5 days on the mountain, 3 days going up and 2 down, something like that.
To get a certificate to say you’ve climbed it, you have to reach the crater rim at Gilman’s Point (5700m), although the true summit is Uhuru Peak and it’s another one and a half hours each way. All 18 in our group got to the rim, and we had 14 of the 18 reached the Peak, That’s a high success rate – often get people drop out. We had a determined, competitive attitude. And polé polé. It’s also a day longer by that route, so there’s more time to acclimatise.
When going to the summit from Kibo, you leave at about 11.30 at night and set out in the dark kitted up for a freezing cold summit, in the pitch dark with a head torch. You walk up with the porters, and seem to walk for hours, all the time going up the air is getting thinner, then you reach the summit about 6.30 in the morning. The idea is to get there for sunrise. You reach Gilman's just as the sun is getting up, then you go across glaciers, looking down into the rim. It’s just unbelievable, and the views are incredible. It’s the equivalent in height of doing Ben Nevis from sea level but you’re doing it at altitude, so it’s much harder, and in the dark. We reached Uhuru peak about 8 a.m., and it was minus 20 degrees. The water bottle was frozen. You take a couple of photos and have a quick cup of tea and come down, back to Gilman’s, then come down about 4000 feet of scree, down to the tent about 1 pm. I’ve never been as knackered as that in my life. You get a couple of hours’ sleep then at about 3 pm you head down again for another few hours to beat the altitude..
One girl twisted her knee on the way down and limped down to Gillman’s. They have stretchers with wheels, and had to get Elaine stuck on that. The biggest problem can be altitude – you’re still at 16 or 17,000 ft. And they run the patient in the stretcher down the path, about 8 guys balancing this stretcher on a pneumatic tyre, she’s strapped in, they don’t even stop to change runners, they tap each other and take over.
Contributed by: Bill Cook
The team in uniform after we got back down from the mountain
On the Rongai Route
Warning sign for climbers
The "Tarn" where we got our fresh drinking water
Kibo. The bit you set off from for the summit
Bill at the summit of Kilimanjaro. Kilt on over the trousers. Well it
was about 20 below freezing
Earlier - what the well dressed Kilimanjaro trekker wears!
The World Trade Centre