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Look who made it to the top of Kilimanjaro this week!
While all this was going on, attempts to be the first to conquer Kilimanjaro continued
apace. In 1887, of the Austro-
Then the American naturalist, , who had primarily come to investigate the fauna and flora of the mountain slopes, made a rather reckless attempt. Abbott was struck down by illness fairly early on in the climb but his companion, Otto Ehlers of the German East African Company, pushed on, reaching (according to him) 19,680ft (5904m). Not for the first time in the history of climbing Kilimanjaro, however, this figure has been sceptically received by others – particularly as it is at least 8m above the highest point on the mountain!
Both Teleki and Abbott, however, played a part in the success of the eventual conqueror of Kilimanjaro, Dr Hans Meyer: Teleki, by providing information about the ascent to Meyer in a chance encounter during Meyer’s first trip to the region in 1887; Abbott, by providing accommodation in Moshi for Meyer and his party during their successful expedition of 1889.
Hans Meyer was a geology professor and the son of a wealthy editor from Leipzig (he himself later joined the editorial board and became its director, retiring in 1888, one year before the conquest of Kili, to become professor of Colonial Geography at Leipzig University). In all he made four trips to Kilimanjaro. Following the partial success of his first attempt in 1887, when he managed to reach 18,000ft (5400m), Meyer returned the following year for a second assault with experienced African traveller and friend Dr Oscar Baumann.
Unfortunately, his timing couldn’t have been worse: the , an Arab-
He also had a considerable back-
The size of his entourage, however, shouldn’t detract from the magnitude of Meyer’s achievement: as well as the usual hardships associated with climbing Kilimanjaro, Meyer also had to contend along the way with deserters from his party, a lack of any clear path, elephant traps (large pits dug by locals and concealed by ferns to trap the unwary pachyderm), as well as the unpleasant, rapacious chief of Moshi, Mandara.
It is also worth noting here that Meyer did not begin his walk on the mountain, as today’s visitors do, but in Mombasa, 14 days by foot, according to Meyer, from the Kilimanjaro town of Taveta!
Then there was the snow and ice, so much more prevalent in the late 1800s on Kili than it is today. Above 4500m Meyer had to trek upon snow for virtually the whole day, even though his route up Kibo from the Saddle is not too dissimilar to that taken by the vast majority of the thousands of trekkers every year – and today there is no snow on the route.
The added difficulties caused by the snow are well described in Meyer’s book Across
East African Glaciers. Rising at 2.30am for their first assault on the summit, Meyer
and Purtscheller spent most of the morning carving a stairway out of a sheer ice-
On their second attempt, however, three days later on 6 October 1889, and with the
stairs still intact in the ice from the first ascent, they were able to gain the
eastern side of the rim by mid-
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|History of Kilimanjaro: Rebmann's journey and the discovery of snow|
|History of Kilimanjaro: first attempts at the summit|
|History of Kilimanjaro: Colonization|
|History of Kilimanjaro: the conquest of Kilimanjaro|
|The Germans in East Africa|
|History of Kilimanjaro: after Hans Meyer|
|History of Kilimanjaro:the mountain today|
|The Chagga: an introduction|