News October-December 2009

Fifteen Welsh rugby captains to climb Kilimanjaro
Posted by Henry at 12:45 pm, December 3rd 2009.
In September 2010 15 Welsh rugby captains will be climbing Africa’s highest mountain in aid of Velindre Cancer Centre’s Stepping Stones Appeal. The climb was inspired by Sue Evans, the wife of Huw, the official photographer to the Welsh Rugby Union, who was diagnosed with lung cancer last year.

Among those taking part are euan Evans, Gareth Thomas, Scott Gibbs, Scott Quinnell, Garin Jenkins and Rob Howley, as well as the current Wales coach Warren Gatland. The aim of the climb is to raise 1m for the charity, which conducts research into lung cancer. Interestingly, one in five people who contract lung cancer don’t actually smoke – including Sue herself.

We do of course wish the expedition well and will keep you up to date with their progress over the coming months leading up to the climb.

The melting glaciers of Kilimanjaro – an update
Posted by Henry at 4:08 pm, November 27th 2009.
An article in this month’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed that Kilimanjaro will shortly be free of glaciers – for the first time in approximately 12,000 years.

Even more depressingly, contrary to recent science they have confirmed many people’s worst fears – that the blame for their disappearance can be aimed squarely at humanity and our deleterious effects on the world’s climate.

Scientists have been measuring the decline of Kilimanjaro’s glaciers since the milennium, and have recorded the decline of both the mountain’s Southern Icefield – which lost 5.1m in height between 2000 and 2007 – and the Furtwangler Glacier, which had shrunk by 4.8m (almost 50% of its depth) over the same period.

According to the article, the mountain has never before suffered such a decline in its icy summit – not even during a 300-year drought around 4200 years ago. It is this fact in particuar that led scientists to conclude that, while drier conditions regionally could lead to some loss of ice, the fact that so much ice has been lost recently suggests that the overall rise in world temperature must be at the main reason why Kilimanjaro is slowing losing its snowy mantle.

The scientists behind such gloomy forecasts are Professor Lonnie Thompson and Dr Doug Hardy, the leading lights in a team of climatologists from the University of Ohio whose work on Kilimanjaro and other glaciers around the world has done much to increase both our knowledge of the mountain and the long-term effects of climate change.

Currently, scientists reckon that Kilimanjaro’s summit will be entirely free of ice around 2040 – though some put it as soon as 2020.

Snake coughs up new species for scientist
Posted by Henry at 3:29 pm, November 26th 2009.
As you know, in addition to writing on all-things Kilimanjaro we also like to report on Tanzanian topics that, though only tenuously linked to the mountain, are diverting enough to mention anyway. In this instance, a new species of chameleon has been discovered in the southern mountains of Tanzania after it was spat up by a snake at the feet of a researcher.

Dr Andrew Marshall, a conservationist from York University, was actually in the Magombera forest to survey the monkeys there, when he came across a twig snake in the undergrowth. Dr Marshall’s astonishment was as nothing to the snake’s, which sicked up the chameleon out of sheer terror before fleeing deeper into the forest. Rather than giving the snake’s ‘gift’ a wide berth, the good doctor did what every decent scientist would and took photographs to send to colleagues, who confirmed that it was a species previously unknown to science.

The events described actually took place in 2005 but it is only now that the creature has been recognised as being a new species – with chameleons, given their changing colour it’s difficult to actually make sure that a new discovery is just that, and not merely an unusual example of a known species.

This chameleon has been christened Kinyongia magomberae, after the forest in which it was found. Dr Marshall is hoping that the discovery of this chameleon will be enough to convince the authorities to provide some sort of official status to this as-yet unprotected forest.

Solar eclipse will be visible from Kilimanjaro
Posted by Henry at 3:20 pm, November 20th 2009.
As if the thrill of climbing Africa’s highest mountain wasn’t exciting enough, word has reached us that a solar eclipse in mid-January 2010 will be visible from Kilimanjaro.

The eclipse is due on the morning of 15 January. The eclipse is one of only four that will be happening across the globe this year, and is known technically as an annular eclipse because it is one that occurs when the Moon covers the centre of the Sun, but not its edges, leaving a ring (or annulus) of the Sun visible around its edges.

Though Kilimanjaro lies just too far to the south of the 300km-wide trail across Kenya along which it is possible to see the entire annular eclipse, those in northern Tanzania and on Kilimanjaro will witness a partial eclipse. The phenomenon will occur at around 8.30am, when presumably a few stragglers will be making their way around the crater rim. Indeed, it may even be worth delaying your final climb to Uhuru Peak to coincide your arrival there with the eclipse.

So if you’re toying with the idea of a Kilimanjaro climb, but weren’t sure when, this could just be the incentive you need! (Though if you head to Kilimanajro at this time, make sure you take suitable protection for your eyes and don’t look direcctly at the sun at any time.)

Female paraplegic to climb Kilimanjaro
Posted by Henry at 3:05 pm, November 11th 2009.

In January of next year, Erica Davis is aimng to become the first paraplegic female – and only the second paraplegic ever – to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Erica has been paralysed since 2005 when a microscopic bleed in her spinal cord called a Cavernous Hemangioma which left her paralyzed from the chest down. Since then, however, she has competed in seven triathlons, over ten cycling races, and a few half and full marathons – most of which she won. She has also trained at two of the USA Olympic Training Centers and hopes to officially be on the USA Paralympic team in 2012.

On her climb she will be climbing with Tara Butcher, who lost her left leg below the knee in 2005 following a car accident.

A documentary, “Through the Roof”, is being made that follows Erica and Tara’s progress towards the summit. The aim of the climb and the documentary is to benefit the Challenged Athletes Foundation, an global charitable organization that assists challenged athletes achieve their athletic dreams.

For more information on the charity and the climb, please visit


We do, of course, wish both Erica and Tara every success with her expedition, and will let you know how they get on in due course.

More information on the first paraplegic to conquer Kilimanjaro
Posted by Henry at 4:31 pm, October 6th 2009.
It appears that the news that a paraplegic has reached the summit of Kilimanjaro is true! On September 30 2009 Chris Waddell, a paralympian skier from Park City, Utah, who had previously earned renown as the most decorated male skier in Paralympic history, winning twelve medals over four winter games (as well as participating in three summer games too), reached the summit via the Marangu Route with his One Revolution team. Waddell thus became the first paraplegic to complete the climb all the way to the summit, beating fellow American and army veteran Darol Kubacz who (contrary to previous reports) in October 2008 made it not to the summit but to an altitude of 18,400ft (around 5608m) before having to turn back through exhaustion.

Paraplegic conquers Kilimanjaro!
Posted by Henry at 5:22 pm, October 2nd 2009.
Reports are coming in of a successful attempt on the summit of Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro, by Chris Waddell, from Utah, a paraplegic who made it to the top using a specially designed bomba bicycle. Mr Waddell, who broke his back 21 years ago while skiing, is used to a lifetime of overachieving, having won 12 medals in downhill ski racing over four Paralympic Games, made it to the top on Wednesday according to reports. And though he may not be the first paraplegic to make it to the summit – Darol Kubacz, also from the US, is said to have reached the crater rim in October 2008 – he is nevertheless said to be the first to reach Uhuru Peak.

We will bring you more news about Chris’ climb as soon as we get it.

Kilimanjaro news stories Jan-Mar 2010 >>