News January-March 2014

Missing German woman rescued on Kilimanjaro

Posted 25 March 2014

A woman who had gone missing with her guide over the weekend were found by KINAPA staff at the weekend.

Details are only just emerging about the rescue but it appears that the woman in question, 32-year-old German Jeanne Trasca, became lost after diverting from the main trail. Ms Trasca, who had signed up with the local company Nordic Trails for her climb, was heading to Mawenzi Peak with her guide, Athumani Juma, when the pair lost their way.

According to TANAPA (the Tanzanian Parks Authority), it is unknown when whether they deliberately diverted from the trail or became lost due to the terrible weather conditions prevalent at the weekend.

The poor weather also hampered the subsequent search for them, with a helicopter search unable to locate them due to poor visibility. However, the two were eventually located and taken to Horombo Huts, on the Marangu Route, late on Saturday evening, arriving back at Marangu Gate later that same night. Ms Trasca was described as being shaken by the ordeal but was otherwise unharmed.

Such events do happen occasionally on Kilimanjaro, perhaps the most famous in recent times being the case of the South Korean man who disappeared near Barafu Huts shortly after summitting and was never seen again. All of which proves that, despite the large numbers of people who hike up and down its slopes every year, Kilimanjaro, like any mountain 5895m high and populated by some of Africa’s man-eating residents, is still a dangerous place for those who are unprepared or poorly organised.

Kilimanjaro may be the biggest mountain in Africa – but where does it rank amongst the world’s highest mountains?

There is no doubt that one of the main attractions of climbing Kilimanjaro is that afterwards you can boast to your friends that you have stood at the highest point on an entire continent with Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro, a magnificent 5895m above sea level. Indeed, it’s pretty much the easiest of the so-called Seven Summits (the highest mountains on each of the seven continents) to conquer: Everest in Asia (8848m; 29,029ft)and Aconcagua (6980m; 22,837 ft) in South America are both at least a kilometre higher (and in Everest’s case, almost 3km taller!); Mount McKinley (aka Denali) in North America may be only slightly taller than Kili at 6168m (20,237 ft) but is more inaccessible, positioned as it is in remote Alaska, and is a more technical climb too; inaccessibility is also a major problem with The Carstenz Pyramid, in the heart of Irian Jaya, Australasia’s highest peak at 4884m/16,023 ft, and Vinson in Antarctica (4897m, 16,067ft); while Mount Elbrus – Europe’s highest peak at 5,642 metres (18,510 ft) – is a straightforward climb but is also a little remote (being in the western Caucasus mountain range) and, being in Russia, the permit situation can be a little tricky too.

But while Kilimanjaro may be the highest peak in Africa, where does it rank amongst the world’s highest mountains. The answer is, I’m afraid, not that high at all. Indeed, given that the individual peaks in the Himalayas and the neighbouring Karakoram and other central Asian ranges account for all the top 100, and that lofty Aconcagua in the Andes only comes in at a lowly 189th according to one source, you probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that Mount Kilimanjaro doesn’t even rank in the top 200(!) of the world’s highest mountains.

Given the different ways that people measure a mountain, and that people have different ideas as to what is a mountain and what is a peak (ie a second summit on the same mountain, such as Mawenzi on Kilimanjaro), it’s actually quite difficult to determine where exactly Kilimanjaro comes in the list of the world’s highest mountains; the best guess we can come up with is position 234. But this, of course, is open to debate. For example, Jill Neate’s book “High Asia: An Illustrated History of the 7,000 Metre Peaks” , lists no less than 400 peaks between 7000 and 8000 metres – which obviously means that Kilimanjaro wouldn’t even feature in the top 500 if we were to use her definitions and measurements.

So far, so bad for those of you who thought that by conquering Africa’s highest mountain you’d also conquered one of the world’s highest mountains too. But don’t despair just yet: for as we said above, there are many ways of measuring altitudes and the height of a mountain. For while Everest and co may be the highest mountains above sea level, they are not usually the highest mountains above the surrounding terrain. By this measurement, Mount McKinley, Nanga Parbat and, yes, Kilimanjaro, are said to be the highest – though with no precise definition of what the grounde level should be, there is no way of accurately deciding which of these is the highest of them all.

What is more certain is Kilimanjaro claim to be the tallest free-standing mountain in the world (ie one that is not part of a mountain range: Nanga Parbat is at the western end of the Himalaya range, while McKinley is part of the Alaska range). And this, we think, is very important. For while Everest and her neighbours may be a couple of kilometres taller than Kili, because they’re surrounded by peaks that are almost as high they look somewhat less impressive because of it; while Kilimanjaro stands all by itself in the middle of the East African plain, it’s nearest neighbour, Mount Meru, over 60km away and, at 4566m, over a kilometre shorter too.

And with beautiful cloud forest bearding its lower slopes and a crown of snow at the summit, no mountain, in this author’s humble opinion, is more magnificent than the Roof of Africa.

Who has climbed the most?

Posted 20 March 2014

Last year I was contacted by a well-known US-based trekking company who wanted to know which person had climbed Kili the greatest number of times.

I replied that the holder of this record would undoubtedly be one of the the guides who make their living from climbing the mountain. One of our guides, Freddie Achedo, for example, says he has climbed over 600 times now and I know there are many others like him.

That prompted the agency to rephrase their question, and ask which Westerner/non-Tanzanian has reached the summit of Africa’s highest mountain the most. It transpired that their boss was due to make his fiftieth climb (which he has since completed) and were wondering if he could claim some kind of record for this.

Fifty is undoubtedly an impressive number, and we extend our congratulations to Eddie Frank, of Tusker, for reaching this milestone. But when it comes to holding the record, we think he’s got some way to go before he reaches the mark set by Rev. Dr. Richard Gustavovich Reusch (1891-1975).

Most of you who have climbed Africa’s highest mountain or know a bit about it will be familiar with the good doctor, for he gives his name to the inner crater on the mountain’s highest peak, Kibo. But until now I had no idea just what a full life Pastor Reusch led, or why he deserved to have the Reusch Crater named after him.

His life before he rocked up on the shores of East Africa sounds like the wilder stories of Kipling or Lawrence of Arabia; indeed, one source on the internet described him as an “Imperial Russian Cavalry Officer, Lutheran Pastor, Anti-Bolshevik, East African Leipzig and Augustana Missionary, Mountaineer, Ethnographer, Builder, British Spy, Linguist, Historian, Honorary Masai, College Professor and LCA Pastor” – which sums him up pretty neatly.

But it was his exploits on Africa’s highest mountain for which he is duly remembered. He arrived in Arusha in 1923, and made his first ascent three years later in 1926. It was on that trip that he found the mummified corpse of a leopard that had been discovered by Dr Donald Latham in the Kibo crater the previous year. Indeed, Pastor Reusch cut off one of the ears of the leopard to keep as a souvenir. (The leopard subsequently earns a level of fame it could only dream about when it was alive by featuring in the opening paragraph of Ernest Hemingway’s semi-autobiographical work, The Snows of Kilimanjaro.)

On a subsequent trek a year later Reusch discovered the inner crater that bears his name. In 1929 he also went on to found the Mountain Club of East Africa along with Clement Gillman – who also, as many of you will know, has a spot on Kibo’s crater rim named after him. (Incidentally Reusch’s wife, Elveda, is also immortalised on the mountain, with one of the minor ‘summits’ between Stella Point and Uhuru Peak, on the southern crater rim, named after her.)

In all, Richard Reusch is said to have summited somewhere between 65 and 75 times in all. Yet as we said at the start of this article, even this impressive achievement pails into insignificance when compared to the guides for whom leading treks is a way of life, and who bounce up and down the mountain like a yo-yo. Freddie Achedo, a man who has led many, many climbs for us over the years, thinks he has now climbed 687 times. And there are said to be two guides from the long-standing Marangu Hotel that have climbed over a thousand times.

Of course, it’s difficult to verify such figures – but over the coming weeks and months I will endeavour to find out which guide holds the record for the highest number of climbs – and just how many times they have stood at the summit of Africa’s highest mountain.

New guidebook now in the shops

Posted 14 March 2014

The latest edition of our bestselling guide to climbing Africa’s highest mountain is now in the shops in the UK and should be with Amazon and other US outlets by the middle of next week. This fourth edition has been completely updated but still includes all the information that anyone looking to climb the Roof of Africa would want.

As always, the book contains everything you need to take you from your sofa to the summit, including a comprehensive reviews of all the major trekking agencies both in Tanzania and abroad; details on what to pack for the mountain, how to get fit for the mountain and how to prepare for your climb; a study in how to get to northern Tanzania, and a comprehensive guide to the towns and cities that will be your base before and after your climb; plus, of course, a thorough look at the mountain itself, its geology, history, flora and fauna, plus in-depth descriptions of all the routes.

You can read more about the book by clicking on the following link – about the Kilimanjaro guide – where you can also find links so you can order your copy through Amazon UK and US.

East Africa moves step closer to monetary union

Posted 11 March 2014

In a move that will, in time, have enormous consequences for tourism in the region, the citizens of the five nations that make up East Africa can now travel to their fellow East African nations without having to change money at the border.

The development has come about thanks to the introduction of the Payment and Settlement Systems Integration Program (PSSIP). This allows the citizens of each nation to use their credit and debit cards in the other East African nations.

Launched in Arusha on Monday, at the moment the system will have little impact on tourism, of course; but PSSIP is widely seen as the first major step on the road to full monetary union – which will, if it ever comes to fruition, enable tourists to use the same currency in each country. Bad news for the moneychangers, of course, but good news for those travelling around the region who will no longer have to change money at every new country.

Kenyans dominate Sunday’s Marathon

Posted 4 March 2014

As the experts predicted, Kenyans dominated the marathon on Sunday, winning all the medals in both the men’s and women’s events. David Ruto took the top prize in the men’s event in a time of 2 hours, 16 minutes and 4 seconds, with Julias Kilimo and Victor Serem in second and third respectively.

While in the women’s evening, Frida Lodepa stormed home in 2 hours, 40 minutes and 11 seconds, beating off the challenges of fellow Kenyans Joah Rutich and Jackline Kithia.

The host nation Tanzania didn’t leave entirely empty-handed, however, with Jackline Cynthia winning the half marathon – though only after stiff competition from the chasing pack that included an Ethiopian and another eight Kenyans!

Man leads 26 people to the summit – in their shorts!

Posted 18 February 2014

News has just reached us that Dutch daredevil, guru and all-round show-off Wim Hof has successfully led an entire team of 26 people to the summit of Africa’s highest mountain. According to reports, all 26 people are said to have miraculously made it safely without suffering any effects of altitude.

Perhaps even more remarkable, however, is the fact that 11 members of the team, who were aged between 28 and 65, joined Mr Hof in making it to Uhuru Peak in their shorts!

Mr Hof is renowned for such exploits in which he claims to be able to exert an unusually high level of control over his mind and body in even the most extreme of conditions. Indeed, his nickname is the Ice Man after he successfully broke the world record for sitting in an ice bath, managing 1 hour and 13 minutes.

Using just the power of his mind, he claims, he is able to control the temperature of his body.

We do of course congratulate Mr Hof and all his team on a truly incredible achievement.

Boss of KINAPA warns that mountain is being ‘overwhelmed by climbers’

Posted 14 February 2014

According to a story in the Daily News, Erastus Lufungulo, the boss of KINAPA (the National Park Authority that controls the mountain), warned that too many people were visiting the park and could cause damage to the mountain.

His statements were backed up by the boss of Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), Allan Kijazi, who said that while the 50,000+ tourists who climb every year was a manageable number, the damage to the environment arose from the estimated 200,000 porters and other crew members who accompany them.

Backing up his words with actions, Mr Kijazi stated that this year measures would be taken to limit the size of the crews taken up by trekkers.

Mr Lufungulo actually has some form on this matter, having introduced restrictions on the size of the crews on neighbouring Mount Meru, where the park fees for crew members was increased.

A similar measure may be difficult to introduce on Africa’s highest mountain,however. For one thing, the trekking agencies who make a living on the Roof of Africa will argue that a reduction in the number of crew members could reduce the chances of people making it to the summit and risk their safety too.

Furthermore, many of the surrounding villages rely on the mountain for their livelihoods, with many of the men working as porters and guides on the slopes. A reduction in the numbers allowed to climb may have a significant impact on their income.

It could also be argued that the measures introduced on Meru had mixed results: though we have no official figures to back this up, in our experience fewer people seem to climb that mountain these days, leading presumably to a loss of revenue for both TANAPA and the local villages.

Climb for 160 Girls Project charity

Posted 14 February 2014

This March, Eve-Anadel Coronado, a lawyer from Montreal in Canada, and three friends will be attempting to reach the top of Africa’s highest mountain. The quartet are climbing for the charity 160 Girls Project.

As Ms Coronado explains: “As you may know, a child is raped every 30 minutes in Kenya. One of the reasons is the misguided thinking of many men in sub-Saharan Africa who believe that having sex with a virgin will cure them of HIV/AIDS.

“The 160 Girls Project is a legal initiative that represents 160 Kenyan girls between the ages of 3 and 17 that were victims of rape and were ignored by the police when they reached out for help. With the help of the equality effect, these 160 Kenyan girls brought a constitutional challenge against the Kenyan state, holding it accountable for the police treatment of their rape claims.

“On May 27, 2013, the High Court of Meru in eastern Kenyan found in favour of these 160 Kenyan girls. The 160 Girls Project is now monitoring to ensure that the police follow the court’s ruling and is also bringing similar suits in Malawi and Ghana.”

You can follow the progress of Eve-Anadel and her friends by visiting the website she has set up:

We will of course keep you up to date with their progress and wish them luck with their Lemosho climb.

Bad weather hitting climbs

Posted 11 February 2014

It appears that there has been some unseasonably bad weather over the past few days. February is normally a great time to climb – quieter than the ‘summer’ months of June-September and yet with (usually) clear skies and dry conditions.

This year, however, there has some unseasonable ‘precipitation’ with the mountain slopes being lashed by some torrential downpours.Of course, further up the mountain on Kibo this precipitation falls as snow and last week we heard of one group having to turn round at Gilman’s Point due to the snow being so deep.

Usually I hear stories like this in late December/January after the short rainy season but to happen now – almost exactly half way between the two main rainy seasons – is unusual.

Unfortunately, the forecast is for more to come for the next week at least. One hopes this doesn’t prevent too many people from reaching the summit – it’s a long way to come – and a lot of money and effort spent – just to be turned back before your goal.

One month left to register online for marathon

Posted 22 January 2014

The Marathon is once again almost upon us. This year the race will be run on 2 March and this year, for the first time, it’s been possible to register and enter online. Online entrants must register by 18 February at

Last year there were 400 foreign entries, with the USA boasting most foreign runners, with the UK second. The race has been run since 2003 and this year, once again, there will be four different events including a half-marathon, disabled race and 5km ‘fun run’ in addition to the main marathon. The mountain keeps an eye on events from above but doesn’t actually have much to do with the race itself, with the course never reaching more than 1150m in altitude.

Kili an ‘economic lifeline’ for local community

According to a report out this month, Africa’s highest mountain is believed to be contributing about Ts80 billion (US$50 million) to the national coffers.

A magnificent amount, but even this vast figure doesn’t really explain just how much the mountain contributes to the local economy. It is estimated that 30,000 people directly earn their living from the mountain, with the mountain providing Ts20 billion per annum (US$12.5 million) to the local economy.

Indeed, according to one NGO, the Dutch-based SNV, the mountain provides the most successful transfer of resources of any world attraction into its local communities.

The report, “Making success work for the poor: Package tourism in Northern Tanzania!”, was written for SNV and ODI by Jonathan Mitchell, Jodie Keane and Jenny Laidlaw, who interviewed locals, tour operators and other concerned parties.

Much of the Ts20 billion earned by local communities is derived from the wages of the porters and guides, though over 90% of the food consumed on the mountain is also sourced from the local markets, where the overwhelming number of beneficiaries of the expenditure are poor local farmers and stallholders.

Interestingly, though the park fees of any trek are about US$1000 on average per person, only 5% of these are said to be ‘pro-poor’ – that is to say, the money directly benefits the poor of the local community. The percentage is so small because, of course, TANAPA and KINAPA staff are all very well paid, as anybody who has seen their cars (and stomachs) will testify.

Still, the study on the whole seems largely positive – though the US$13 million ‘pro-poor’ earnings still seem fairly measly when compared to the US$103 million spent by tourists on the whole Northern Circuit.

Latest ecological news on the mountain

Posted January 3, 2014

As much as I would rather write about something more cheery, hot on the heels of Monday’s news that scientists predictions that the famous laciers will be gone within 30 years comes another doom-laden ecological report.

In the UK’s Guardian newspaper yesterday there was an article on the warnings issued by climate-change expert Prof Willy R. Makundi. There are nothing new in what he said – the thrust of which was that the number of tourists visiting the mountain is likely to fall in the near future as ecological damage depletes the glaciers (this we are already aware of) and human activity ravages the forests that beard the lower slopes.

The professor goes onto explain that the fires that occasionally rage in Kili’s cloud forest – and which are nearly always the result of human activity – leads over time, by a convoluted process, to a downward shift in the treeline as a result of a drier (warmer) climate.

All of which is pretty familiar to those of us who make our living on the slopes of Africa’s highest mountain; but which makes it no less depressing.

Hopefully I’ll have some happier news to bring you in the coming weeks and months.