We always say that one of the joys of climbing Kilimanjaro is sticking your head out your tent at night to gaze up to the Heavens. The lack of light pollution and the fact you’re usually above the clouds means that the views of the stars above are simply, well, out of this world!
To give you an idea of what I am talking about, I urge you to watch this two-minute footage of the night sky above Kibo. It is quite breathtaking! What climbers see above Kili is never quite as jaw-dropping as this – I think special equipment must have been used to capture all that majesty. But just as beautiful are the head-torches heading up the slopes of Kili from Kibo Huts on the Marangu Route (and also, round the corner, the Barafu Route) to the summit.
Anyway, I urge you to watch this video – it’s quite enthralling and only lasts a couple of minutes: Stars over Kilimanjaro:
Video of Alternative Lemosho
Want to know what it’s like to climb our famous Alternative Lemosho Route? Well, one of our clients, Jennifer Truitt, has just made this great 30-minute-plus video of her experience. It’s not a promo video for us – it’s honest, and I think it truly conveys the joy, hard work and obstacles that have to be surmounted to get to the top. Hope you like it!
You can see it right here:
I am grateful to Pamina Gimber for bringing to our notice a new record that’s just been set. Jack Rea from Wetherby in Yorkshire, who is a pupil at Aysgarth School in Newton-le-Willows, climbed to the summit with his father, Aaron, last week.
In doing so we believe he set a new mark for the youngest British person ever to walk to the summit at just 10 years and 20 days old.
Though Jack is quite a bit outside the world record, held by Keats Boyd from California who was just seven when he reached Uhuru Peak, we believe that he beats the old British record, set by Oisin Devitt from Jersey last year.
Nor is the culmination of Jack’s ambition. As was quoted in the Yorkshire Post, Jack said: “It is my ambition to climb the seven summits which are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents.
“Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and is my first summit I am going to complete.”
To make a hugely impressive feat just that bit more impressive, Jack’s justgiving page (https://www.justgiving.com/Jack-Rhodes-Rea-2/) has so far collected £6957.28 in sponsorship from his climb.
We do, of course, congratulate Master Rea on this remarkable achievement – nice one Jack!
Those of you who keep one eye on events in Northern Tanzania will be aware that there have been a few worrying incidents over the past couple of years.
These ‘events’ – by which we mean bomb attacks – are sporadic, with four incidents over the past 18 months or so. And at the moment, we believe that Arusha is still OK to visit and we are still booking and sending people up Kilimanjaro/on safari; as, indeed, is every other trekking company. Furthermore, the Foreign Office in the UK – who, as you may be aware, are the most ‘pessimistic’ of bodies and always err very much on the side of caution – do not advise against travel in Tanzania. Indeed, it’s worth quoting from their current advice:
“Still current at: 16 July 2014
Updated: 8 July 2014
Latest update: Terrorism section – small scale attacks in Arusha in 2014
Although most visits to Tanzania are trouble-free, violent and armed crime is increasing. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.
There is an underlying threat from terrorism.
Around 75,000 British nationals visit Tanzania every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.”
For once we agree with the Foreign Office on this matter and think their advice is sound and sensible.
So what exactly were these bomb attacks in Arusha? Well the first of the current spate of attacks took place on May 5 last year when a church congregation was attacked as they attended Sunday communion. One of the most serious attacks, three people were killed on the spot and a number were injured. The next attack took place on June 15th, just over a month later, when a political rally was attacked by terrorists with grenades, leaving another four killed.
Following a period of relative calm, there have been a couple of incidents recently that have got people worried. Firstly, a bomb was thrown at a Muslim cleric, leaving two wounded. And then on the 13th of this month, an ‘improvised explosive device’ (IED) was thrown into an Indian restaurant. Eight people were injured. The most worrying aspect about this latest incident, at least from a tourist point of view, was that the restaurant was popular with foreigners and even the occasional holidaymaker – suggesting, perhaps, a change of target.
Nobody knows whether these attacks are all linked or the motives behind them; though in the last attack two people were quickly arrested and are currently helping people with their enquiries. We can only hope that the information they provide can shed some light onto all the attacks and help to bring about their end.
In the meantime, we will of course report on any developments and should the situation worsen we’ll be sure to let you know.
Ever since I began writing about Kilimanjaro at the start of this millennium, I’ve been writing about the demise of the glaciers. Experts in such matters – in particular, Lonnie Thompson and his team from Ohio State University, Massachusetts – have largely been in agreement that the iconic ‘snows of Kilimanjaro’ were in fact melting faster than ever before; and the causes behind this disappearance were largely man-made. The topic then received worldwide publicity in Al Gore’s 2006 oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
Now, however, there appears to be a growing number of people who believe that, actually, the glaciers are here to stay. An article in a recent edition of Tanzania’s Daily News is typical. In it, various local ‘experts’ are asked for their opinions on whether the glaciers are diminishing and whether, as Prof Thompson once predicted, they really will disappear altogether by 2020. Most of those in the article who give their opinion tend to disagree with Prof Thompson’s predictions, and indeed think that the glaciers are indeed here to stay!
So who do we believe?
Well, looking again at the article (http://www.eturbonews.com/44420/mount-kilimanjaro-glaciers-nowhere-near-extinction) and all the evidence over the last twenty years or so from Professor Thompson, I have to say I still side with the latter. For one thing, of the experts quoted in the article, the one with the most authority is perhaps Imani Kikoti, the ecologist at Kilimanjaro National Park. He is quoted as saying that “Much as we agree that the snow has declined over centuries, but we are comfortable that its total melt will not happen in the near future.”
But while I would love to be able to agree with Mr Kikoti, the fact is that the weight of evidence would suggest otherwise. Furthermore, as an employee of KINAPA it could be argued that he does have a vested interest in saying that the glaciers won’t melt; it reminds me a little of a former Minister for Tourism in Tanzania’s government a few years ago, who said exactly the same thing. Her argument seemed to come out of nowhere and contradicted all the scientific evidence that was been produced at the time – which could only lead one to conclude that she was merely saying this in order to ensure that tourists would still come to Tanzania to witness the African snows for themselves.
The other main expert the article cites is Victor Manyanga, a tour guide with
over a dozen years’ experience on Kilimanjaro, who says that (and apologies for the syntax – I’m just quoting verbatim from the article) “For naked eyes you cant tell if there’s any changes on the ice quantity from what we’ve seen ten years ago”.
In response, I am afraid that I just have to flatly disagree with this argument. Victor and I have been visiting and climbing Kilimanjaro for about the same length of time, and I have to say that recently the depletion of the glaciers has been markedly more evident than previously. The Furtwangler Glacier is little more than a small lump on the western side of the crater now, where before it was quite a formidable wall of ice, and everywhere you look on the summit the ice has clearly shrunk, retreated and melted considerably.
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.
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: www.160girls.com.
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 www.kilimanjaromarathon.com.
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.