Blast from the past

For the past month my trusty steed has been in for a service (general overhaul, replace worn parts and a much needed removal of dust from the inner workings). In lieu of the usual update i have decided to delve into the Archives. This is particularly relevant at the moment with COPE 17 being held in Durban discussing global warming and the implementation (or lack of) of the Kyoto Protocol.

(In 2005 – it was predicted that the Glaciers atop of Mount Kilimanjaro would have come close to disappearing in the following ten years. Based on the subjective evidence that I have seen – photographs from recent intrepid climbers – this prediction is being fulfilled).

Cast your minds back to 2005:
-The year Youtube was launched (anyone remember life before YouTube?)
-The Kyoto Protocol goes into effect, without the support of the United States and Australia.
-The Superjumbo jet aircraft Airbus A380 makes its first flight from Toulouse, France.
-Singer Michael Jackson is acquitted of all charges in his child molestation trial.
-Four explosions rock the transport network in London, three on the London Underground and one on a bus; 56 people die and over 700 are injured.
-The Provisional Irish Republican Army issues a statement formally ordering an end to the armed campaign it has pursued since 1969 and ordering all its units to dump their arms.
-At least 1,836 are killed, and severe damage is caused along the U.S. Gulf Coast, as Hurricane Katrina strikes coastal areas from Louisiana to Alabama, and travels up the entire state of Mississippi (flooding coast 10 m)
-Surgeons in France carry out the first partial human face transplant

September: An eclectic bunch of us departed from the former Jo’burg International Airport (it was not politically correct to refer to it as Jan Smuts Airport anymore).
We were flying to Tanzania. The flight took off as planned – however due to the high ambient temperature some luggage was left behind as the aircraft was unable to tale-off fully laden. The net result is my gear arrived the afternoon before we summited. Fortunately I had my hiking boots and could borrow gear to tide me over.

Mount Kilimanjaro: With its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcano in Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania and the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 metres or 19,341 feet above sea level. Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim. There are six official trekking routes by which to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, namely: Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machame. Of all the routes, Machame is by far the most scenic albeit steeper route up the mountain. This is the route we took and completed it in seven days.
Kilimanjaro has a large variety of forest types over an altitudinal range of 3,000 m (9,843 ft) containing over 1,200 vascular plant species. Montane Ocotea forests occur on the wet southern slope. Cassipourea and Juniperus forests grow on the dry northern slope. Subalpine Erica forests at 4,100 m (13,451 ft) represent the highest elevation cloud forests in Africa. In contrast to this enormous biodiversity, the degree of endemism is low. However, forest relicts in the deepest valleys of the cultivated lower areas suggest that a rich forest flora inhabited Mt Kilimanjaro in the past, with restricted-range species otherwise only known from the Eastern Arc mountains. The low degree of endemism on Kilimanjaro may result from destruction of lower elevation forest rather than the relatively young age of the mountain.
Another feature of the forests of Kilimanjaro is the absence of a bamboo zone, which occurs on all other tall mountains in East Africa with a similarly high rainfall. Sinarundinaria alpina stands are favoured by elephants and African Buffalos elsewhere. On Kilimanjaro these megaherbivores occur on the northern slopes, where it is too dry for a large bamboo zone to develop. They are excluded from the wet southern slope forests by topography and humans, who have cultivated the foothills for at least 2000  years.

Enough classroom stuff. Now for the photos.

First night in Moshi. Thats all the equipment I had for the first four days.

About to set off – I thought the high visibility jacket of our guide was reassuring!

Snack break in the forest.

Entering the climes above the clouds.

Glen & I as the rear guard.

That was our food and utensils being effortlessly carried up.

Campsite on Day 2

Yes it was possible to get signal on the high points.

It was on the third day that we were allowed our first glimpse of what we had come to summit.

Changing scenery

Our guide looking back at the previous nights campsite.

“polé polé” – Swahili for slowly slowly.

Group photo as we leave the vegetation behind.

Starting to enter what could be termed “mountain goat territory”

View of the campsite for groups traversing the Arrow Glacier (a far more technical route)

Day before we summited. Doug in the foreground. Loose shale everywhere. On passing the group who had summited the
day before we were reminded how fickle the weather could be: They had summited and had been unable to see more than
2m due to the poor visibility.

How to insert a contact lens at 4000m above sea level when exposed to the elements.

The realisation of one of my goals: to take photos on the summit day / night. (most people end up with pictures leading
up to the summit day and one picture at the summit). What follows are some of those pictures.
Waking up at 11pm. Reaching the ridge at 6am – sunrise and then the summit – Uhuru Peak – at 7am.

Headlamps, stars, lunar landscape and clouds.

More headlamps.

The peak with a long exposure.

Moonrise at about 3am.

Plodding on in the early dawn.

Glaciers in first light.

Struggling up the final stretch to the summit

Sunrise on the ridge.

A receding glacier in a barren land.

Success. (he has lost count of the number of times he summited Kili after reaching 300).

Proof that we made it.


Plan: return to base, quickly.

for those who couldn’t make it… apparently really uncomfortable!

Celebratory drink!

Panorama from the summit.

Parting view of the landmass that had occupied our lives for the preceding week.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s