Kilimanjaro

Africa
 

"As wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun…"

- Ernest Hemingway, in The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro seen from Mount MeruDawn from the crater rimScalloped ice fields on the summit of KilimanjaroIce cliffs - Redmann Glacier

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clickThe Mountain

 

Kilimanjaro is Africa’s most celebrated mountain.

    From Ernest Hemmingway’s famous short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro, to the classic John Wayne film Hatari, the name Kilimanjaro has aroused feelings of passion, wonderment and awe.

    To quote Iain Allan, “Its name is synonymous with Africa itself, and few mountains anywhere on earth have been so enshrouded in romance and mystery. Even the names of the towns which grace the base of the peak have a dream-like quality to them – Loitokitok, Rongai, Machame, Moshi and Marangu. Slave traders in another century were guided by it. Great writers with no interest in mountains have written about it. Songs have been sung about it. Empires fought for it. And all the time the stories and myths of Kilimanjaro have grown – some true and some false. Yes, the partially preserved skeleton of a leopard does exist on the icy crater rim at 5,670 m (18,600 ft). No, Queen Victoria did not give the mountain to the Kaiser as a birthday present. But however one looks at it, Kilimanjaro does possess an atmosphere, a personality of the type of which legends are easily born.”                   
- Snowcaps on the Equator, by Gordon Boy and Iain Allan, p. 157.)

    Towering to a height of 5,895 metres (19,340 feet), and resting on a base 80 by 50 kilometres, Kilimanjaro dwarfs any other peak on the African continent. (The next highest summit is Mount Kenya at 5,199 metres – 17,058 feet.) On a clear day Kilimanjaro can be seen from a distance of 160 kilometres, soaring 4,900 metres (16,000 feet) like an island into the sky. It is often described as the highest free-standing mountain in the world in that it is not part of a mountain range, but rises in splendid isolation above African plains.

    Almost every imaginable event has been celebrated on this mountain: 21st birthdays, engagements, graduations, retirements, wedding anniversaries. On the 1st January 2000, 1,154 climbers from around the world greeted the New Millennium from the crater rim!

    Some people have climbed the mountain as charity-sponsored walks. A man from Hilton in KwaZulu-Natal walked up the mountain backwards; and two teenagers hobbled to the top doing a three-legged climb.

    Cyclists have made it to the top, carrying the mountain bikes up the final stretch; and a team of Australians used parasails to descend from the crater rim to Moshi in just two hours.

    American astronauts were brought to Kilimanjaro by NASA in the 1950s to equip them for the shock of walking on the moonscape; and Reinhold Messner trained on Kilimanjaro immediately before his epic ascent of Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen.

    Businesses send their employees to Kilimanjaro as a team-building exercise.

    Blind people have also successfully scaled the mountain. 

    What distinguishes Kilimanjaro from all other mountains beyond the borders of equatorial Africa is the large range of climatic zones through which climbers pass in order to reach the summit.

    Beginning in the cultivated zone, where the local tribespeople live, the Kilimanjaro trek passes from tropical banana groves and coffee plantations to rain forests, to Alpine meadow (a heath zone with typical ‘fynbos’ vegetation, to an Alpine desert (as dry and barren as the surface of the moon!), and finally to the ice-encrusted summit where glaciers and snow-fields abound.

    Each of these areas is a ‘world’ in itself, wholly unrelated to the zone above or below it, and approximately 1,000 metres wide on average. John Reader points out that the descent from the summit of Kilimanjaro to the rain forests is akin to travelling from the Arctic circle to the equator.

    Patrick Wagner was fascinated by this thought, and described the Kilimanjaro climb as ‘a package of adventures within a single hike’.

He poses the question: “Where can you hike for 40 kilometres, gain more than four kilometres in altitude, traverse rain forest, moorland, alpine desert, snowfields and ice cliffs virtually on the equator, and stand on the roof of a continent? The answer is Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point of Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.” - Getaway, November 1993

 

clickOur record

 

After 17 years, Summit Ventures can report having sent over 70 groups to Kilimanjaro, with an accumulated success rate (if ‘success’ means getting to the top of the mountain?) of 94.2%. This is surely a proud record, as the official statistics show that less than 50% of all those attempt the climb each year actually reach the summit.

    We put this achievement down to careful preparation, wise briefing (with each person’s equipment being checked), attention to detail, patience in answering e-mails, and good leadership on the mountain by our guides.  

    Each year brings something new to report.

    In 2009, every member of all our five teams reached the summit – a 100% success rate. One party of 22 people, under the leadership of Andre Botha, included his daughter aged 11, another girl aged 13, and a boy aged 14! A great achievement.

    In 2007 we reported that the youngest person in one of our groups to reach the top was a young 12 year-old girl from Cape Town; and the oldest, a 72 year old man.

    In August one group of five climbed the mountain ‘Alpine Style’, that is to say without support of any kind. They carried all their own goods - food, tents, baggage, et cetera up the mountain, and did all their own cooking. Result? A strenuous trip, but they all made it to the top!  

    Also in 2007, three people spent a night on the summit alongside the ash pit. A few headaches... but nothing more serious than that!

    Five international groups climbed Kili with Summit Ventures during 2007 - two from the UK, one from New Zealand, one from Australia, and one from the Netherlands. The latter consisted of a team of 16 boys from a school in Amsterdam who climbed Kilimanjaro as the climax to their ‘Duke of Edinburgh High Achiever's Award’. Summit Ventures was chosen to make all the arrangements.  

    Thus, Kili continues to be our major interest – a climb that intrigues, challenges and inspires both young and old.

    It has been a privilege to be associated with this beautiful mountain for so long.

Click on address to access e-mailEnquiries: summitventures@mweb.co.za

 

clickBook a tour

 

Trips to climb Kilimanjaro can be customised for individuals, couples or groups at any time, with personally chosen dates. However, we always have organised tours with set departures that people can join. Please ask for details. 

    The costing is always the same for all groups – overseas clients included.

    The best time of year for climbing Kilimanjaro is after the long rainy season: July through to mid October; and before the ‘short rains’ commence: mid-October to mid-December. However, there is a ‘window’ (between the two rainy periods), from mid-December through to the end of February.

    There are thee popular routes on Kilimanjaro: the Marangu Route (often called the ‘Coca Cola Route’), the Machame Route (or ‘Whisky Route’ – the guides say whisky is stronger than coke!), and the Rongai Route. On the Marangu route climbers are accommodated in huts, while on the Machame and Rongai trails, tents are used.

    More often than not, we recommend the Machame Route, the scenic way up the mountain, pioneered by Summit Ventures in 1994. This route is longer than the other two (requiring at least one extra day of walking), and is thus better for acclimatization. We also try to encourage our clients to spend one extra day on the mountain – seven days in stead of the ‘normal’ six. This can make all the difference to the end result of a climb.

    Those living in the Gauteng area are welcome to spend an evening with Malcolm looking at books, maps and photographs, and asking advice on kit and clothing, photography, acclimatisation, medical requirements, et cetera.

    Group get-togethers are always encouraged to enable members of a team to meet socially before the climb and get to known one another. Briefing for the climb is taken very seriously, and a comprehensive 20-page ‘brochure’ containing everything that anyone would need to know about Kilimanjaro is given to each person.

    A slide-show, ‘Kilimanjaro – Crown of the Continent’, presented on two screens simultaneously and consisting of over 600 images collected during ten trips to Kilimanjaro, is available on request for promotional purposes.

    We feel confident that with a service provider in Tanzania that has been in business for over 20 years, and having been involved in climbing Kili for over 17 years ourselves, we are able to offer an experience on Kilimanjaro as good as any.

Click on address to access e-mailEnquiries: summitventures@mweb.co.za

 

clickAdd-on tours

 

Game Safaris

Many folk who join our Kilimanjaro expeditions take the opportunity of remaining on in Tanzania for a few days to visit one or more of Tanzania’s world-renowned game parks (Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti) - or perhaps one of the islands off the coast of East Africa, like Zanzibar.  

    For the game safaris we recommend fairly up-market accommodation (as opposed to camping), and suggest that at least four days be spent on tour.

    All safaris are undertaken by one of Tanzania’s leading tour operators, that offer excellent service and value for money.

    Groups have the exclusive use of a safari vehicle with its own dedicated English-speaking driver/guide. Each vehicle has window seats for five people and is fitted with a ‘pop-up’ roof for better visibility while game viewing. 

Mount Meru

Another exciting ‘add-on’ for the Kilimanjaro experience is a visit to the Arusha National Park to climb Mount Meru. The visit can be planned as an acclimatisation exercise before attempting Kilimanjaro.

    Lying some 45 kilometres south west of Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru is one of the most beautiful mountains in Africa, and is completely surrounded by wooded meadowlands. The climb takes four days, and the park itself is teeming with game - herds of Cape buffalo, zebra and elephant, as well as hyena, giraffe, warthog, hippopotami and a wide variety of antelope. It is also renowned for its beautiful trees, profuse bird life both migrant and resident, and its handsome black-and-white colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza) which inhabit the lush green forests.

    Because of the danger of encountering wild animals on the mountain (buffalo and elephant, and even the occasional leopard, have been known to wander as high as 3,650 metres) it is mandatory to be accompanied by an armed ranger at all times.  

    Mount Meru is considered to be a dormant volcano which last erupted in 1877, but more recent rumblings and gas emissions testify to the fact that fire still lurks within its bowls.

    In 1999 I led a party on Mount Meru, and we were charmed by its natural beauty: the forests, the flowers, the animals and the rugged mountainous terrain – especially the knife edge of the final summit suspended over its massive ravine believed to be the sight of the biggest volcanic explosion of all time on the African continent. It blew half the mountain away. Geologists believe that before this event Mount Meru was as high (if not higher) than Kilimanjaro. It is a mountain well worth visiting especially because, unlike Kilimanjaro, its natural beauty has been preserved largely untouched.

    Trips to Mount Meru can easily be arranged, either as part of the Kilimanjaro experience, or as an entirely separate trip with time spent in the nearby game parks as well.

Click on address to access e-mailEnquiries: summitventures@mweb.co.za

 

clickRecommended reading

 

Kilimanjaro, by John Reader. Published by Elm Tree Books, London. 1982.

Snowcaps on the Equator, by Gordon Boy and Iain Allan. Published by Bodley Head,London. 1991.

Guide to Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro, by Iain Allan (Editor). Published by Mountain Club of Kenya, Nairobi. 1981.

Kilimanjaro – Legendary Summits, by J.D. Joubert & E. Christin. Published by Tanganyika Wildlife Safari, Tanzania. 1996.

Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, by Cameron M. Burns. Published by Cordee, Leicester. 1998.

Trekking in East Africa, by D. Else. Published by Lonely Planet. 1993.  

Trekking in Africa, by S. Ardito. Published by Swan Hill Press, Shrewsbury. 1996.

Journey through Tanzania, by M. Amin; D. Willetts & P. Marshall. Published by Camerapix, Nairobi. 1984.

Kilimanjaro – The Great White Mountain of Africa, by David Plith, Mohammed Amin and Graham Mercer. Published by Camerapix. 2001.

Kilimanjaro Tanzania – Land, People, History, by David Martin. Published by Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA).

Kilimanjaro – To the Roof of Africa, by Audrey Salkeld. Published by National Geographic.

Kilimanjaro – Guide to Africa’s Highest Peak, by Thomas Alexander. Marketed by Cape Union Mart.

Mountains of Africa, by Duncan Souchon. Published by Struik Publishers. 2007.

“Kilimanjaro soars regally above the rolling grasslands of East Africa, drawing the eye to its glaciated summit from a hundred miles in any direction. Its appearance changes with the time of day and the vagaries of sunlight. One dawn it was bathed in delicate shades of pink – puffy clouds draped its shoulders like a mantle of ermine on a king. Later, during the rain-drenched evening, Kilimanjaro appeared like a blue-grey monolith, surly and unforgiving.”
- NATURES WORLD OF WONDERS, National Geographic.

 

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