Seven Summits – Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro, 5895 m, 10 June 2000 (21 June 2014)

For the second summit on my journey towards the Seven Summits, I went to Tanzania and Africa’s highest mountain – Kilimanjaro.

Many are attracted and inspired by Kilimanjaro. For example, in the short story by Ernest Hemingway, The snows on Kilimanjaro, at the foot of the mountain, the main character, Harry, reflects on his life as he realizes that he is going to die of gangrene.

Mountains in general, and maybe Kilimanjaro in particular, give inspiration for thought. Kilimanjaro does not require any real climbing, only trekking between camps, and it is easy to let your mind run free. The first stage is muddy and wet going through a very humid rainforest/jungle. Then there are open heaths with heather, wild grasses, and rocky ground which changes into an alpine desert creating the impression of a glacier and snow on the summit. It is the many contrasting conditions of Kilimanjaro that make it so extra special. This is the only mountain to which I have returned many times.

In the summer of 2000, I left for Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro for the first time together with Göran. The scenery is powerful with the contrast between the flat savannah and the dormant volcano towering against the sky. To become acclimatized we started by climbing Mt Meru which is another volcano next to Kili. From the top of Meru, at 4,565 meters, the views of Kilimanjaro at sunrise are breathtaking.

There are different routes to the top as on most mountains of this size. We followed the Machame Route via Lava Tower and Arrow Glacier. The Machame Route is more scenic and, for many years, the most popular, even if most people continue to Barranco Camp and attempt the summit from Barafu Camp. Kilimanjaro is almost 6,000 meters high and people often underestimate this fact and go up too fast. I have met people on the mountain who first planned to go to Tanzania on safari and relax on the paradise island of Zanzibar, then thinking why not also “do” Kilimanjaro when we are here. They tend to misjudge the altitude, go up too quickly, and get sick. Every year people die of altitude sickness on the mountain, a fact which is not often reported. But if you take it easy, ”pole, pole”, and do not hurry, you have a very good chance (about 85%) of reaching the summit. My best climb to the top of Kilimanjaro from Umwe Gate and back was accomplished in less than 36 hours. At the time I was well adapted to the climate and also stopped to rest for a few hours at Arrow Glacier.

I returned to Kilimanjaro last summer for the eighth time to adapt to the environment before attempting Mt McKinley. After so many times, I feel at home on the mountain and I very much enjoyed being back for the first time in 12 years. This time I spent two nights in the crater to get used to the thin air. After this, I was ready for my next challenge – the highest mountain in North America!

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