Kilimanjaro: The roof of Africa; 19, 340 feet; one of the world’s highest volcanoes and my 6th climb in the 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer’s: Memories are Everything. I leave for Africa in a few days.
While this climb is considered a “walk-up” in that you climb via well worn trails alongside local porters who carry all your main gear; it is serious high altitude and not to be underestimated. Thus I have continued my training after returning from my last climb; the summit of Europe’s highest Elbrus at 18513′ a few weeks ago.
I find Kilimanjaro intriguing not only for the climb but more for the parallels with the cause. You see, this mountain is filled with the memories of many; some fading away with time.
The literary world remembers Ernest Hemingway’s 1938 short story, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, which takes place on safari near the snow capped mountain. Harry, the main character, is famously quoted “as wide as all the world, great, high and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro.”
The memories held in the ice are now fading away. Often cited in reports about climate change, the snows and glaciers are expected to be completely gone as early as 2022. Measurements show that up to 85% has melted since 1912 and of that, 26% has disappeared since 2000.
And the vision seared into the memory of those who have gone on safari is that of how the volcano rises 18,000 feet above the Tanzania savannah, one of the highest stand-alone gains on earth. But unlike the song, Kilimanjaro does not rise above the Serengeti – it is 100 miles away.
Yes, Kilimanjaro is more than a mountain to climb; it is a mountain of memories.
It is also a complex mountain. The western summit is called “Ngàje Ngài,” the House of God by the Masai. It has three distinct volcanic cones: Mawenzi (16,896′), Shira (13,000′) and Kibo (19340′). Uhuru Peak is the highest point on Kibo’s crater rim and is our goal. Mawenzi and Shira are extinct volcanoes while Kibo is dormant and could erupt again. The last major eruption was 360,000 years ago, while the most recent activity was only 200 years ago so we need to be fast!
As for climbing, Kilimanjaro has five common routes to its highest summit: Marangu; Machame; Rongai; Lemosho; and the Mweka Route. We will be taking the Machame route, a bit longer but very scenic as it works it way from the rain forest through five microclimates to join the three final ascent routes to Kibo. Kilimanjaro was first climbed in 1889 by German geologist Hans Meyer and Austrian Ludwig Purtscheller with their Marangu scout Yoanas Kinyala Lauwo.
One of the biggest issues with a Kilimanjaro climb is altitude sickness. However that did not stop Italian Bruno Brunod who in 2001 climbed Uhuru Peak from Marangu Gate in 5 hours, 38 minutes, and 40 seconds. The fastest round-trip time was by local guide Simon Mtuy who ran up and down on December 26, 2004 in 8 hours and 27 minutes. We will not be doing this 🙂
I am pleased to be climbing again with International Mountain Guides plus some friends I have made along this journey of the 7 Summits climbs, Jeannie and Joe. As usual, I will post live dispatches during the climb to this blog plus have the SPOT GPS tracker on the entire time. Follow us at “Where is Alan” as we climb to the summit on September 19. The current time at Kilimanjaro is on the sidebar on this page. We should summit around 8:00AM local time.
Another important aspect of this climb is that we will be in Africa on September 21, World Alzheimer’s Day. This is when organizations around the globe bring focus to Alzheimer’s, We will do our part.
Please consider making a donation of one penny per foot I climb on Kilimanjaro. We will start at 5,363′ and top out at 19,340 for a gain of 13,9777′ making the donation $140. I hope you will donate to one of our benefactors.
Memories are Everything