Tanzania, home to Kilimanjaro, a giant stratovolcano peaking at 5895 meters above sea level. Comprised of 3 peaks: Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira; the latter two are extinct while Kibo still lies dormant. Out of its crater Kibo emits gas and molten magma lies a mere 400m below its summit. Uhuru peak is the highest point in Africa and it is situated on Kibo, this would be our goal to reach this summit in 7 days. With a reputation of being an ‘easy’ entry level ascent, this hike is a perfect introduction to a newbie into the world of high altitude mountain climbing. Without the aid of oxygen, this hike can be completed in a maximum of 9 days. Hikes are generally guided and accompaniment of porters to which carry most of your belongings, is mandatory. This is my story.
* * *
On my recent travels to this far-away land, I got the very privileged opportunity to attempt a climb of this majestic mountain. A few of my friends have asked me to write a blog on my first hand experiences to which some of them were a part of! I first got the phone call on a sleepy Sunday afternoon when a good compadre and mountaineer had this plan and knowing that it has always been on my bucket list, seized this opportunity!
There was only one thing standing in my way and that was the fact that I had experienced a spontaneous pneumo-thorax some 9 years ago on my travels to Holland. Suffering a collapsed lung is never a pleasant experience as is spending a week in hospital. I was warned against scuba diving or partaking in activity involving pressure changes on my lungs. Now this was a ‘blow’ to me, and determined as I was, decided a trip to the lung-specialist was in good order..
On walking into the good docs office I couldn’t help but notice his feet up on the desk, hands behind his head and sporting a burning cigarette. I thought I’d definitely come to the right guy. If anyone was going to pass me to do the climb it was this guy.. even if it was only on paper! After numerous short tests and a 15 minute description of his recent holiday to Maldives I was fit enough to climb. Pearls of wisdom included not to smoke on the mountain (I don’t smoke) and prescribing me an inhaler pump?!
I felt ready to take on this feat! Now rumour has it you don’t have to be fit, but I thought a few morning runs definitely wouldn’t hurt. When my training commenced I was 8 weeks to d-day and was running 5-10km, 2 or 3 times per week. My conscience, if nothing else, felt great!
With a few days to go, I found myself once again in Cape Union mart for about the 15th time in the last month: Brand new hiking boots, thermals and yet another another pair of socks. Every time I re-examined my underclothing in my cupboard I decided I needed another pair of socks. As a result I had a formiddable array of socks in various colours, lengths and thickness. Also accompaning me would be an arsenal of snacks to give a large, male Grisley bear sugar-shock (and then revive him with my state-of-the-art, endless medi-kit). I was now ready and the ‘night-before’ was upon me. I cant say I slept well as the anticipation and endeavor was just too overwhelming! A brief goodbye to the family and in a last minute paranoid decision, made a quick detour to buy 4 more water-bottles on the way to the airport!