Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mountain Climbing/Kili

Africa has several mountains but the most popular, famous and the highest free standing mountains in the world are mt Kilimanjaro and mt Kenya.

Since its official opening in 1977, Kilimanjaro National Park has become one of Tanzania’s most visited parks. Unlike the other northern parks, this isn’t for the wildlife although wildlife is there. Rather, it’s to gaze in awe in the mountain on the equator capped with snow, and to take advantage of the chance to climb to the top of Africa.

At the heart of the park is the 5896m Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and one of the continent’s magnificent sights. It’s also one of the highest volcanoes and among the highest freestanding mountains in the world, rising from cultivated farmlands on the lower levels, through lush rainforest to alpine meadows, and final across barren lunar landscape to the twin summits of Kibo and Mawenzi. The lower rainforest is home to many animals, including buffaloes, leopards and monkeys, and eland are occasionally seen in the saddle are between Kibo and Mawenzi peaks.

At trek up Kili lures hundreds of trekkers each years, in part because it’s possible to walk all the way to the summit without ropes or technical climbing experience. Yet, the climb is a serious (as well as expensive) undertaking, and only worth doing with the right preparation.

The Kilimanjaro massif has an oval base about 40m to 60km across, and rises almost 500m above the surrounding plains. The two main peak areas are Kibo, the dome at the central of the massif, which dips inwards to from a crater that can’t be seen from below, and Mawenzi, a group of jagged pinnacles on the eastern side. A third peak, Shira, on the western end of the massif, is lower and less distinct than Kibo and Mawenzi. The highest point on Kibo is Uhuru peak, the goal for most trekkers. The highest point on Mawenzi, Hans Mayer point (5149m), cannot be reached by trekkers, and is only rarely visited by mountaineers

Kilimanjaro is considered an extinct volcano, although it still releases stream and sulphur from vents in the crater centre.

As Africa’s highest peak and most identifiable land mark, Kilimanjaro offers an irresistible challenge to many tourists. Dozens of visitors to Tanzania set off for Uhuru peak every day, ranging from teenager to prisoners (a seven-year-old boy recently become the youngest person to reach the summit), and those who make it generally regard the achievement to be the highlight of their time in the country. A major part Kilimanjaro attraction is that any reasonably fit person stands a fair chance of reaching the top. The ascent requires no special climbing skill or experience: on the contrary, it basically amounts to a long uphill slog over four days, followed by a more rapid descent.

The relative ease of climbing Kilimanjaro should not lull travelers into thinking of the ascent as some sort of prolonged Sunday stroll. It is a seriously tough hike; belittle the health risks attached to being at an altitude of above 4,000m. It should also be recognized that there is no much thing as a cheap Kilimanjaro climb. Indeed, following the doubling of entrance fees to the park for 2006, the minimum amount payable in the park fees alone (entrance, camping, guide, porter and rescue) is in excess of US$700 per person for a standard five-day hike up the relatively cheap to put together a reasonably well-equipped package at much under US$ 950 per person, and small group and/or those using top-notch operators and/or those using the more obscure route should be prepared to pay considerably more!

Mt Kilimanjaro at 5896m {19344ft} it is the highest mountain and extinct volcano in Africa. Mt Kilimanjaro standing high and
majestic in the clear blue African sky , with its huge dome of snow Mt Kilimanjaro is free standing mountain in the world and
Challenge to all climber, whether experienced or first timer.
There are two main routes up to mt Kilimanjaro Marangu the ''Bear'' rout and Machame the ''whiskey'' rout. The Marangu rout is
often climber and you will meet parties of climbers traveling from each direction. Accommodation is in typical huts, with shared
room and facilities controlled by the National park authorities. On summit day successful climber will reach Gillman's point and
Proceed to Uhuru peak at the very summit of the mountain. The machame rout is often used. Zion Tanzania arranges full porter
Service with private tent at ever stage there are portable toilet facilities and the cuisine is provided by the professional cocker.

Rising from surrounding plains like a mirage, the snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro only three degrees south of the Equator were believed for years to be nothing but fanful tales. Snow on the Equator? "Impossible”, snorted the Victorian armchair explorers of London’s Geographical Society.

How wrong they proved to be. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. It is actually three volcanoes in one: Kibo, the youngest, highest, and most central point at 5,896 meters (19,340 feet); Mawenzi in the east at 5,149 meters (16,886 feet); and the western Shira, 3,962 meters (12,999 feet). Previously thought to be extinct, the mountain is in fact dormant and may yet have the capacity to erupt as all three undoubtedly did during their formation.

From the time of first mention several thousand years ago by Ptolemy; the snows of Kilimanjaro have continued to attract explorers, scientists, adventurers, climbers, and tourists from around the world. With its white mantle dominating the horizon, Kilimanjaro, as much as wildlife that lives and feeds in its shadow, has come to symbolize the continent of Africa.

Kilimanjaro is a comparatively young mountain, about 750,000 years old. The Chagga who live around its base tell the legend of how Mawenzi borrowed embers from his younger brother Kibo in order to light his pipe, suggesting that there may have been fire and brimstone on Kilimanjaro as recently as the Stone Age. Unfortunately myth often suffers at the meaning of the hands of empirical science, and geological surveys do not support the story.

There are as may explanations for the meaning of the word Kilimanjaro as there are hiking routes up the mountain. One of the more popular translations is the Swahili "mountains of greatness". It has also been taken to mean "mountains of caravans" (KILIMA= mountain and NJARO=caravan); a landmark for the caravans which traveled the interior looking for slaves. A third hypothesis is that while KILIMA means mountain, NJARO is the name of a demon that created cold. The result; “of the demon Njaro" or “of the evil spirit". And finally, that njaro comes from the Maasai word meaning "springs" or "water". Kilimanjaro could then be taken to mean "mountain of water".

Caravan, water, evil spirits-whatever the meaning for such a towering mountain Kilimanjaro managed to stay well-hidden from prying Western eyes for centuries. Fist mention of it comes from the Greeks, who describe a "great snow mountain" at the beginning of the Common Era. A second reference is not found until a thousand years letter, when a Chinese chronicler notes that the country to the west of Zanzibar "reaches to a great mountain".

Undoubtedly the snowy peaks were being seen by increasing numbers as the Arab search for gold, ivory and slaves penetrated the interior of the continent.

With the arrival of Vasco da Gama in 1497, the Portuguese soon succeeded the Arabs as the ruling force in East Africa. Based on rumor and Portuguese exploration, Spanish geographer Fernandes de Encisco wrote "West of (Mombosa) is the Ethiopia Mount Olympus, which is very high, and father off are the Mountains of the Moon in which are the sources of the Nile".

It was this same search for the Nile source, along with a burning zeal to spread the word of God that 300 years later paved the way for the opening of the continent and a first-hand look by Westerners at the majestic Kilimanjaro.

The first European to glimpse the snowy mountain was Johannes Rebman, a missionary determined to convert all of Africa to Christianity. Armed with his umbrella and Bible, he set off for a land called Jagga to establish a mission.

He had been told that there was a mountain in Jagga full of dlins and evil spirits. Gunpowder would not fire on its slopes, legs stiffened, and people died from encounters with the djins there was once a king who sent a large number of his subjects to examine the white substance that lies on the top of the mountain. Only one returned, a man named Sabaya. According to Sabaya all his companions mysteriously disappeared during the ascent. He continued until he saw a large door studded with iron spikes. The door was open but he was too weak and frightened to enter. He returned down the mountain, but along the way his hands and feet were destroyed and he become cripple for life.

Despite the stories, Rebman persevered on 11 May 1848; he approached the high mountains of Jaggaland. "At about ten o'clock", he recalls, "I thought I saw one of the clouds. My guide simply describes the whiteness that I saw as cold (baridi); and it was as good as certain to me that it could be nothing else but snow".

Rebman's discovery was published in the Church Missionary Intelligencer in May 1849, and was greeted with interest and disbelief. Some went to trouble to prove "scientifically" that snow at the Equator was impossible and the white summit was northing more than an optical illusion created by the reflection of quartz cliffs, limestone rocks, or crystal. Because of his seemingly far-fetched claims, Rebman was subject to ridicule and derision and it would take another twelve years before the scientific sceptic eventually conceded to the accuracy of his observations.

The first attempt to scale Kilimanjaro was undertaken in June 1861 by the German explorer Baron Karl Klaus von der Decken, who climbed to about 4,300 meters (14,108 feet) before turning back near the snow line.

The first person to leave his footprints in the snow was missionary Charles New. He reached an area between Kibo and Mawenzi called the Saddle is a gravel desert, evidence of the snows of Kilimanjaro retreat and perhaps the threat of global warming). New was the first to refer to the five different vegetation zones that exist on the mountain.

The summit was first scaled on 5 October 1889 by the Leipzing geographer Hans Meyer and the Austrian mountaineer Ludwing Purtscheller.

Between 1889 and 1927 only twenty three people set foot on the summit of Kibo. Within ten years this figure trebled. After 1928 the numbers began to multiply so frequently it become impossible to maintain any sort of accurate record.

With the construction of huts up the mountain side and the opening of nine main routes, climbing Kilimanjaro has increased in popularity and thousands over the years have attempted to conquer its wintry peaks via the old and well-known path or, like Reinhold Messer one of mountaineering’s true stars by scaling the 1,524 meter (5,000 feet) treacherous Breach Wall. In recognition of the mountain’s grandeur and beauty Kilimanjaro was designated a national park in 1973.

Kilimanjaro owes its existence to the formation of the Great Rift Valley. About 750,000 years ago lava began to flow from deep fractures in the Earth's crust at three main centers: Shira, Mawenzi, and Kibo. Their cones grew for thousands of years, eventually reaching 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) about 500,000 years ago. Shira was the first become extinct; it eventually collapsed and was covered by material from the other two volcanoes. Mawenzi and Kibo continued to grow, their lava intermingling to form the "saddle" which stretches between the two peaks.

Mawenzi was the next to die, but not before an enormous explosion ripped away the entire eastern rim, forming a spectacular gorge. Lava later seeped through the, leading Mawenzi its jagged profile.

Eventually (450,000 years ago) even Kibo succumbed to volcanic aging and ceased to grow. A huge landslide 100,000 years ago carried away part of the summit and created the huge Kibo Barranco. Then, in one final gush of activity, a puff of smoke placed a perfect cone of ash around Kibo's rim

Ice, as well as fire, has helped shape the summit of Kilimanjaro. At one point in the time an unbroken sheet of ice covered the mountain down to 3,000 meters (9,840 feet). The snow of Kilimanjaro is in fast retreat however, the glacier has lost their definition and the crater is often bare. Even so, with four square kilometers of glaciers, the mountains possesses about one-fifth of all natural ice in Africa.

The Climb
The most popular route is via Marangu and usually takes five days for round trip. Kilimanjaro can be climbed by almost anyone who is reasonably fit.

Starting at the Marangu Gate some 5kkm from the village of the same name, the so-called ‘tourist route’ is the most popular way to the top of Kilimanjaro, largely because it is less arduous than most of the alternatives, as well as having better facilities and being cheap to climb. Marangu is also probably the safer route, due to the volume of other climbers and good rescue facilities relative to more obscure routes, and it offers a better chance of seeing some wildlife. It is the only route where you can sleep in proper huts throughout, with bathing water and bottled drinks normally available too. The main drawback of the Marangu route it is heavily tramped by comparison with other routes, for which reason many people complain that it can feel overcrowded.

The summit, for those who persevere until the better cold end, is usually Gillman's Points, which is 213 meters (700 feet) lower then the actual summit, Uhuru Peak. More experienced climbers take the frequently dangerous crater rim ridge walk all the way to Uhuru and the roof of Africa.

DAY ONE; Plan on spending one or two hours at Marangu Gate Headquarters for registration and payment of fees. It is best to start early in the morning to avoid the rain showers that fall in the afternoon. From Marangu Gate at 18,000 meters (5,904 feet), the cleared trail leads through lush rainforest. Wildlife is limited due to the heavy foot traffic. An alternative route branches off through the forest after the gate and follows the edge of a steam through undergrowth. About an hour and half from the gate it is possible to cross the stream and rejoin the main trail, or remain walking along the forest trail. Both paths continue on opposite sides of the stream, merging one hour before Mandara Hut, located at 2,700 meters (8,856 feet). From Mandara Huts it is a short walk to the Maundi Crater. Those who have the energy and rewarded with beautiful scenery and the sight of the massive protea flower.

DAY TWO; The morning of the second day is spent walking over the steep slopes and rushing streams of the giant healthier forest, after which the track open out into the southern slopes of Mawenzi running through a band of moorland. Five hours and fourteen kilometers (nine miles) from Mandara bring you to Horombo Huts at 3,810 meters (12,500 feet). (To call the Mandara and Horombo accommodation "huts" is being slightly unfair; they more closely resemble chalets and can sleep 200 people.)

There are a numbers of good reasons for staying an extra night at Horombo: the most important is to become acclimatized to the altitude and reduce your chances of sickness. There are also several interesting features in the area well worth visiting, including the Zebra Rocks, a low cliff 1.5 kilometers (one mile) away with vertical stripes of contrasting colors caused by differential rain flow. Below the huts are cul-de-sac lava tunnels with glass walls that are worth exploring. Finally, the number of bunks at Horombo makes it the most comfortable of all the huts on the mountain.

DAY THREE: A valley behind Horombo leads straight up to the barren and rock-strewn Saddle between Kibo and Mawenzi passing Zebra Rocks on the way. It is thirteen kilometers (eight miles) and seven hours to Kibo Hurt at 4,725 meters (15,500 feet), reached by taking the left fork just after a rain gauge at the start of the Saddle

DAY FOUR: The trail to the summit lies directly behind Kibo Hurt to the west. The climb begins shortly after midnight for two reasons: 1) to see the sun rise over Mawenzi from the top of Kibo and 2) the loose stone screen is frozen, making it easier to climber over. The first part of the trail is uneven and leads to Hans Meyer Cave, a good place to try and catch what little breath you have left. From the cave the path switchbacks most of the way to the top, with a last scramble over rocks to Johannes' Notch and Gillman's Point. From there the trail continues along the rim past Stella Point to the triumphant Uhuru Peak. After enjoying the view from the top of Africa, hikers make a speedy return to Horombo Hut.

DAY FIVE: The descent continues from Horombo to Mandara Hut, which is reached by lunch time, then proceeds to the park gate and Marangu in the afternoon.

Machame Route
In recent years, the Machame Route has grown greatly in the popularity. It is widely regarded to be the most scenic viable ascent route, with great views across to Meru, and as a whole it is relatively gradual, requiring at least six –seven days for the full ascent and descent. Short sections are steeper and slightly more difficult than any part of the Marangu route, but this is compensated for by the longer period for acclimatization.

The route is named after the village of Machame, from where it is a two-hour to the park gate (1,950m). The company will provide transport as far as the gate, from where it’s six to eight hours trek through thick forest to Machame Hut, which lies on the edge of the moorland zone at 2,890m. The second day of this trail consists of a 9km, four to six hour hike trough the moorland zone of Shira Plateau to Shira Hut (3,840), which is near a stream. Once again, here is camping.

From Shira, a number of options exist: you could spend your third night at Lava Tower Hut (4,630m) four hours from Shira, but the ascent to the Summit from there is teak and only advisable if you are experienced and have good equipment. A less arduous option is to spend your third night at Barranco Campsite (3,950m), a tough 12kkm, six hours hike from Shira, then to go on to Karanga campsite four hours from Barranco or to Barafu Hut (4,600m) on the four or five day, a walk of approximately seven hours. From barafu, it is normal to begin the steep seven to eight hours climb to Stella Point (5,735m) at midnight, so that you arrive sunrise, continuing on to Uhuru Peak, a two hour round trip, before hiking back to Mweka Hut via Barafu afternoon. This day can involve up to 16 hours of walking altogether. After spend your six or seven day at Mweka Hut (3,800m), you will descend the mountain on the seven or six day via the Mweka Route, a four to six hours walk.

The company will provide you with camping equipment and employ enough potters to carry the camp and set it up.

Rongai Route
The only route ascending Kilimanjaro from the northeast. Items of gradients, it is probably less physically demanding than the Marangu Route, and the scenery, with views over the Tsavo Plains, is regarded to be as beautiful. The Rongai Route can be covered over five days, with equally good if not better conditions for acclimatization than the Marangu Route, through as with Marangu the odds of reaching the summit improve if you opt for an additional day. The route start at the village of Nale Moru (2,000m) near the Kenyan border, from where the footpath leads through cultivated fields and plantation forest before entering the montane forest zone, where black and white colobas monkeys are frequently encountered. The first campsite is reached after between five and six hours, and lie at about 2,700mm on the frontier of the forest and moorland zone. On the five day hike, the second day involves a gentle five to six hours ascent, through an area of moorland where elephants are sometimes seen, to Third Cave campsite (3,500m). On the third day, it’s a four to five hours walk to School Campsite (4,750m) at the base of Kibo, with the option of camping here or else continuing to the nearby Kibo Hut, which is more crowded but more commodious. The ascent from here is identical to the Marangu Route. A six-day variation on the above route involves spending the second night at Kikelewa Caves (3,6600m, six to seven hours walk), a night at Mawenzi Tarn near the synonymous peak (4,330m, four hours walk), then crossing the saddle between Mawenzi and Kibo the five day route at School Campsite

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