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Way back in time before the onset of adulthood I enjoyed countless days heading into the hills of Yorkshire with nothing more than a squashed sandwich & youthful sense for adventure! Despite long past youthful and work commitments keeping me in the city, the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors never left me. After digging my boots out and returning to the hills I attended a number of courses to improve my hill knowledge and skill base, during one of these courses it was suggested I join the Mountain Leader Training scheme and was delighted go on to gain the MOUNTAIN LEADER Award in April 2012. As well as spending time on the hills and mountains of the UK I have also enjoyed trips to the Nepalese Himalaya, Swiss & French Alps, Mallorca’s Tramuntana, Andorran & French Pyrenees, Morocco’s High Atlas, Tanzania’s Mt Meru & Kilimanjaro, Argentinian & Chilean Patagonia and winter expeditions to Norway’s Hardangervidda. Since gaining the ML I have also gained the SINGLE PITCH AWARD, INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD and the WINTER MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD. I am now enjoying working in a freelance role whilst trying to get out climbing as much as possible.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

This Is Africa (Part 2) - Kilimanjaro The Roof of Africa!

 After our acclimatisation route to the summit of Mt Meru (4566m) myself, Commander Rob, Lord Martin Cocks of Cocksville, Barry (George Clooney's Dad!), Vic, Paul, Blister Steve & Andy headed back to Weru Weru for a good meal, a couple of well earned local beers and a nights rest before we would go on to Kilimanjaro!
Kilimanjaro - The worlds tallest free standing mountain.
  Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano and has three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. The summit is at Uhuru/Kibo Peak and stands 5,895 metres above sea level. Located in Tanzania it is the highest mountain in Africa & the worlds highest free standing mountain!

 Initially I wasn't at all attracted to attempting Kilimanjaro, this was mainly due to the mountain losing some credibility as a serious challenge after having a bunch of unfit & (some) grossly overweight so called celebrities trek the mountain for charity some years ago. "If  ------------ can do it anyone can do it" being the general consensus! It is also a very expensive mountain to undertake due to the park fees set by the Tanzanian government,  non East-African citizens are charged a 'Park Conservation' & 'Camping' fee of well over $100 for each day of their trip ( Tanzania National Parks.) .  
A friendly local turned out to see us off.
  However! The trip would be heading for the summit by tackling the 'Western Breach', which would involve a scramble up to the crater rim during the early hours due to the risk of rock fall during the day. Sounds exciting, I'm on!
Barry (George Clooney's Dad) brought some Hollywood to the trip at Machame Gate.
Leaving from Machame Gate at 1840m we would trek through the African forest up to the Machame Hut at 2980m. The trek took us on a good track rising steadily until the forest turned to Alpine moorland where heather grew up above 2m tall!

Lord Cocks leads his loyal subjects.

 On reaching Machame Hut we saw the extent of our support team for the first time. 3 Guides, 2 Cooks, 21 Porters! Each porter is allowed to carry 15kg + 5kg of personal equipment on Kilimanjaro and this is set by the Tanzanian government, the porters also receive their wages from the government per day rather than per trip as in some other parts of the world. It was only when considering the amount of kit needed for the 6 night trip that it was understandable why our small team needed so many in support - tents for us, tents for the porters, food for 3 meals a day for everyone, cooking equipment, sleeping kit, spare clothing etc. Oh and a portaloo!
 Jimmy, who was our head guide for the trip, led the way with some African beats as he introduced all the team to us and we were encouraged to introduce ourselves to the team using the medium of song & dance. You needed to be there!
Rob gets 'involved' with the introductions!
 Our assault on Kilimanjaro would see us spending our nights under canvas at each camping area. I was lucky enough to pair up with Lord Martin Cocks of Cocksville who was an inspiration to me with his evening 'pep' talks about how much he was looking forward to each day, as well as encouraging me to continue with my personal quest for mountain education!
 We would spend a total of 6 nights under canvas in total, including the evening 'snooze' before summit day and an overnight on descent.
Heading to Shira Hut at 3840m through the cloud.
Lord Cocks in deep thought preparing for his evening 'pep' talk as Barry (Hollywood) looks on.
Kilimanjaro looms over Shira Hut camp
  Each day we would wake and make our way to the mess tent where breakfast would consist of millet porridge followed by bread, omelette and sausage or similar, all served with Tanzanian coffee which among the best coffee in the world apparently (would rather have a mug of gravy been a Yorkshireman!). We then pack our kit ready for the walk to the next camp whilst the porters dismantled and packed the camp into their individual loads in minutes!
Porter with 15kg load on his head.
On towards Lava Tower Camp.

Team photo in front of Lava Tower.
Rob can't help himself and climbs Lava Tower to kill some time.
 The day before summiting would see us have a short walk from Lave Tower to Arrow Glacier camp and spend most of the day resting in our tents, the wind had grown in strength and the temperatures were less than African at an altitude of 4800m. The camp was located at the foot of the Western Breach and as the sun warmed the ice and rock we could hear a nearby stream grow in strength, this was the reason we would tackle the route in the hours of darkness. As the temperature rise then rocks held by ice further up the Western Breach become unstable and loose, with some tumbling down the face. In January 2006 there was a rock slide on the Western Breach which unfortunately claimed the lives of 3 people and injured other members of the group.
Setting up camp under the Western Breach.
Blister Steve with the Western Breach in the background.

Camp under the Western Breach.
  We gathered outside our tents under the stars of the Milky Way at 02:00hrs in a cold & brisk wind. With plenty of insulating layers on and head lamp batteries checked we started off what would be a steep walk and Grade 1 scramble taking us up approx 800m to the crater rim & the Furtwangler Glacier. Moving slowly we made our way upwards, I personally had problem from around 5100 to 5400m having to stop to orally expel my supper a couple of times!
Night scrambling up the Western Breach.
  After 4 or so hours we finally reached the crater rim, a very emotional moment after having spent the previous hours feeling like we climbing up using only one lung whilst carrying a grand piano! First light was breaking and we made our way to the Furtwangler Glacier for a photo opportunity and a well earned breather!
'Chilling' at the Furtwangler Glacier.

 From the crater it would be just a 300m ascent to the summit up a volcanic scree slope. 'Just' 300m! It was excruciatingly slow after the excursions of the Western Breach and at an altitude of 5600 to the summit at 5895m. There was now less than half the air pressure available to us than at sea level where our lungs are designed to work the best!
N.B whilst the air is still made up of the same composition of approx 78% Nitrogen, 20% Oxygen & 2% other stuff(!) because there is less of the atmosphere pushing down on it so the amount of oxygen in each breath reduces the higher you go!

Dawn breaking over the crater & glacier.
Its a lie!

Approaching the summit.
  With a mouth full of fruit pastilles we carried on upwards until eventually the summit came into view. With views out over the surrounding mountain peaks, across to Mt Meru and over the cloud which covered everything below 3000m we stood at the summit 'board' and took time for some photo's and to collect ourselves.
 It seems slightly silly to have spent time doing the acclimatisation route on Mt Meru, 4 days and nights walking and camping and then going through the pain of the final ascent to only spend approximately 10 minutes on the summit, but the risk of hypoxia is a concern and so it was quickly off again and we made our way down to Millennium camp.
Paul, Blister Steve, Vic, Commander Rob & Barry Clooney at the summit.
Lord Cocks poses on descent.
 A last night under canvas after a very long 14hr route mainly consisted of a good meal, a wash and the best sleep of the trip so far, 10hrs straight through for myself!
 Rising for breakfast on our last morning we had just a 3 hour walk back into the African forest and to Mweka Gate at 1050m, lungs full of lovely oxygen!
Drunk on oxygen with Kilimanjaro in the background.
All smiles at Mweka Gate.
& Barry (George Clooney's Dad) gives us the Hollywood smile!
This Is Africa!
Refueling back at Weru Weru!

 As with any extended journey or expedition Kilimanjaro had its high and low points and it is only after the end of the expedition that these could be weighed up. There were far more high points than low and in fact the low points weren't very low, piss wet through on the first of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks comes far lower than at any point in Africa!
 Kilimanjaro deserves respect as do all those that undertake the trip to the summit, apart from some of those that do it full of Diamox & get helicopters from the top maybe! :-) Just my opinion x

* Video from Expedition Guide

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