Alpinism, 7 Summits, Kilimanjaro 2015 (Erik)

1 Facts

  • Location: Northern Tanzania (03°04′33″S 37°21′12″E)
  • First ascent: H. Meyer (1889)
  • Mountain range: Eastern rift mountains
  • Elevation: 5,895 m
  • Prominence: 5,885 m

2 Preparation

Aside from maintaining a relatively healthy lifestyle, we did not prepare for this climb. I climbed a 3,884 m peak in Taiwan called Mt Xueshan just to get a feel for walking uphill with poles but, although a nice experience, it was nothing more than a 2-day hike.

3 Execution

Intro: Victor had climbed the mountain in 2014, we grabbed a coffee in Gothenburg in the late spring of 2015. He convinced me easily. At some point, we mentioned the Seven Summits, but no commitments were made. Shortly thereafter I called my brother Axel. We had talked of doing something like this. “Want to climb Kilimanjaro? It’ll be fun.”, “Why not?”. It was on.

15/8: The summer was spent organizing and in mid-August, we were off. After a long night, partly spent chatting with a questionable Russian who was planning on hunting buffalo on his way up the mountain. He also spoke of Elbrus. “Сложно и холодно” (difficult and cold) was all I could grasp with my so-so Russian. Upon landing, our guide David, who had also taken Victor up the mountain the year before, was waiting. We roared through the savannah night towards Moshi, unable to sleep from the excitement. As usual, Axel had picked the cheapest “hotel” he could find for the night. We quickly realized what that means in this part of the world: no water, no AC, drunk neighbours, and a butcher chopping meat ca 2 meters from our window. TIA. We handed David a non-negligible pile of cash with the promise that he’d be back at 08:00 with his crew and supplies for the days to come and tried to get 2–3 hours of sleep. 16/8: At 09 something the next morning they drove up, we threw our stuff in the SUV and jumped in. Silent porters, just another day at the office. Police officers stopping us, speed money paid. We exit the little city, start to cross plains, up we go, the trees grow larger and more abundant. And there it is, the beginning of the Machame Trail at 1840 MASL.

18/8: Three days after we left Stockholm we find ourselves at the Lava Tower, 4600 MASL. We’re in the middle of our first and only acclimatization tour, on our way down to Baranco Camp at 3940 MASL. Axel, in his humble manner, complains of light headaches, urges us to move slower, and asks for more water. Me, in my more defiant way, can’t notice the signs. When we get down to Baranco, I crash. I am fevering, have a pounding headache, my mouth is dry, I must pee again and again, and I can’t think properly. After a medicine cocktail from the team doctor (Axel) and having slurped a full 2 L camelback of Isostar, I’m back.

20/8: At 11:30 PM the alarm rings. We quickly collect our things, eat some porridge with a cup of tea, and set off from Barafu Camp at 4540 MASL towards the summit. In the darkness of night, we rely on David knowing each step of the way. The night feels long as we move silently, slowly, only stopping for quick breaks, keen on being the first to reach the summit that day. We have a trail of lights behind us. The over-geared 40 y.o. American guys, the under-geared 20 y.o. Chinese girls, etc. Before dawn, I start realizing something is not right. Something flashes by my right side and I turn quickly towards it only to realize that there is nothing but rocks and the clouds far below us. Am I hallucinating? Forget it, keep moving. Then I stumble, one foot gets caught in the other. Am I really that tired? No one noticed, keep going… My concerns fade as the sun begins to rise, presenting to us the full beauty of the surrounding scenery. We are walking in the sky, on desert rocks, surrounded by silent glaciers, clouds, and the endless horizon. As Uhuru Peak comes into view, we break up. Each of us walking at his own pace, with his own struggle in mind. Axel, feeling fine, reach the summit first at about 07:30. Ten minutes later, we hug, and cry, congratulate each other, and thank David for taking us here. We are standing on the top of Africa, and we have never felt stronger, but we have never felt smaller.

As we begin our descent, I learn what is perhaps the most important lesson of all in mountaineering. The top is only 50 % of the way. Due to not having acclimatized properly, ascending at twice the recommended daily altitude gain, I am exhausted. Axel and David move quickly back down. My head is clearing up the further down we go but my legs can’t carry me, making for 3 painful hours. Without the support of our second guide, I would not have been able to get down without stopping to rest, a dangerous idea at this altitude. Finally, I stumble back into the camp and fall into the tent. An hour later, David wakes me up. Strong winds are starting to blow, and most likely the porters are getting bored. Time to move. Surprisingly, I can already use my legs again. We descend with high spirits. In tricky terrain porters run by with climbers affected by AMS. The closest helicopter pickup is far off. Even on Kilimanjaro, despite the 3-course dinners and the football team sized groups of porters who practically carry people up the mountain, some still die. That night, we both fall into the deepest sleep we have ever experienced, having spent 30 out of the past 33 hours on the move. The continuing descent is uneventful but beautiful.

4 Learnings

  • The summit is 50 % of the way
  • Don’t ascend more than 500 meter’s altitude per day
  • Wear shoes at least once before stepping on the mountain
  • Always bring a disposable camera

5 Gear

Kilimanjaro 2015 (will be updated with brand, model, & price)

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8YTYowSuU2aLUpObnZRcjlhRDg

6 GPS

Track and waypoints (will be updated): https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8YTYowSuU2aRUFSQldGWkdoSVk

7 Photos/film

Due to the early morning temperatures on the summit (~ 20 C°) both my Go Pro, camera and iPhone chose to quit on the actual climb. Therefore, there are no pictures of us from the summit. Those images will remain only in our memories. To back up our claims, we can only provide our certificates (names misspelled and all).

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